Penn State Big Ten Wrestling Championship (Lee)

Penn State’s Nick Lee wrestles Ohio’s Dylan D’Emilio in the 141-pound at the Big Ten Wrestling Championship on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Lee won by 16-1 technical fall.

While Penn State may have come up just short in its quest for a 10th national championship, it was still the talk of the sport by the end of the tournament.

In what was considered to be a rebuilding year, the Nittany Lions were able to finish the tournament in second place, just 15.5 points behind heavily favored Iowa.

While the Hawkeyes were able to claim their 24th NCAA title in team history on Saturday, it was Cael Sanderson’s squad who made a statement in the final round of the tournament.

Four blue-and-white wrestlers became national champions Saturday night while no other team had more than one.

Here are three takeaways from Penn State’s performance at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships and what it means for the program moving forward.

Youth movement

The Nittany Lions’ youth movement was on full display at the NCAA Championships.

Six of the nine wrestlers who represented Penn State were either freshmen or sophomores, making the program one of the younger teams in St. Louis.

Redshirt freshman Carter Starocci and sophomore Aaron Brooks each took home their first national title, while both Michael Beard and Greg Kerkvliet, who are each in their redshirt freshman season, finished in seventh place in their respective weight classes.

True freshman Robbie Howard also wrestled in his first tournament at 125 pounds. Howard, who missed the first three dual meets of the season, finished the tournament with an individual record of 2-2.


First-time champions

Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Starocci and Brooks all took home national titles after winning their championship bouts Saturday night.

What may come as a surprise, given how each of the wrestlers have been regarded as some of the top talent in their weight classes, is that the championships were the first in the career of each of the four Nittany Lions.

While Starocci is just in his first official season and Brooks never had the opportunity to compete at the national championships due to the coronavirus canceling the postseason a year ago, Bravo-Young and Lee were the only two with experience at the tournament.

In his true freshman season, Bravo-Young finished eighth, which was his only appearance in the NCAA Tournament prior to this year. Lee competed twice before at the tournament and finished eight and fifth in his freshman and sophomore years, respectively.


The 165-pound weight class was the only weight class Penn State entered a wrestler in and did not earn any points.

Redshirt freshman Joe Lee began the tournament as the No. 23-seeded wrestler at 165. Unfortunately for him, Lee was unable to overcome both No. 10 Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State and No. 26 Andrew Nicholson of Chattanooga.

Looking ahead, it is worth noting that Alex Facundo, the No. 1-ranked 170-pound wrestler in the high school class of 2021, has committed to Penn State.

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