NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Wrestling: Greg Kerkvliet’s Rise to Dominance on the Mat, What’s Next for Nittany Lions’ Heavyweight

Penn State Wrestling heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet is a bad, bad man on the mat. Just ask any of the 60 opponents that Kerkvliet has mowed down since he got to campus in Happy Valley early in the 2019-2020 season. Kerk is both a massive human being, and an absolute freak athlete with the way he’s able to combine both his strength and speed on the Resilite. If I were to build the perfect heavyweight in both folkstyle and freestyle wrestling, then Greg Kerkvliet is the prime archetype. Tall, strong, and fast. And the Nittany Lions‘ faithful have seen only a fraction of his potential up until this point. Which is a crazy notion to think about considering Greg is already a three time All-American in his first three full seasons. But every season Kerk has suited up for the blue and white has been different in many ways. So with that, let’s take a ride down memory lane to highlight Greg Kerkvliet’s first handful of seasons at Penn State and project what lies ahead in the upcoming season.

How Greg Kerkvliet Rose to Penn State Wrestling Dominance

2020-2021 season

Kerk redshirted his true freshman year on campus during the 2019-2020 season. There he was a perfect 9-0 and bonus-pointed his way towards titles at both the Shorty Hitchcock Classic and the Mat-Town Open II. And, leading up to his first full dual meet and postseason schedule in 2020-2021, Kerkvliet looked like he was rounding into an absolute beast during the summer and early fall. Obviously, the 2020-2021 season was technically just the 2021 season due to the global pandemic, and the shortened dual meet schedule didn’t kick off until late January. And since everything was essentially on lock down, it was difficult to get information on how the Penn State wrestling room was shaping up. The only thing I knew was that when the Nittany Lions took on Indiana and Northwestern in their tri dual on January 30th, Greg was nowhere to be seen. Then a couple of days later during Penn State’s massacre of Wisconsin, Seth Nevills was once again the guy at 285 for the Nittany Lions. Questions starting swirling about where and when Penn State Wrestling fans would see the beast of a man who crushed all comers in the previous season and in the early fall. Cael Sanderson quickly answered this by stating he didn’t anticipate Kerkvliet would compete that year in a press conference on February 10th. But, only 11 days later, it wasn’t Seth “Big Snacks” Nevills name who was announced at heavyweight during the Maryland dual. It was Greg Kerkvliet. In Penn State’s final dual meet of the 2021 season Kerkvliet pinned both of his opponents (regular match and extra match) inside of one minute and 20 seconds. Whoa. With the 2021 Big Ten Championships two weeks away, would Cael go with Nevills or Kerkvliet. Honestly at that point it appeared he would go with the less risky pick of Nevills as he had been steady by going 4-1 in the shortened season. But as Nittany Lions fans know, Cael Sanderson is pretty darn good at making decisions surrounding the sport of wrestling. And he went with Greg Kerkvliet. Kerk ended up finishing fourth at the 2021 Big Tens and he wrestled his tail off in the 2021 NCAA’s by winning his final match to take home seventh place and All-American honors. Even with his amazing finish in the postseason, it seemed like something was different about Kerk. And that came to light following the season as Greg detailed the hardships he dealt with leading up to the year. 


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A post shared by Daniel Greg Kerkvliet (@danielkerkvliet)

 That’s right. Kerk had blood clots, a life threatening staph infection, did not train for two entire months, and still finished as an All-American. And if he could do that at roughly 50%, then how good could Kerkvliet be at full strength? Penn State fans would soon find out.


2021-2022 season

Right out of the gate, Greg looked like a completely different wrestler. He stormed out to an 11-0 record which included three technical falls and three pins. Oh, and he bested the 2021 NCAA runner-up, Mason Parris, in Penn State’s away dual against Michigan. But, just when it looked like Kerk was going to plant the Penn State flag on the mat after all of his matches, he promptly lost his next match to Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. This result ended up being some foreshadowing for the Rochambeau that unfolded that year between Kerkvliet, Parris, and Cassioppi. Kerk could beat Parris but he couldn’t get the job done against Cassioppi. Parris would clobber Cassioppi but couldn’t get past Kerkvliet. Cassioppi would somehow best Kerk but got waxed by Parris. However, at the end of the day, none of these guys were beating Gable Steveson. Moving onto the 2022 postseason, Kerkvliet kept up the winning by making his way to the semi finals in the 2022 Big Ten Championships, where Cassioppi awaited him. And Cassioppi proved to be the better wrestler on the mat as he slid by Greg in sudden victory, 6-4. Not being deterred by the result, Kerkvliet then upended Parris once again to finish in third place. And in the 2022 NCAA’s, Kerkvliet bashed his way into the semi finals to set up an epic clash against one of the world’s best wrestlers in Steveson. Gable ended up winning the match 8-3 but the bout was much closer than the score indicated. You could tell how much respect each guy had for the other as they clasps hands at the end of the match. Gable Steveson ultimately went on to win his second NCAA title, left his shoes on the mat, and rode out into the sunset. In the consolation bracket, Kerkvliet faced Mason Parris for the third time that season. And for the third straight time, Kerk was victorious against his Wolverine foe. Greg then medically forfeited the third place match to finish in fourth and claim his second All-American honors. And following the action in that year’s NCAA’s, Coach Sanderson told the media Kerkvliet was dealing with a lower body injury which almost jeopardized him in even participating in the tournament. Well, not only did Greg participate with an injury, he finished as the fourth best wrestler in the entire country. The question came up again, “What would it look like if Greg Kerkvliet finished an entire season healthy?” Cue the Dodge commercial:“Hey, does that thing have a Hemi and is Greg Kerkvliet going to fully healthy next year?””You ’bout to find out!”

2022-2023 season

Kerkvliet started this past year on fire. His first five matches were the following:-Pin-Major decision-Tech fall-Tech fall-Tech fall Greg then won his next two matches before he had a massive tilt against Mason Parris in Penn State’s first of two dual meets in the Bryce Jordan Center. Kerk was coming off from being sick that week, and it clearly showed in the match as he didn’t have a ton left in the tank after the first period. Parris ended up winning, but Greg kept the bout close in the 3-1 decision loss. And just two matches later, Kerkvliet proved it wasn’t a fluke that he beat Cassioppi in the early season NWCA All-Star Classic, because he got the best of him again in the Iowa dual, 4-1. Greg continued to chew up and spit out his opponents as he piled up another winning streak en route to making the finals in the 2023 Big Ten Championships. And there awaiting him on the mat for the finals was Mason Parris. And just like he had earlier in the season, Mason Parris pulling out the razor close win by landing a takedown in sudden victory. Unfortunately this theme continued in the 2023 NCAA’s. Kerk dominated his first four opponents to the tune of 22-4 (includes a pin) and he punched his ticket to the finals. Where, surprise, surprise, Mason Parris was there to greet him. And while this match was by far the most one-sided of their meetings in the 2022-2023 season, the final score was still only 5-1. Mason Parris was just on another level during the year and after taking home his first NCAA title, he was awarded the prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy.

2023-2024 season Outlook

I have little doubt that Greg Kerkvliet won’t be locked and loaded going into the upcoming season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s not a matter of “if” Kerk will win an NCAA title, it’s a matter of “when”. And look let’s be honest here, with Gable Steveson and Mason Parris both out of the picture, the landscape at 285 suddenly looks way more open for the taking. Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson is back, but he showed how much work he needed in his bottom game against Kerkvliet. Cassioppi, Northwestern’s Lucas Davison, Missouri’s Zach Elam, and Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz are all back as well. But none of them move the needle when they go toe-to-toe with Greg. And unless a new up and comer makes their way through the ranks, I have a good feeling Greg Kerkvliet will have a strangle hold on the 285 for the next couple of years. 

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