Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling: Match Grades, Best Match, and MVP From Ohio State Dual

Penn State Wrestling shook off an early upset and some stiff competition from the Buckeyes in a 28-9 win this past Friday.

In the end, a win is a win and the Nittany Lions did what they needed to.

The performance may not have been as dominant as some Penn State fans have witnessed in the past several years, however a lot of credit needs to be given to Tom Ryan and his young and talented roster.

So with that, let’s slap a grade on the matches from Friday evening, highlight the match of the night, and stamp “MVP” on the butt of the most deserving Nittany Lion wrestler.

Penn State Wrestling Match Grades from the Ohio State Dual

Braeden Davis

No. 3 Braeden Davis (PSU) dec. over Vinny Kilkeary (OSU) 4-3

Right off the bat it was an incredibly smart move for Ryan to put Kilkeary on the mat against Davis rather than No. 24 ranked Brendan McCrone. Kilkeary and Davis have some history and Vinny topped Braeden 5-2 in last year’s Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic.

Looking back, the decision worked because Davis did not look like the free and loose wrestler he’s normally been this season. Had Davis gone up against McCrone, I have not doubt he would have cruised to a lopsided decision or even a major decision.

But, ultimately it was a nervy performance for Braeden and by now everyone who follows college wrestling knows how this one finished.

Was it a takedown?

I’ve heard from veteran wrestling referees who say it wasn’t a takedown due to control and I’ve heard from similar referees who said it was. And the lead official on Friday night said it wasn’t.

Hey, that’s good enough for me.

Grade: B-

Aaron Nagao

No. 12 Nic Bouzakis (OSU) dec. over No. 5 Aaron Nagao (PSU) 13-7

I’m going to give Nagao some slack here as he missed the Maryland dual meet the previous Sunday. It’s very possible he wasn’t 100%.

However, outside of the offense Aaron displayed in the third period, he was thoroughly man-handled by a redshirt freshman who has losses to No. 19 Angelo Rini (14-8), No. 23 Vince Santaniello (11-4), unranked Tyler Knox (11-3), No. 25 Julian Farber (5-1), and No. 13 Dylan Shawver (5-4) this year.

The above list of guys are all solid wrestlers, but they should not be on the same level of Aaron Nagao while he’s training in the Penn State wrestling room.

So like I said, I’ll give him a little slack, just not a ton.

Grade: C+


Beau Bartlett

No. 2 Beau Bartlett (PSU) dec. over No. 3 Jesse Mendez (OSU) 4-1 SV

This match played right into the hands of what Beau Bartlett does well. And that is to use his good defense, keep his opponent on their toes with measured shots, and win a razor close match in sudden victory against a highly competitive grappler.

Bartlett stifled Mendez’s offense (which not many guys can do), he countered enough to make Jesse respect Beau’s offense, and he struck when the opening presented itself in sudden victory.

Was the count a little quick when Beau had control in SV? Maybe, but I’m not going to argue the result.

Grade: A+

Levi Haines

No. 1 Levi Haines (PSU) major dec. over No. 29 Isaac Wilcox (OSU) 11-3

Haines wrestled a fantastic match against Wilcox.

And I know what you’re asking yourself, “Is Isaac Wilcox in the same league as Levi Haines?”.

No he isn’t.

However the Buckeyes from top to bottom came to wrestle on Friday. And it’s almost impossible to quantify motivation and drive. All of which drove guys like Wilcox to wrestle above their abilities.

But it didn’t matter. Levi Haines took all that Wilcox could dish out and he slammed it into a garbage can with a late third period takedown and ride out to seal the major decision.

That’s what champions do.

Grade: A

Mitchell Mesenbrink

No. 7 Mitchell Mesenbrink (PSU) dec. over No. 20 Bryce Hepner (OSU) 10-4

The same can applied to this match as well.

Mesenbrink breezed to an 8-2 lead going into the third period. All signs were pointing to a major decision or possibly even a technical fall.

However Bryce Hepner fought to the very end and to his credit only lost a decision thanks in part to a reversal with roughly 40 seconds remaining in the period.

It was still a good performance for Mitchell.

Grade: A

Carter Starocci

No. 1 Carter Starocci (PSU) dec. over No. 11 Rocco Welsh (OSU) 4-2

Raise your hand if you thought Carter would only score four points against a true freshman wrestling his 15th collegiate match?

I know, I didn’t see this coming either.

However, I think there may be a couple of factors at play which lead to this closer than expected result.

First and foremost, Rocco Welsh is the real deal and the Buckeyes are going to have a loaded wrestling squad for years to come. Based on how well they’ve recruited the last several years this was inevitable.

Second, and more importantly, the cut may be getting to Starocci. Because he did not at all look like himself Friday night.

And I’m going to preface this by stating I’m in no way saying his cut is too severe. No at all. The Penn State wrestling staff obviously know what they are doing and they only have the wrestler’s best interest in mind.

But when you have to constantly cut, it takes a toll on you mentally and physically. Which is my No. 1 guess as to why Carter wasn’t quite at his best.

Grade: A-

Bernie Truax

Ryder Rogotzke (OSU) fall over No. 5 Bernie Truax (PSU) 3:50

Do good wrestlers get caught at times?

Yes, it’s just a part of wrestling.

But should a three-time All-American with 103 collegiate matches under his belt completely lose focus while up 9-4 and get pinned by a relatively simple move?

No, this should never happen. But it did and hopefully Bernie learns from it.

The only silver lining is the fact it’s February and not March.

Grade: D

Greg Kerkvliet

No. 1 Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) major dec. over No. 12 Nick Feldman (OSU) 12-0

I’m not sure how it’s possible that Kerk impresses me the more I watch him on the mat. His size, strength, quickness, agility, technique, and instincts are matched by very few on the planet.

Nick Feldman will be a multi-time All-American when his career is over and Greg made him look like a JV wrestler.

Grade: A+

Best Match

No. 12 Tyler Kasak (PSU) vs. No. 9 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU)

Going into the ranked matchup at 149 pounds, I think it would be a drastic understatement to say the crowd inside of Rec Hall was a bit on edge. I think the term “nervous” could even be used.

But there were no signs of nerves whatsoever from Tyler Kasak.

Following a back-and-forth first period, Kasak started on top for the second and he demonstrated yet another “plus” area for him, which is how strong he can be from that position.

Tyler turned D’Emilio and anticipated his foe’s reaction perfectly to get him on his back for two near fall points. That was not a move a true freshman makes. Period.

The match was 2-1 in favor of Tyler to begin the third period. And the freshman started on bottom position against a fifth year junior with 108 matches in his career.

Kasak quickly escaped and the two grapplers were squared up and looking to get to their offense.

D’Emilio struck on a single and it looked like Kasak was going to be in trouble. However Tyler countered and somehow came out of the right side and worked his way around for the stunning takedown. It was a move seen by only the most seasoned and prepared wrestlers.

Tyler Kasak defeated an All-American in thrilling fashion, he electrified the home crowd, and he set the tone for the rest of the dual meet. And to me, that’s worthy of the best match of the dual.

Result: No. 12 Tyler Kasak (PSU) dec. over No. 9 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU) 7-2

MVP of the Dual Meet

Aaron Brooks

No. 1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) tech. fall over No. 22 Luke Geog (OSU) 22-6

I realize I have not given much love to Aaron Brooks so far this year in recaps, awards, etc. But that ends right now.

What Brooks has done to every single opponent he’s faced this year is almost difficult to put into words. He is making grown men who would beat the ever living crap out of John Rambo look like school kids.

It wouldn’t have mattered if Luke Geog was given a two hour pep talk from John Wooden or Matt Foley before his match. Geog could have carried a metal chair onto the mat and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Aaron Brooks is simply wrestling on a completely different level this season. Which is kind of hard to do when you’re already a three-time NCAA Champion.

Yet, somehow, someway, he’s doing it. And I don’t think anyone is going to stop him from laying waste to the rest of the 197 group once the calendar flips to March.

Penn State Wrestling


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Chris Snyder

Expertise: College Wrestling, College Football, Lays Chips Education: Penn State University Location: State College, PA Even though he had no prior journalism experience, Chris has now covered Penn State Wrestling and Penn State Football for the past three years. And it's clear he also likes constant torture as he's been a PSU Basketball fan for way too long. Several years back, Chris made the seamless transition from PGA Professional to computer programmer and thoroughly enjoys following and writing about all things related to Penn State sports during his spare time.