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    NLWC on Rokfin 2 Preview & Predictions

    Jason Nolf and Bubba Jenkins will face off Tuesday at NLWC on Rokfin 2

    Despite Senior Nationals taking place, the wrestling world is still not back to normal due to the international pandemic. RTCs and streaming services have continued to try to fill the void for the wrestling fanatics. For the second time this season, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club will host an event on Rokfin. The event features some of the best current and former Penn State wrestlers, including Jason Nolf and Roman Bravo-Young. The following is a match-by-match preview of the event.

    Jason Nolf vs. Bubba Jenkins

    The history of Jenkins and Penn State is a long tale with many twists and turns. He joined the Nittany Lions program in 2006. Prior to his sophomore season he won the Junior World Championships at 66 kilograms. That success in freestyle set the table for his 2007-2008 collegiate season where he scored signature victories over both Jordan Burroughs and Lance Palmer. At the NCAA tournament, he went on quite the run and made the finals before falling against Brent Metcalf. Jenkins finished his junior season with an undefeated 22-0 record but an injury suffered at the Big Ten tournament scuttled his postseason.

    While the hiring of Cael Sanderson turned Penn State into a wrestling dynasty, it was not a good fit for Jenkins. During his redshirt year, he left the State College and ultimately ended up at the recently resurrected Arizona State program. In his only season with the Sun Devils, Jenkins made the NCAA final at 157 pounds and exacted some revenge against his former team as he upset David Taylor via second-period fall.

    Following college, Jenkins transitioned to MMA pretty much immediately as he made his professional debut in December 2011. In 2013, he signed with Bellator and went 8-3 before leaving the promotion in 2016. Jenkins has gone 3-1 since leaving the promotion and currently holds the Brave CF featherweight title.

    Nolf spent his entire collegiate career at Penn State. He was a four-time NCAA finalist and a three-time champion. After finishing school in 2019, Nolf transitioned fully to freestyle. That same year he took a bronze medal at the U.S. Open and silver medals at both the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament and the Bill Farrell. Like many competitors, he has done his best to stay busy in the pandemic world. This past June, he won a 4-1 match over Jordan Oliver in the main event of Rumble on the Rooftop and defeated David McFadden in his last match at the inaugural NLWC event.

    While the storylines here are rather intriguing, the match will likely be less contentious. Former wrestlers who have converted to MMA have tried to return to the sport of their roots, but the results have not been there. For example, Ben Askren challenged Jordan Burroughs at the 2019 Beat the Streets event and fell via an 11-0 score. Recently, Darrion Caldwell faced off against Luke Pletcher at a FloWrestling event. While Caldwell kept it close early, Pletcher finished the bout in control. Jenkins has shown magic in the past, but Nolf will be a big favorite in this match.

    Prediction: Nolf VSU over Jenkins

    Jarod Verkleeren vs. Brock Zacherl

    Verkleeren will step in here as a replacement for teammate Nick Lee. The rising junior held down the 149-pound starting spot for Penn State last year and finished with a 17-8 record. In the last two months of the season, he appeared to be rounding into form. He defeated Cole Martin and Kizhan Clarke and also went to overtime with Brayton Lee and Sammy Sasso. At the Big Ten tournament, he went 2-2 and qualified for the NCAA tournament.

    Zacherl was a four-time NCAA qualifier for Clarion. As a junior, he made the round of 12 and nearly became an All-American. He returned for his senior season and went 22-4 and qualified for yet another NCAA tournament. During the season, he picked up wins over Collin Purinton, Russell Rohlfing and Colston DiBlasi. Following the season, the NCWA awarded him with second team All-America honors.

    Verkleeren will take a freestyle match here, but his best Olympic style might actually be Greco. He normally succeeds when he is able to slow down a match and work his control ties. Zacherl is the more active offensive wrestler, and that should go a long way in this match, if he can break through the defense.

    Prediction: Zacherl VPO1 over Verkleeren

    Roman Bravo-Young vs. Shelton Mack

    Bravo-Young started right away for Penn State when he joined the team in 2019. As a true freshman, he picked up wins over the likes of Luke Pletcher, Chas Tucker and Micky Phillippi and then finished the year with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA tournament. This past season, he took another step forward and finished the year with a 20-2 record. His only losses came against former NCAA champion Seth Gross and Sebastian Rivera in the Big Ten tournament final. Bravo-Young returned to action this past July on the undercard of the Kyle Dake vs. Frank Chamizo show and picked up a dominant 8-1 victory over former NCAA finalist Jack Mueller.

    Mack actually coached Mueller during his time as an assistant at Virginia. The senior level athlete was a three-time NCAA qualifier at Pittsburgh between 2012-2014. Mack then transitioned into college and the freestyle circuit. Perhaps his best year in freestyle came into 2019. He won the Last Chance Qualifier for the World Team Trials with wins over Micky Phillippi and Daniel DeShazer before finishing fourth at the World Team Trials Challenge tournament. Mack recently finished eighth at the 2020 Senior Nationals where he picked up wins over Gabriel Gray, Justin Portillo, Codi Russell and Skyler Petry.

    Mack is a veteran who does a good job holding position. He may be able to challenge Bravo-Young here, but look for the Penn State representative to make a difference with his quick leg attacks. He was able to avoid the freestyle savvy of Mueller earlier this year, and that should once again pay dividends here.

    Prediction: Bravo-Young VPO1 over Mack

    Aaron Brooks vs. Brett Pfarr

    This bout will be a rematch of a meeting that took place last December at the 2019 Senior Nationals. The two met in the consolation semifinals, and Pfarr took a 5-5 criteria win over Brooks. In the match, the first period ended with a 1-0 score after Pfarr received a shot clock point. He extended that lead early in the second after winning an extensive scramble. Brooks finally got on the board after a one-point reversal off a leg lace attempt. He then scored a takedown on a low shot counter to a shot from Pfarr, and he followed that up with a lace to take a 5-3 lead. Brooks then went for another leg attack but exposed himself in the scramble. They returned to their feet with 17 seconds to go, but neither wrestler was able to break the 5-5 tie, and Pfarr took the match.

    As a true freshman last year, Brooks did not join the starting lineup until December. By the time March rolled around, he cemented himself as one of the best wrestlers at 184 pounds and perhaps a contender for the national title. His only loss came against Taylor Venz of Nebraska. Not only did he avenge that defeat in the Big Ten tournament, but also defeated Owen Webster and Cameron Caffey to win the entire bracket.

    Not only did Pfarr defeat Brooks at the 2019 Senior Nationals, but he also had a very strong tournament overall. The former Minnesota All-American also defeated Nick Heflin, Max Dean and Drew Foster on his way to a fourth-place finish. Unfortunately, 2020 has not been as kind to Pfarr. He started the year with a loss against Zac Braunagel at the Rumble on the Rooftop event. He then went 3-2 at the 2020 Senior Nationals and failed to place, though he did score impressive wins over Devin Skatzka and Hunter Bolen.

    In their first meeting, Brooks appeared to be the aggressor, but he had trouble finishing and gave up points in scrambles. Pfarr is long and very hard to get to. However, if Brooks is able to clean up the finishes of his leg attacks, he should be able to take this one.

    Prediction: Brooks VPO1 over Brett Pfarr

    Greg Kerkvliet vs. Demetrius Thomas

    Kerkvliet seems to have finally found his collegiate home at Penn State. He returned to action for the first time since the 2019 Senior Nationals on the first NLWC event. Kerkvliet faced off against All-American Youssif Hemida and dominated on the way to a 10-0 superiority finish. Back at the 2019 Senior Nationals, he wrestled his way to a third-place finish with his only loss coming against veteran Tony Nelson. A month prior to that event, Kerkvliet represented the U.S. at the U23 World Championships where he made a bronze medal match before coming up short.

    Thomas transferred to Pittsburgh after winning an NAIA title at Williams Baptist. In his first season in the ACC he qualified for the NCAA tournament but failed to reach the All-American podium. This past season, he went 21-3 and won the ACC tournament. Following the season, the NWCA awarded him with first-team All-America honors. Thomas' experience in freestyle seems limited as his last event was the 2017 University Nationals where he went 2-2.

    Kerkvliet's experience as some of the top heavyweights is still somewhat limited. However, he has passed every test so far. Look for him to have yet another dominant showing in this match.

    Prediction: Kerkvliet VSU1 over Thomas

    Carter Starocci vs. Devin Skatzka

    During his redshirt freshman season at Penn State, Starocci competed in four open tournaments and won them all. The highlight of his season came when he took first place at the Southern Scuffle. Competing at 174 pounds, he picked up victories over Spencer Carey, Neal Richards and Gregg Harvey on the way to the tournament title. In freestyle, Starocci took to the mat for both the 2018 UWW Cadet Nationals and Fargo. He placed fourth at Cadet Nationals with a big win over Patrick Kennedy along the way. At Fargo, Starocci also finished fourth after falling against Parker Keckeisen in the third-place match.

    After spending his first three years in college at Indiana, Skatzka transferred to Minnesota for his final two years of eligibility. For his junior season, he got over the hump and finished eighth to become an All-American for the first time. This past season, he was certainly in the hunt. He went 28-10 and picked up victories over Michael Labriola, Kaleb Romero and Anthony Valencia. Skatzka's efforts were enough to earn first-team All-America status from the NWCA.

    Starocci's performance at the Southern Scuffle showed that he has clearly made strides since arriving on campus for Penn State. Even though this will be a freestyle match, it will likely indicate how much progress has continued since last winter. Starocci clearly has a bright future, but Skatzka is a veteran. This might be too much too soon.

    Prediction: Skatzka VPO1 over Starocci

    Beau Bartlett vs. Bryce Meredith

    Bartlett was a top-10 recruit throughout the process and originally verbally committed to Penn State as the sixth-ranked wrestler in the class of 2020. He entered the 2019 U.S. Open in the senior division and ended up finishing eighth. In the tournament, he scored victories over Ben Whitford, Shelton Mack and Austin Assad.

    Meredith was a three-time All-American and a two-time NCAA finalist for Wyoming. He finished his senior year in 2018 with a 33-2 record with his only losses coming against Yianni Diakomihalis, including a defeat in the NCAA finals. In his last freestyle action, Meredith entered the 2019 Senior Nationals last December. He finished sixth and picked up wins over Josh Saunders, Dean Heil and Ethan Lizak.

    Bartlett is playing with house money in this match. Sure, he is a top recruit, but he is also facing a multiple-time NCAA finalist who has been competing on the senior level for some time. Look for Meredith's ability to scramble and score off his opponent's offense to carry him to a victory in this match.

    Prediction: Meredith VPO1 over Bartlett

    Bekzod Abdurakhmonov vs. Nestor Taffur

    Abdurakhmonov wrestled collegiately at Clarion and represents Uzbekistan on the international circuit. He is a two-time world bronze medalist after winning bronze at both the 2014 and 2018 World championships. Abdurakhmonov is also a four-time Asian Games/Championships gold medalist. He recently wrestled on the debut NLWC show and dropped a decision against Logan Massa.

    Much like Abdurakhmonov, Taffur wrestled collegiately for Boston and now represents Colombia on the international scene. He was a two-time NCAA qualifier and an EIWA champion. During his senior season, he compiled a 37-4 record. On the international circuit, his best finish was probably a silver medal at the 2017 Pan American Championships. Taffur recently entered the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier and finished fifth.

    Taffur is at his best in wide open matches with a lot of scoring. Unfortunately for him, Abdurakhmonov is able to control the pace and space of his matches. This might not be a shootout of a match, but look for Abdurakhmonov to control from start to finish.

    Prediction: Abdurakhmonov VPO1 over Taffur

    Jane Valencia vs. Vayle-Rae Baker

    Valencia will be heading to the Olympics after winning the Pan American Olympic Qualification tournament this past March. She will be the first woman from Mexico to qualify for the Olympic Games in wrestling. To win the tournament, she needed to score an upset over 2019 world champion Linda Morais of Canada. Valencia competed against Julia Salata on the first NLWC event. She fell behind early before staging an epic comeback and securing the victory.

    Baker recently finished her first year at Augsburg. She went 18-6 and placed second at the WCWA tournament. She is a two-time member of the U.S. Cadet World Team and a three-time Fargo champion. Also, in 2018 she placed third at the U23 Women's Nationals.

    Valencia has been making clear improvements while training at the NLWC. In her last match against Salata, she showed that she can come back and score a victory even when dealing with major adversity. Baker is a young competitor with a bright future ahead of her, but this one will be a tough challenge.

    Prediction: Valencia VPO1 over Baker

    Alejandra Romero vs. Alexis Porter

    Romero has been representing Mexico at the senior level since 2014. In 2018, she won both the Pan American Championships and the Central American Caribbean Championships at 57 kilograms. So far this year, she wrestled at the Granma y Cerro Pelado, Pan American Championships and the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament but failed to medal at any of the events.

    Porter had a strong year in 2019. She started things with a third-place finish at the WCWA national tournament for McKendree University. Porter then finished third at both the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament.

    Porter excels when she is able to control ties and force her type of match on her opponents. Romero may have the advantage in terms of international experience, but that can only take you so far. Look for Porter to get her hands on Romero and move her around the met. That should allow her to set up her attacks and take the match.

    Prediction: Porter VPO1 over Romero

    Terrell Barraclough vs. Kyle Shoop

    Barraclough redshirted his first season at Penn State. As a high schooler, he won four Utah state championships and finished his senior season with a 39-2 record and was named Utah's Dave Schultz Award winner. As a redshirt, he wrestled in four open tournaments and built an 18-4 record. He closed his year with an appearance at the National Collegiate Open. Barraclough lost his first match, but he wrestled all the way back to the third-place match before finishing fourth.

    Shoop was a four-time NCAA qualifier and an All-American for Lock Haven. As a junior, he finished seventh at the NCAA tournament with victories over Chad Red, Kaid Brock, Josh Alber and Matt Findlay. This past year, he went 22-7 and scored signature victories over Shakur Laney, Cody Trybus and Alex Madrigal.

    On one hand, Shoop is the much more accomplished collegiate wrestler, but on the other hand, his style is very scramble oriented and may not translate perfectly into freestyle. He remains the favorite in this match, but Barraclough may be able to pull the upset with a solid game plan.

    Prediction: Shoop VPO1 over Barraclough

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