No. 2 Penn State rolls over No. 22 Rutgers 38-6 at home, with eight wins and 14 bonus points

By Andy Elder, Special to | Jan. 19, 2020, 8:34 p.m. (ET)
Photo of Shakur Rasheed of PSU battling Jordan Pagano of Rutgers courtesy of

UNIVERSITY PARK — Wrestling in Rec Hall is daunting enough on its own, but if you come in with five freshmen in the lineup, daunting can morph into devastating in a hurry.

No. 22 Rutgers (7-3, 2-2 Big Ten) found that out the hard way on Sunday in a 38-6 loss to No. 2 Penn State (6-1, 3-0).

The Nittany Lions won eight of 10 bouts, posting three falls, an injury default win, a technical fall and three decisions. Penn State amassed a 23-3 edge in takedowns, preventing nine of the 10 Scarlet Knight wrestlers from scoring in the neutral position.

“We keep preaching, ‘just keep getting better.’ There’s five freshmen in that lineup,” Rutgers coach Scott Goodale said. “You’ve got to be able to match the fight in this type of atmosphere. Like at 184. It was a great match, then it got a little bit more physical and he bailed out on it. We can’t bail out on it.”

For Penn State, this was arguably its sharpest performance to date, which is to be expected by coach Cael Sanderson’s way of thinking.

“I think the guys wrestled pretty good. I think we gotta just keep getting better as the season goes on. I think that's what's happening,” he said. “There's always something that we could go back and look at and tweak and improve on. That's what makes it fun. Yeah, I think overall the guys wrestled, I'd say, a little sharper than they did a week ago.”

Penn State broke out its white singlets, in keeping with the White Out theme that most of the sellout crowd of 6,485 embraced for the ESPN2 national television audience.

Rutgers seemed equal to the challenge through the first five weights, winning two of the five and it trailed just 11-6. However, after the break, Penn State won five straight matches, notching bonus points in four of them and a shutout in the other.

The difference? Sheer talent, Goodale said.

“Their horses showed up on the mat, and there’s a big talent gap there. They’ve got a lot of horses from 165 up and we’re not able to match them right now,” he said. “Yeah, down low we’ve got some super talented kids and we were able to hang around, but when it came to 165 and up, their best guys came out on the mat and we’re not able to match them right now.”

Top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph set the tone for the Nittany Lions’ finishing sweep. He rolled up a 15-3 lead before locking up a near cradle and scoring a fall in 6:14.

At 174, No. 1 Mark Hall was locked in a tight match with Joe Grello. Hall led 6-2 late in the third when a scramble ensued. Grello suddenly stopped wrestling and Hall stopped as well. An athletic trainer examined Grello’s right knee and the Scarlet Kngihty couldn’t continue at 6:37 mark.

Aaron Brooks added another pin for Penn State at 184. Leading 5-0, he scored a takedown and immediately locked up a near cradle and scored a fall in 4:35.

Brooks said he feels like he’s improved a lot since being pulled from redshirt and being inserted into the lineup on Dec. 6.

“A lot, I think, mentally and physically. I’m just going out there and wrestling free. I think was the biggest thing that I've really improved on and just having fun,” he said.

“A lot of times I used to wrestle really stiff. I would start really fast and everything but I just wouldn't focus on the flow of things so I think now just going out there and just doing what I do, kind of like it's play wrestling or practice mode, but obviously going hard, but just chillin’ really.”

At 197, No. 20 Shakur Rasheed continues to show improvement in each match. He faced a former roommate in No. 18 Jordan Pagano and dominated in a 6-0 shutout.

“I’m just feeling better and better every day. That's part of their (the coaches) process, so I'm just moving on to the next match, which is Nebraska. You know, obviously there are things I can improve on but I'm just learning as I go and just trying to get ready for March,” he said.

Seth Nevills ended the match with yet another fall for Penn State, ending the bout at the 2:23 mark.

Roman Bravo-Young, ranked No. 3 at 133 pounds, remained undefeated, but he was pushed into a second sudden victory period. No. 9 Sammy Alvarez traded escapes with Bravo-Young in regulation and in the first two tiebreaker periods. As the final seconds ticked away in the second sudden victory period, Bravo-Young snapped Alvarez down, spun around behind and grabbed both of the Knight’s ankles for a takedown and a 4-2 win.

Second-ranked Nick Lee followed Bravo-Young’s nailbiter with a no-doubter. He used six takedowns and a punishing ride on top to accumulate 4:37 in riding time in a 19-4 technical fall in 7:00. Lee, too, remains undefeated on the season.

At 149, Jarod Verkleeren used two first-period takedowns, an escape in the second and another takedown in the third for a workmanlike 7-3 decision.

Rutgers’ two wins came at 125 and 157. No. 16 Nic Aguilar picked up three takedowns, the only three his team would score, in a 10-4 win at 125. At 157, Michael Van Brill escaped in the second tiebreaker period to pull out a 1-0 win.

Penn State’s presumptive 157-pound starter Brady Berge sat out yet another match as he deals with the after effects of a head injury he suffered in a U23 World Championship match in October. He wrestled and won against Lehigh on Dec. 6 but hasn’t been in the lineup since.

With the exception of Berge, this could be the lineup Penn State will field the rest of the season. Sanderson said it has a lot of potential, as it showed Sunday.

“This is a fun team and we’ve got the potential to score a lot of points,” he said, “but you know we have to go do that.”

#2 Penn State 38, #22 Rutgers 6
January 19, 2020 – Rec Hall – University Park, Pa.

125: #16 Nicolas Aguilar RU dec. Brandon Meredith PSU, 10-4 0-3
133: #3 Roman Bravo-Young PSU dec. #9 Sammy Alvarez RU, 4-2 (SV2) 3-3
141: #2 Nick Lee PSU tech fall JoJo Aragona RU, 19-4 (TF; 7:00) 8-3
149: Jarod Verkleeren PSU dec. Nick Santos RU, 7-3 11-3
157: Mike Van Brill RU dec. Bo Pipher PSU, 1-0 (TB1) 11-6
165: #1 Vincenzo Joseph PSU pinned Brett Donner RU, WBF (6:15) 17-6
174: #1 Mark Hall PSU inj. def. Joseph Grello RU, Inj. Def. (6:37) 23-6
184: #8 Aaron Brooks PSU pinned Billy Janzer RU, WBF (4:36) 29-6
197: #20 Shakur Rasheed PSU dec. #18 Jordan Pagano RU, 6-0 32-6
285: Seth Nevills PSU pinned Alex Esposito RU, WBF (2:24) 38-6

Attendance: 6,485 (53nd straight sellout in Rec Hall, 58 of 60 overall including 5 of 7 in the BJC)
Records: Penn State (6-1, 3-0 B1G); Rutgers (7-3, 2-2)
Up Next for Penn State: Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at Nebraska, 7 p.m. Eastern / 6 p.m. Central (BTN)