Dominant Penn State Wrestling Phenom Alex Facundo Poised for Redemption and Glory
Coming off a 12-3 record his redshirt freshman year where Alex Facundo finished fifth at the 2021 Clarion Open and won a title at the Mat Town Open II, and Penn State Wrestling faithful were eager to see what Facundo could do in the starting lineup.
The former No. 5 overall recruit in the 2021 recruiting class had all of the talent in the world. And with a year training in the best wrestling room in the country under his belt, it’s easy to understand why Nittany Lions fans were giddy.
Because when head coach Cael Sanderson finally unleashed Facundo this past year at 165, he backed up all of the hype … and some.
Alex proceeded to win the first nine matches of the 2022-2023 season which included taking home a title at the 2022 Black Knight Invite and beating a top 15 ranked grappler in Oregon State’s Matthew Olguin.
Heck, his very first dual match was a takedown slaughter-fest as Facundo rolled to a 27-12 technical fall in front of the home fans at Rec Hall.
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But there did end up being a couple of bumps in the road at the midway point of the season.
In the finals of the 2022 National Collegiate Duals, Penn State was pitted against a tough and experienced Iowa State squad. And in this dual meet, Alex butted heads with a three time All-American and former NCAA champion, David Carr.
Facundo battled tough against Carr, but in the end he couldn’t break David’s defenses and he ultimately dropped the 4-2 decision.
Did Alex sulk in the shadows and pack it in following the loss?
During the break Facundo continued to work hard in the wrestling room and learn from his match against Carr.
Facundo then rattled off two straight wins against another three time All-American, Cameron Amine, and ranked grappler, Caleb Fish, in the Michigan and Michigan State dual meets.
Time to get the train rolling! Yeah!
Well, unfortunately for Alex and all of the fans in attendance at the Bryce Jordan Center for this past year’s Iowa dual meet, Patrick Kennedy stalled for roughly 9+ minutes on his way to a 2-1 victory in TB-1.
I could go on and on about this dual meet but maybe that’s a discussion for another time.
Alex got back to his winning ways by rolling through the last five matches of the regular season. And in those five matches, Facundo knocked off Ohio State standout Carson Kharchla, won two of the matches by major decision, and picked up his first pin of the year.
It looked like Facundo was peaking just at the right time as the 2023 Big Ten Championships were coming up.
And in the first round, Alex beat Purdue’s Stoney Buell in a somewhat shaky 7-2 decision. But who cares? Win and keep moving on.
A rematch against Kharchla was next on the docket for Facundo, however this time he could not get to his offense at all. Alex ended up dropping the 3-1 decision and he was headed for the consolation bracket.
There he faced Indiana’s Nick South, which normally wouldn’t have been much of a battle. But something wasn’t quite right with Facundo and he squeaked by South via a 3-1 decision.
Next up was the No. 10 seed, Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson, so no problem, right?
Alex lost 3-2. Uh oh.
Facundo came into the 2023 Big Ten Championships with a record of 16-2 and wins against former All-Americans and a handful of ranked guys. But Alex left Ann Arbor with a disappointing 3-2 showing and a seventh place finish. If there was a positive to focus on, it was the fact he still earned an automatic bid into the 2023 NCAA Championships.
Alex ended up being the No. 13 seed in the 165 bracket and his path to a deep run would hinge on several factors. One of which was a potential second round match against the No. 4 seed, Julian Ramirez.
Well, Facundo did end up having his second match against Ramirez, however it didn’t play out exactly how I thought.
Alex dropped a shocking result in his first round against Pitt’s Holden Heller (5-3) which relegated him to the wrestlebacks. And there following an equally shocking first round loss was Julian Ramirez.
Penn State Wrestling: Alex Facundo’s Road to Redemption
Alex Facundo did not look like the same guy who battled David Carr earlier in the year. And the 12-2 major decision loss to Ramirez was not really surprising. Alex’s 2023 NCAA Championships were over before they even began.
Was there maybe an injury at the end of the year? Or did the grind of his first full season wear him down? Or something else?
I honestly have no idea, but this brings me to the point of this article.
Facundo had a very clear reason for committing to Sanderson and Penn State in the first place.
“I chose Penn State because of the accomplishments that they have achieved and the coaching staff,” Facunto said in an interview with Rokfin. “They have the best coaches in the nation and the world. One big factor that helped make my decision was that I haven’t seen a wrestler enter this room and not improve.”
And, I believe this is exactly why next year’s version of Alex Facundo will be better than any Penn State fan can believe. Alex knows what it takes to be a winner at virtually every level in wrestling. He possess the work ethic and the talent and he has some of the best coaches in the world teaching him.
The 2022-2023 season did not end how Facundo wanted, however I’m not about to write him off in the future.
Even though the 157/165 weight classes have a log jam of talent between Levi Haines, Mitchell Mesenbrink, Tyler Kasak, and Joe Sealey, I have my money on Alex Facundo being the man at 165 once the dust settles.