For Roman Bravo-Young, the sport of wrestling is truly in his blood.
Roman’s father Romego Young was a talented wrestler in Apple Valley, Minnesota, home of Penn State’s Mark Hall. Young left Minnesota for Tucson, Arizona, to train with Roman’s grandfather, Mike Bravo, who in the words of Bravo-Young’s high school coach Anthony Leon was one of the best wrestling coaches ever in Arizona.
Leon has known Bravo-Young for all of his life but didn’t start coaching him until Bravo-Young was in middle school. Leon felt it was perfect timing.
“I came into his life in a critical time where he probably needed a male figure,” Leon said. “I think it was the right time for Roman to link up with some male people and for the first time in his life be around some men.”
Bravo-Young was raised mostly by his mother and grandfather, as Young wasn’t around for much of his son’s childhood. However, Leon played a big part in shaping the wrestler and person Bravo-Young has become. But it’s not how Bravo-Young changed on the mat that Leon noted.
“It’s night and day,” Leon said of Bravo-Young’s change of character. “He started to take school seriously and hadn’t before then. He started to mature and wrestling was something that he did, and it was for him. The love he has for the sport and work ethic is what has propelled him. I’m just super proud of him.”
As Bravo-Young took care of things off the wrestling mat, he just continued to dominate on the mat. He went 182-0 during his high school career. He won four Arizona state titles.
Now, Bravo-Young is the starting 133-pound wrestler for Penn State on Sunday. The Nittany Lions host Kent State at 2 p.m. inside Rec Hall. For Leon, he’s not surprised to see his former wrestler in that spot.
“I’ve seen Roman do some incredible things,” Leon said. “I was convinced that if there was anybody that could go right away, it was Roman.”
Leon reminisced about watching Bravo-Young take on former NCAA champions inside the Sunnyside High School wrestling room and holding his own. There was a time where Bravo-Young was seen wrestling with current UFC flyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo. There was also the time that Leon had Bravo-Young, who was a junior in high school, compete in the U.S. Open. Bravo-Young’s first-round opponent was former Iowa great Tony Ramos.
“Ramos was the returning U.S. men’s national champion,” Leon said. “Roman got the first takedown and it was a competitive match until it wasn’t a competitive match, but as a junior in high school, that’s where he was at. It was exciting. Honestly, when he got the first takedown, I thought he (Bravo-Young) was going to beat him (Ramos).”
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson has only had his hands on Bravo-Young since June, when he enrolled in summer school. In just five months, Sanderson has noticed what Leon saw all those years.
“He’s pretty special,” Sanderson said during Media Day on Tuesday. “He is very competitive and really an incredible athlete. He’s got those tools and mindset to be very successful. I’m excited. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
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Kent State (3-4) at No. 1 Penn State (0-0)
When: 2 p.m., Sunday
Where: Rec Hall
Radio: ESPN 1450 AM
|Nittany Lions||vs.||Golden Flashes|
125: Devin Schnupp (0-0)
Jake Ferri (2-1) OR Tomas Gutierrez (2-1)
133: Roman Bravo-Young (0-0)
Tim Rooney (1-2)
|141: No. 4 Nick Lee (0-0)||vs.||
Cory Simpson (3-3)
|149: Jarod Verkleeren (0-0)||vs.||
Kody Komara (1-4)
|157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (0-0)||vs.||
Nick Monico (1-0)
|165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (0-0)||vs.||
Isaac Bast (1-3)
|174: No. 2 Mark Hall (0-0)||vs.||
Dylan Barreiro (3-2)
|184: No. 4 Shakur Rasheed (0-0)||vs.||
Andrew McNally (5-1)
|197: No. 1 Bo Nickal (0-0)||vs.||
No. 2 Kyle Conel (2-0) OR Shane Mast (3-1)
|285: Anthony Cassar (0-0)||vs.||
Billy Bolia (1-3)