Penn State Big Ten Wrestling Championship (Bravo-Young)

Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young wrestles Northwestern’s Chris Cannon in the 133-pound semifinal matchup at the Big Ten Wrestling Championship on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Bravo-Young won by 8-6 decision.

He may not readily admit it, but Roman Bravo-Young's hand is sure to be tired by now.

Every day since January and 50 times before his match Saturday, Bravo-Young wrote the phrase "133 pound national champion" in his notebook and signed his name next to it.

It was all a part — maybe as much of, if not more than his actual wrestling training — of the preparation Bravo-Young hoped would lead to his becoming that 133-pound national champion.

Affixing his signature to that phrase, that notion and that writing, takes it up a notch.

At that point, as with all signatures, it ceases to be just words on a page, but rather becomes a contract of sorts — something that's legally binding and contains some type of an agreement.

Luckily for Bravo-Young, he held up his end of the contract.

The Penn State junior beat Oklahoma State's Daton Fix 4-2 in sudden victory to claim the 133 pound NCAA title, becoming the first Penn State wrestler to ever win a title at that weight.

"I just wanted that match and there was a lot of pressure, but man, it feels good," Bravo-Young said after capturing his first career national title.

As a junior, Bravo-Young is one of the elder statesmen on this current Penn State team and consequently one of the most experienced and seasoned veterans.

What that also means is he's been at this — wrestling in and training for big moments — longer than most of his younger teammates.

And finally, the culmination of all of his efforts paid off.

"There've been a lot of mental ups and downs, especially this season. I've been training my whole life for this, and it's just one of many, but man, I trained my whole life for this," Bravo-Young said. "All the little things, all the ups and downs, all the peaks and valleys — it's a long time coming. I don't really know how to explain it and I haven't really taken it in yet, but it's definitely been a lot of hard work."

In Bravo-Young's case, it's been as much about work on the mat as off of it.

Perhaps the most integral part of Bravo-Young's training has been striking the balance between focusing on the little things and the bigger picture and it's paid dividends.

In just two years, the Tucson, Arizona, native went from a fifth place finish at the Big Ten Tournament and an eighth place finish at NCAAs to winning both a conference and national title by his junior year.

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"I've just jumped levels since my freshman year," Bravo-Young said prior to beating Fix for the national title. "I think I'm just doing all the little things the right way. Freshman year, I cut some corners and didn't really know what to expect, but now I'm just doing everything the right way."

Beyond not knowing what to expect as a freshman, there was also potentially a sense of Bravo-Young feeling as though perhaps he didn't belong.

Or, at the bare minimum, he at least felt happy to merely be at the NCAA Tournament.

What a difference two years makes, though, as he's gone from being happy to be there to recognizing his innate and inherent worth and potential.

Sure, he's had the same support system, many of the same teammates and same coaches in that span.

But what he didn't have, and what was lacking, was his belief in himself.

Saturday's result did away with any of that doubt.

"Honestly, since my freshman year it's been about belief in myself. Freshman year, I got eighth place and I was shocked to be here," Bravo-Young said after the win. "Now it's like ‘I'm here, I might as well win it.’ So it's just a different mindset and different point of view and learning from your mistakes on and off the mat doing everything the right way."

All told, Bravo-Young is by his own admission just a kid from Tucson, Arizona, to whom wrestling is just wrestling and ultimately not the most important part of his life.

At this juncture and in this moment while Bravo-Young still dons a Penn State singlet, still works out in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex and wrestles in the hallowed gym of Rec Hall, Bravo-Young is no longer that freshman who was just happy to be at the NCAA Tournament.

He's turned into someone confident enough in himself to sign a contract to achieve goals he set for himself and knowing he could accomplish them.

He's also made it clear if it wasn't before, that he's a force to be reckoned with at 133.

And while he's still happy to be here at Penn State and surrounded by the people he is, now it's for a different reason — a want and a drive to accomplish those goals.

"I've grown a lot since my freshman year as you guys can see and I'm just humbled and grateful to have some of the best coaches around me and I'm just blessed to be where I'm at," Bravo-Young said. "It was just in my head and I visualized it and it's one of those things I think people don't see, but I wanted this bad."

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