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Penn State wrestling’s focus on bonus points evident in strong start to the season

Penn State Wrestling vs Maryland, Lee

Nick Lee wrestles Maryland’s Danny Bertoni during Penn State wrestling’s dual meet against the University of Maryland in Rec Hall on Feb. 22, 2021.

All Nick Lee needed was 54 seconds.

It took less than a minute for the fifth-year senior to pin Sacred Heart’s Jordan Carlucci in his season-opening match Saturday.

The fall earned six team points instead of the normal three points from a decision victory, adding bonus points that contributed to the Nittany Lions’ 47-3 rout of Sacred Heart.

Lee was far from being the only Penn Stater to record bonus points in the opening night doubleheader against Sacred Heart and Oregon State, as teammate Roman Bravo-Young recorded a fall against his opponent in the match right before Lee’s 54-second fall.

Though a pin yields the most bonus points a wrestler can earn, there are two other options to get some of those extra points — a tech fall, which earns five team points, and a major decision, which earns four team points.

Over the course of the two dual meets, the wrestlers in the blue-and-white singlets recorded five falls, five tech falls and three major decisions, meaning 13 of the 20 matches earned some sort of bonus points.

The consistent number of matches that earned bonus points doesn’t come as a surprise because one of the focuses heading into the season for Cael Sanderson and company was to earn those points.

“If you’re trying to win big dual meets, national championships or Big Ten Championships, you need bonus points,” Sanderson said before the season started. “That’s something that we didn’t have a lot of last year, so hopefully our team is able to improve in that area.”

The Nittany Lions finished second to Iowa by 15.5 points last season, ending their four-year national championship winning streak.

Who knows if scoring more bonus points would have led to a fifth straight national title, but in a conference like the Big Ten, which lays claim to the last 14 team national champions, those extra points certainly help.


Confidence runs high with Sanderson’s team, and although the barrage of bonus points came against teams that aren’t as skilled as some of Penn State’s Big Ten foes, it believes it can still get those bonus points against teams of a higher caliber.

“I think this is the most talented team that Penn State has ever had,” defending 184-pound national champion Aaron Brooks said. “When you get bonus points, it makes your job a lot easier as a team.”

All four returning national champions looked to be in midseason form, with each of them recording a pin in the season-opening doubleheader, while Brooks and Carter Starocci earned tech falls as well.

With Big Ten play starting in January, dominance this early on is a good sign moving forward for Penn State.

The blue and white takes on Army Thursday in its return to a fan-filled Rec Hall with the same goal — scoring points, but this time, with a different opponent.

The “electric” energy fans bring mat-side plays a role in the team’s quest for bonus points, as the team is able to “channel some of that energy,” according to assistant coach Cody Sanderson.

After a strong start and with the fans returning to Rec Hall, Penn State will look to continue the flow of points through its lineup as it takes on Army and any other opponents moving forward.

“As the coaches say, they’re always preaching ‘score points, score points,’” 165-pound wrestler Creighton Edsell said. “It’s the main focus in the room right now.”


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