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3 remaining questions for Penn State wrestling before season opener

Penn State Big Ten Wrestling Championship (Kerkvliet)

Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet wrestles Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi in the 285-pound at the Big Ten Wrestling Championship on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Kerkvliet lost 4-2 by major decision and placed fourth overall for the 285-pound.

Despite being a perennial powerhouse, there are still a multitude of questions facing Cael Sanderson and Penn State with a new season looming right around the corner.

The blue and white kicks off the 2021-22 season on Nov. 13 with a double header against Sacred Heart and Oregon State.

The preseason No. 2 Nittany Lions welcome back all four of their national champions from last season to the lineup at the same respective weight classes.

Roman Bravo-Young keeps his spot at 133 pounds, Nick Lee at 141 pounds, Carter Starocci at 174 pounds and Aaron Brooks at 184 pounds.

Heavyweight wrestler Greg Kerkvliet is looking for a championship run of his own after a comeback season last year.

However, there are still some question marks going into the season about some of the other, less obvious, weight-class spots.

Here are some of the biggest areas left unanswered for the lineup heading into the season.

What will happen at 149 pounds?

The 149-pound weight class is still a huge mystery leading up to the season opener, as there are two equally good options for the class.

Beau Bartlett and Shayne Van Ness are the two wrestlers who will compete for the position.

Van Ness is the top-ranked overall recruit for the class of 2021, and the incoming freshman could see the mat early to gain some experience.

However, Bartlett already has experience wrestling at 149 pounds, recording an 8-3 record with Penn State last season.

Bartlett’s experience could very well end up as the deciding factor over the freshman Van Ness, but it would not be surprising if Van Ness gets the nod.


Who will claim the highly contested 125-pound spot?

The blue and white’s 125-pound weight class has several options to choose from with no clear-cut starter returning.

Penn State’s 125-pound wrestler from last season, Robert Howard, holds NCAA qualifying experience, as well as Big Ten Tournament experience.

However, senior Bucknell transfer Jake Campbell also is no stranger to wrestling at 125 pounds.

In 2019, Campbell posted a 16-12 record in the weight class, making the competition for the starting spot a little bit tougher.

Incoming freshman Gary Steen could also start right away, similar to Van Ness at 149 pounds.

The first year is another highly ranked wrestler in the class of 2021 and could easily see immediate action in a Nittany Lion singlet.

Marco Vespa and Brandon Meredith are also candidates to potentially earn a little action during the season, but a starting role is pretty much out of reach due to the experience of Howard and Campbell and the addition of a top recruit.

How far can a healthy Greg Kerkvliet go?

Kerkvliet’s 2021 season was a rollercoaster. The fact he even wrestled at all is a feat in itself — let alone wrestling at the NCAA Championships.

The former No. 1 overall recruit did not participate in any athletic activity for two months because of a staph infection followed by two blood clots.

However, he was able to return just a couple weeks before the Big Ten Championships and finished fourth in the conference and seventh in the NCAA.

His performance begs the question — how far can Kerkvliet go this season when healthy?

The 2017 heavyweight Cadet world champion is somewhat of a mystery.

His collegiate career has been injury-riddled thus far, adding on a torn left ACL and MCL on top of the aforementioned health issues.

The potential for Kerkvliet is there, and the 2021-22 season will give him a chance to prove himself as one of the best heavyweights if he can stay on the mat this campaign.


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