Wrestling Preview: No. 2 Penn State Hosts No. 24 Illinois and No. 12 Northwestern

By Rob Dougherty on January 10, 2020 at 10:52 am
Mar 23, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; North Western wrestler Sebastian Rivera (purple) celebrates after defeating Cornell wrestler Vitali Arujau (not pictured) for third place in the 125 pound weight class during the NCAA Wrestling Championships place in the 125 pound weight class during the NCAA Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Penn State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) will open up their conference schedule hosting a pair of ranked duals at Rec Hall this weekend. On Friday night, the Nittany Lions will take on No. 24 Illinois, with No. 12 Northwestern coming to town on Sunday afternoon. Penn State will have a new look lineup as Anthony Cassar and Kyle Conel are out for the season, and 125-pounder Brody Teske is in the transfer portal. 

This weekend will be a big one for new heavyweight starter Seth Nevills, as he will make his debut in a Penn State singlet. It will also be a huge one for 133-pound starter No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young. He will have a pair of top-10 matchups. 

Penn State versus Illinois Matchups
Weight Penn State Illinois
125 Brandon Meredith (So.) 11-4 Justin Cardani (Fr.) 7-5
133 No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (So.) 9-0 No. 7 Travis Piotrowski (Sr.) 13-2
141 No. 2 Nick Lee (Jr.) 8-0 No. 16 Dylan Duncan (Jr.) 10-4
149 Luke Gardner (Jr.) 4-1 OR Jarod Verkleeren (So.) 9-2 Mousa Jodeh (Sr.) 2-6
157 No. 4 Brady Berge (So.) 1-0 OR Bo Pipher (Jr.) 8-5 Eric Barone (Sr.) 6-7
165 No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Sr.) 4-0 No. 15 Danny Brunaghel (Fr.) 13-4
174 No. 1 Mark Hall (Sr.) 11-0 No. 8 Joey Gunther (Sr.) 10-4
184 No. 8 Aaron Brooks (Fr.) 8-0 Zac Brunagel (Fr.) 12-4
197 Shakur Rasheed (Sr.) 0-0 OR Austin Hoopes (So.) 5-6 Matt Wrobelewski (So.) 6-7
285 Seth Nevills (Fr.) 6-0 Luke Luffman (Fr.) 10-3

No. 24 Illinois will come to town with a solid, but unspectacular lineup. The Nittany Lions will be considerable favorites to pick up their first Big Ten win of the season. There will be some big opportunities for Penn Staters to prove themselves here though. 

At 133 pounds, Bravo-Young will take on three-time NCAA qualifier No. 7 Travis Piotrowski. Piotrowski's two losses this season are to No. 2 Austin Desanto (Iowa) and No. 6 Micky Phillippi (Illinois). Bravo-Young is undefeated on the season, but only has one ranked win to his credit. Piotrowski should be a good test to see where he stacks up in the Big Ten, which has six of the top-10 wrestlers. I predict a Bravo-Young win by one or two takedowns. 

At 141 pounds, No. 2 Nick Lee will have a ranked matchup against No. 16 Dylan Duncan. Lee will be a considerable favorite to win by bonus points, and he appears to be heading for a titanic showdown with No. 1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State). Lee is in a good place to win his first national title. 

There will be another pair of ranked matchups at 165 pounds, but Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall will be massive favorites. The Illini do not have the firepower at the middleweights and upper weights that Penn State has. The only real question for the Lions is whether Shakur Rasheed will make his season debut against Illinois. 

Seth Nevills will make his Rec Hall debut against Luke Luffman. Luffman has had a solid season, but Nevills will be the favorite to pick up the win. He had a very successful redshirt freshman campaign going 16-1, including wins over Demetrious Thomas (Pittsburgh) and Youssef Hemida (Maryland). Nevills figures to be a potential All-American candidate, and Penn State is going to need him to reach that potential. 

Prediction - Penn State 37, Illinois 0 - I think Penn State should be favored in every match, and they should be huge favorites overall in this dual. Illinois does not have elite firepower, and they do not match up well at the weights where the Nittany Lions are weakest. 

Penn State vs. Northwestern Lineups
Weight Penn State Northwestern
125 Brandon Meredith (So.) 11-4 No. 7 Michael DeAugustino (Fr.) 11-3
133 No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (So.) 9-0 No. 5 Sebastian Rivera (Jr.) 7-2
141 No. 2 Nick Lee (Jr.) 8-0 Alec McKenna (Sr.) 2-3
149 Luke Gardner (Jr.) 4-1 OR Jarod Verkleeren (So.) 9-2 No. 13 Yahya Thomas (So.) 9-4
157 No. 4 Brady Berge (So.) 1-0 OR Bo Pipher (Jr.) 8-5 No. 1 Ryan Deakin (Jr.) 8-0
165 No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Sr.) 4-0 Shayne Oster (Sr.) 8-6
174 No. 1 Mark Hall (Sr.) 11-0 Tyler Morland (So.) 7-6
184 No. 8 Aaron Brooks (Fr.) 8-0 Jack Jessen (Fr.) 11-8
197 Shakur Rasheed (Sr.) 0-0 OR Austin Hoopes (So.) 5-6 Lucas Davison (Fr.) 6-4
285 Seth Nevills (Fr.) 6-0 Jack Hayob (Fr.) 0-5

Northwestern will bring a stacked lower weight lineup to Rec Hall, and should give Penn State a unique test on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats have all of their firepower from 125-157, so the first half of the dual figures to have some great action. 

Brandon Meredith will get an opportunity to get his second ranked win of the season against No. 7 Michael DeAugustino. Meredith pulled off a huge upset against No. 10 Michael Colaiocco (Penn) in December, but DeAugustino has had a very good freshman season so far. He has two ranked wins this season and will be the favorite here. 

The first of two featured matchups of the dual will be between Bravo-Young and No. 5 Sebastian Rivera. Rivera fell to No. 5 despite his only loss coming to No. 1 Seth Gross (Wisconsin). Rivera finished third at 125 pounds last year, and has had a great start to the season. He is one of the title contenders at 133 pounds, and Bravo-Young is going to have to be at his best to beat him. 

The second featured matchup of this dual will be No. 1 Ryan Deakin taking on No. 4 Brady Berge. Deakin has taken the mantel at 157 pounds after Jason Nolf's graduation. He has huge wins this season over Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State) and freshman phenom David Carr (Iowa State). Berge has only wrestled one match this season, but he did win that against Josh Humphreys (Lehigh). Deakin comes into this match as a favorite, and Berge is going to have to prove he belongs in the national title discussion. 

After the lower weights for Northwestern though, it's not very pretty. Penn State will hold gargantuan edges from 165-285, as as 141 pounds. The Nittany Lions will be able to pile on a lot of bonus points in the second half of this dual that will make a massive difference. 

Prediction - Penn State 26, Northwestern 12 - I am predicting a Penn State loss at 125, 133, 149 and 157 here. The Lions should be able to rack up the bonus points at all the other weights, however, and blow it wide open in the second half. The dual could be a big opportunity for Bravo-Young and Berge to announce themselves as national title contenders with big wins. 

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