Within the last 13 days, Penn State has lost two of its veteran wrestlers, one to retirement and another to the University of Virginia.
Now, former blue-and-white wrestlers Brady Berge and Jarod Verkleeren will no longer don the Nittany Lion singlet.
Berge suffered multiple injuries, including a career-altering concussion in 2019 that resulted in his eventual retirement from the sport.
Verkleeren, on the other hand, lost his handle on his starting spot at 149 pounds after posting a 17-8 record as a starter just one season prior and subsequently transferred to Virginia.
Here are the wrestlers who could look to benefit from the new opportunities at the 149 and 157 weight classes.
Bartlett got the bulk of the starting time at 149 pounds, and the rotation spot could be his to lose to begin the season.
After wrestling at 141 pounds through the majority of the season, Bartlett made the jump to 149 pounds for the final two duel meets of the season against Ohio State and Maryland. The true freshman finished 1-1 in his two official dual meet bouts in the regular season.
Despite only wrestling in two non-extra bouts, Cael Sanderson opted to go with Bartlett at the Big Ten Tournament. Bartlett would go on to finish his first Big Ten Tournament with a 1-2 record.
While the freshman was the only wrestler to not advance to the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Bartlett did give reason for optimism. In his first collegiate season, including extra bouts, Bartlett posted an impressive record of 8-3, with two of his losses coming against top ranked opponents.
Joe Lee wrestled the entirety of the spring season as Sanderson’s 165 pound starter, but after an up-and-down season, there is reason to speculate his starting role may be in jeopardy.
Lee, whose older brother Nick claimed his first NCAA title this past season, posted a 4-2 regular-season record, but struggled in the postseason.
Lee went 2-3 in the conference tournament, taking home eighth place and then proceeded to go 0-2 in the postseason.
Outside of his performance on the mat, Penn State is set to welcome top wrestling recruit Alex Facundo to Happy Valley next season. Facundo is the No. 1 high school wrestler at 170 pounds and is expected to compete for the starting job at 165 pounds, further jeopardizing Lee’s hold on the rotation spot.
If Lee is unable to retain his spot in the Nittany Lions’ starting rotation at 165, it is worth watching if he will attempt to transition to 157 pounds.
Austin Boone has yet to officially suit up for the Nittany Lions, but the Michigan native has an extremely impressive track record that could carry over to the college level at some point.
Boone helped lead Lowell High School to four straight state championships, en route to four consecutive individual state championships of his own.
At the time of his commitment to Penn State, Boone was regarded as the No. 2-ranked 145 pound high school wrestler in the country.
Boone is currently listed at 157 pounds on Penn State’s roster and could challenge for the now vacant 157-pound spot in Sanderson’s starting rotation.
Shayne Van Ness
Van Ness is one of the top high school wrestlers in the nation and is one of three wrestlers in Penn State’s incoming recruiting class.
Van Ness will enter the Nittany Lion locker room next season as the No. 2 wrestler in his class and the top wrestler at 138 pounds. Van Ness also brings two individual prep championships with him.
While the Garden State native could redshirt his first year behind Nick Lee at 141 pounds, some believe he has the potential to contribute immediately and could challenge Bartlett for the starting spot at 149 pounds.
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