Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson said during media day two weeks ago that the Keystone Classic might serve as public wrestle-offs for a few weight classes.
If Sanderson holds true to that statement, then Brady Berge and Anthony Cassar just earned the starting spots at 149 and 285 pounds, respectively.
Each had to go through teammates en route to their weight classes’ final.
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Cassar was one of eight champions crowned for the Nittany Lions on Sunday inside the famed Palestra in Philadelphia. The other champs were Roman Bravo-Young (133 pounds), Nick Lee (141), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), Shakur Rasheed (184) and Bo Nickal (197).
Penn State won the team title for the third straight year with 192 points. Drexel finished second, 82.5 points behind with Penn rounding out the top three. The Nittany Lions amassed those team points thanks to 43 bonus point victories — 10 major decisions, 21 pins, 11 technical falls and an injury default.
Berge was impressive in his run to the finals, where he eventually medically forfeited out of the tournament. The injury occurred in his semifinal match against teammate Jarod Verkleeren.
The duo were in the middle of a scramble midway through the first period. It got stopped when Berge grabbed his left knee. He took his time to recover and ended up getting the match-winning points by putting Verkleeren in danger for two near-fall points.
Berge won 3-2 and that was his closest match all day. He opened the day with two technical falls and outscored his opponents 38-5. A 13-4 major decision over Harvard’s Brock Wilson set up Berge’s semifinals match with Verkleeren.
Cassar didn’t have to work too hard for his title as he only had to win three matches. However, his second match came against teammate Nick Nevills, who made his season debut.
Cassar wrestled in his words from media day “to seize every opportunity” and show why he should stay the starter.
He got the first takedown of the match cradling Nevills up on the way down. Nevills, though, rolled out and escaped. In the second period, Cassar got a double-leg takedown for the lone points. In the final period, he tacked on one more takedown and had 2:46 in riding time for a 7-2 win over the two-time All-American.
In the finals, Cassar snapped off five takedowns and amassed 3:29 in riding time to win 11-3 over Drexel’s Joseph Goodhart, who is ranked No. 14 nationally. Cassar began the day with his first career pin in 1:20.
Nevills and Verkleeren went on to wrestle for third. Nevills got the honor, but Verkleeren dropped a tough 4-2 loss in sudden victory No. 2 to finish fourth.
Nevills went 3-1 for the tourney with a pin and technical fall in those victories. Verkleeren finished 4-2 with a pin and two major decisions.
Bravo-Young’s first college tournament was a beauty with three wins. The true freshman began with a pin in 38 seconds and won the title with a 24-9 technical fall — all nine points scored against him were just escapes.
Lee, Nolf, Joseph, Rasheed and Nickal earned bonus points the whole tournament. Lee had three technical falls and a pin to make the finals, where he earned a major decision.
Nolf had a major decision and three pins. He finished his tournament run with a fall, which was No. 49 for his career. He is four behind the all-time mark for Penn State, which has Josh Moore, David Taylor and Zain Retherford all tied.
Joseph had four pins and ended the day with a 20-5 technical fall. Rasheed wrestled a total of 6 minutes, 22 seconds in his four matches. He had three pins for a total of 2 minutes, 32 seconds and a technical fall in the semifinals in 3 minutes, 50 seconds. His finals match was one minute exactly.
Nickal pinned his way to the finals in just 2:02 in wrestling time. In the finals, he earned an 18-4 major decision.
Hall opened the day with two straight pins to reach the semifinals. He then outscored his opponents 11-4 over the final two matches. He had a tough match in the finals against Duke’s Matt Finesilver, which Hall used two third-period escapes to win 6-4.
Other placewinners for the Nittany Lions included Bo Pipher (sixth, 157 pounds), Luke Gardner (fifth, 149 pounds) and Franny Bisono (sixth, 184).
The lone weight class Penn State didn’t have a medalist was at 125 pounds, a spot in the lineup that has been the biggest question mark since the departure of Nick Suriano.
Devin Schnupp and Justin Lopez competed on Sunday and each went 2-2 and were eliminated in the consolation quarterfinals. Schnupp dropped his tournament opener 6-4 in sudden victory with Lopez getting shutout 9-0.
Schnupp, though, showed why he is the starter for now by outscoring his next two opponents 26-9 in two wins before being eliminated. Lopez had to eke out his two wins before being eliminated.
Others that competed for the Nittany Lions included Dominic Giannangeli (2-2, 141 pounds) and Scott Stossel (1-2, 133).
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