No. 1 Penn State Wrestling vs. No. 2 Iowa Preview: Key Matches, Predictions, more
In College Wrestling, there’s Penn State Wrestling, Iowa Wrestling, and everyone else.
Friday night will be the center of the collegiate wrestling universe when the No. 1 Nittany Lions 10-0 (3-0) takes on No. 2 Iowa 12-0 (5-0) at the Bryce Jordan Center.
How teams matchup in a dual doesn’t necessarily show what will happen in the NCAA Tournament in a few months, but it does give another data point for coaches and fans on how wrestlers compare against top competition. There will be plenty of former Nittany Lion wrestling greats in the crowd, and even star NFL linebacker Micah Parsons in attendance to watch these two heavyweight programs slug it out.
The dual will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network at 8:30 pm ET.
Here’s a breakdown, prediction for each Penn State Wrestling vs. Iowa match
125 PSU Gary Steen (5-9) vs IOWA #1 Spencer Lee (10-0)
Lee is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Iowa History with 3 NCAA Championships, 2 Hodge Trophies, a 4 time All-American and an 88-5 career record. His last 2 matches featured wins by falls against No. 5 Eric Barnett (WISC) and No. 9 Liam Cronin (NEB). There is a zero percent chance that Steen wins this and anything less than a pin would be a success.
Prediction: Lee wins by Pin
Score: Penn State 0 Iowa 6
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133 PSU #1 Roman Bravo-Young (9-0) vs IOWA #17 Brody Teske (4-0)
Bravo-Young is off to a fantastic start in his national title defense. Undefeated so far this season and a bonus percentage of 88.89% through his first 9 matches. He will face former Nittany Lion Brody Teske who has quickly jumped into the rankings after a 4-0 start. Teske wrestled for the Nittany Lions in 2019 and 2020 and compiled a combined record of 11-4. He then transferred to Northern Iowa for the past two seasons where he went 28-11 and was ranked #9 and #22 respectively.
RBY is going to be too fast for Teske in this bout and will get the Nittany Lions on the board and the sold-out BJC crowd energized.
Prediction: RBY wins by Major
Score: Penn State 4 Iowa 6
141 PSU #4 Beau Bartlett (14-0) vs IOWA #2 Real Woods (9-0)
This could be the most exciting matchup of the entire dual.
After a 6th place finish in NCAA’s last spring for Stanford, Woods decided to transfer to Iowa for his redshirt-junior season. Since joining the Hawkeyes Woods has reached the highest ranking of his career thanks to a 9-0 start and a key decision over #3 Brock Hardy (NEB). Woods currently has a bonus percentage of 66.67%. Bartlett has been having a breakout season for the Nittany Lions starting undefeated through his first 14 matches but will be looking for a quality top 10 win. Bartlett qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season and seems to have carried that momentum into 2023.
If Bartlett upsets Woods, it will solidify him as a national contender at 141. This match could go either way but based on previous experience I would lean Woods in this one. The BJC energy could play a major factor in the result.
Prediction: Woods wins by Decision
Score: Penn State 4 Iowa 9
149 PSU #13 Shayne Van Ness (11-2) vs IOWA #7 Max Murin (13-3)
The Nittany Lion faithful have been extremely excited about the future of the program thanks in part to freshmen like Van Ness.
Van Ness redshirted during the 2022 season and has come out on fire this year after starting unranked. He will look to get his first quality win of his career when he takes on senior Max Murin. The senior is off to another top 10 start and will be a tough test for the young Van Ness. Like 141 this matchup could be fueled by the Bryce Jordan Center environment.
With a win this could be a sort of coming out party for the freshman, a loss a valuable learning experience that will help prepare him for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
Prediction: Van Ness by Decision
Score: Penn State 7 Iowa 9
157 PSU #9 Levi Haines (14-1) vs IOWA #15 Cobe Siebrecht (8-2)
Another intriguing matchup but not for the reason you might think. Haines is a true freshman and has rocketed up the national rankings after a terrific start including a win over No. 10 Will Lewan just last weekend. He has reached the 5 collegiate competition threshold that would keep his redshirt for this season.
Many fans want Cael Sanderson to burn the redshirt as having Haines in the NCAA tournament would almost certainly lock up another national championship for the Nittany Lions. The reason Sanderson has been able to put together such an incredible run at Penn State is the strategic use of redshirting that can lead to a string of national championships. We saw it in 2015 when the Nittany Lions redshirted key contributors from the previous year and finished 6th in the NCAA tournament. That decision led to the next 4-peat from 2016-2019. I believe that the redshirt is going to be burnt in this situation and that Haines continues his incredible run with another quality win. However, just because he doesn’t use the redshirt this season doesn’t mean it won’t happen next year.
Prediction: Haines by Decision
Score: Penn State 10 Iowa 9
165 PSU #5 Alex Facundo (11-1) vs IOWA #13 Patrick Kennedy (12-2)
Redshirt-freshman Facundo shot up 11 spots from No. 16 to No. 5 in the latest rankings at 165. Facundo upset #6 Cameron Amine (MICH) last Friday and then defeated #27 Caleb Fish (MSU) on Sunday to cap off a terrific weekend of wrestling. Kennedy is in a similar position also redshirting in a solid true freshmen campaign and will be another challenging opponent for Facundo. This will be an opportunity for both wrestlers to record a quality win and position themselves for both the Big 10 and NCAA tournament. I believe that the win last weekend and overall strength of record by Facundo will get it done in this one.
Prediction: Facundo by Decision
Score: Penn State 13 Iowa 9
174 PSU #1 Carter Starocci (10-0) vs IOWA #16 Nelson Brands (4-3)
Starocci is once again off to a blazing start for his sophomore campaign. The two-time defending national champion is 10-0 with a bonus percentage of 90%.
Starocci is one of if not the most dominant wrestler in the Nittany Lion lineup and must watch television every time he steps on the mat. Brands is coming off a tough 3-2 decision against No. 2 Mikey Labriola (NEB) but wrestling on the road against a defending champion is a difficult task.
This should be another opportunity for the Nittany Lions to pick up bonus points and potentially ice this dual.
Prediction: Starocci by Tech Fall
Score: Penn State 17 Iowa 9
184 PSU #1 Aaron Brooks (6-1) vs IOWA #12 Abe Assad (14-2)
Another Penn State wrestler looking for his third national championship in as many seasons, Brooks has had an interesting start to the year.
The Junior was upset by No. 4 Marcus Coleman (ISU) earlier this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t win the national title but it does give a path to victory for Assad. Brooks has only lost 3 times in his Penn State career and like Starocci is one of the most electric wrestlers to watch in this lineup.
Assad was up and down last weekend beating #16 Lenny Pinto (NEB) before getting pinned by Tyler Dow (WISC). I expect Brooks to feed off of the big match crowd and come away with bonus points in this one.
Prediction: Brooks by Major
Score: Penn State 21 Iowa 9
197 PSU #4 Max Dean (12-2) vs IOWA #7 Jacob Warner (11-2)
This is another one of those toss up matches that could go either way.
Dean has been a key contributor to the Nittany Lion’s success since transferring from Cornell in 2021. This year he is off to another solid start winning 5 of 6 against quality opponents. The rematch of last year’s national championship should provide some excitement as Max Dean was able to win 3-2 and take home the title in 2022. I expect Dean to take advantage of some previous knee injuries from Warner and pull this one out.
Prediction: Dean by Decision
Score: Penn State 24 Iowa 9
HWT PSU #2 Greg Kerkvliet (8-1) vs IOWA #3 Tony Cassioppi (16-0)
Fans won’t want to leave early from this one as the heavyweight bout will be the highest ranked matchup of the night.
Kerkvliet suffered his first loss of the season and fell from No. 1 last Friday when he lost a decision 3-1 to new No. 1 Mason Parris (MICH). Cassioppi has been rolling through competition this season with a 16-0 record and a bonus percentage of 68.75%. While one match doesn’t decide a wrestler’s season, having to wrestle in back-to-back weeks against Top 3 wrestlers is tough for anybody. I think this could be another tough close loss for Kerkvliet, which will flip the two in the rankings.