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Penn State downs Illinois in Big Ten opener

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0 B1G), ranked No. 2 in the latest InterMat Tournament Power Index, won the last four bouts against No. 24 Illinois (3-2, 0-1 B1G) to pick up a victory in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Penn State won six of ten bouts including the last for to notch a 22-16 win in front of yet another Rec Hall sellout crowd.

With line-up changes brought on by the recent announcement that top-ranked heavyweight Anthony Cassar and All-American 197-pounder Kyle Conel were lost for the season and three other Lion starters out, Penn State roared back from a halftime deficit thanks to wins from two seniors and two true freshmen. A crowd of 6,202 watched Penn State beat the Illini, Penn State's 51st straight sellout in Rec Hall and the 56th of 58 at home (including five of seven in the Bryce Jordan Center).

The dual began at 125 where freshman Brandon Meredith (Limerick, Pa.) lost a tough 6-0 decision to Justin Cardani. With sophomore Roman Bravo-Young (Tucson, Ariz.), ranked No. 3 nationally at 133 out of the line-up, sophomore Austin Clabuagh (York Springs, Pa.) made his Penn State debut and took on No. 7 Travis Piotrowski. Piotrowski got the fall at the 6:54 mark to give Illinois an early 9-0 lead. Junior Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), ranked No. 2 at 141, got Penn State on the board with a big win at 141. Lee dominated No. 16 Dylan Duncan for 7:00 and used a last second takedown to pick up bonus points with a 13-5 major.

Sophomore Jarod Verkleeren (Greensburg, Pa.) took to the mat at 149 and got Penn State even closer with a 6-2 victory over Illinois' Mousa Jodeh. Verkleeren used two early takedowns to secure the victory and cut the Illini lead to 9-7. No. 4 Brady Berge (Mantorville, Minn.) did not compete at 157 and Bo Pipher (Paonia, Colo.) dropped a hard-fought 5-2 decision to Illini senior Eric Barone. The Nittany Lions trailed 12-7 at the dual's midway point.

With senior Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh, Pa.), ranked No. 1 nationally out of the line-up as well, redshirt freshman Konner Kraeszig (Louisville, Ky.) made his Penn State dual debut at 165. Kraeszig took on No. 15 Danny Braunagel and lost a 12-3 major decision. Braunagel's win put Illinois up 16-7 with four bouts remaining in the dual. Senior Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.), ranked No. 1 at 174, then put on an offensive show in taking care of No. 8 Joey Gunther. Hall's constant offensive pressure forced Gunther into a flurry of stalls in the final period. With Hall leading 17-6 late in the third period, Gunther took one final stall and was disqualified. Hall's DQ win at the 6:40 mark cut the Illinois lead to 16-13. True freshman Aaron Brooks (Hagerstown, Md.), ranked No. 8 at 184, used a takedown each period to post a hard-fought 9-4 win over Zach Braunagel and the Nittany Lions were tied 16-16.

Senior Shakur Rasheed (Coram, N.Y.) made his season debut for the Lions at 197 and came up big for the Nittany Lions. Rasheed, shaking off the rust from missing the first half of the season, used an escape and a late takedown to post a 3-0 win over Matt Wroblewski. Rasheed's season debut win gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the dual, 19-16. True freshman Seth Nevills (Clovis, Calif.) made his Penn State dual debut at 285, taking on Illinois' Luke Luffman at 285. Nevills used takedowns in the first and third periods to post the big 6-3 win and clinch the 22-16 dual meet victory for Penn State.

Penn State owned a 19-11 takedown edge in the dual. The Nittany Lions picked up four bonus points off one major (Lee) and the DQ win from Hall.

Penn State is now 4-1, 1-0 in the Big Ten. Illinois falls to 3-2, 0-1 Big Ten. The Nittany Lions return to action in two days when they host Northwestern in Rec Hall on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m.

Penn State Fans are encouraged to follow Penn State wrestling via twitter at @pennstateWREST, on Penn State Wrestling's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pennstatewrestling and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/pennstatewrest. This is PENN STATE. WRESTLING lives here.

Results:
125: Justin Cardani ILL dec. Brandon Meredith PSU, 6-0 0-3
133: #7 Travis Piotrowski ILL pinned Austin Clabaugh PSU, WBF (6:54) 0-9
141: #2 Nick Lee PSU maj. dec. #16 Dylan Duncan ILL, 13-5 4-9
149: Jarod Verkleeren PSU dec. Mousa Jodeh ILL, 6-2 7-9
157: Eric Barone ILL dec. Bo Pipher PSU, 5-2 7-12
165: #15 Danny Braunagel ILL maj. dec. Konner Kraeszig PSU, 12-3 7-16
174: #1 Mark Hall PSU win by DQ #8 Joey Gunther ILL, DQ (6:40, stalling) 13-16
184: #8 Aaron Brooks PSU dec. Zach Braunagel ILL, 9-4 16-16
197: Shakur Rasheed PSU dec. Matt Wroblewski ILL, 3-0 19-16
285: Seth Nevills PSU dec. Luke Luffman ILL, 6-3 22-16

Attendance: 6,202 (51st straight sellout in Rec Hall, 56 of 58 overall including five of seven in the BJC)
Records: Penn State (4-1, 1-0 B1G); Illinois (3-2, 0-1 B1G)
Up Next for Penn State: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, home vs. Northwestern, 2 p.m. in Rec Hall

BOUT-BY-BOUT:

125: Freshman Brandon Meredith (Limerick, Pa.) took on Justin Cardani at 125. Meredith looked to set the tempo early, working the middle of the mat for the first minute-plus. Cardani got in on a low single at the 2:01 mark but Meredith forced a reset and action continued in neutral. Cardani connected on a single with 1:10 on the clock but Meredith was able to work his way into control of Cardani's ankle for the next :30, forcing another stalemate with :50 on the clock. The Lion freshman fought off a third shot and the bout moved to the second period tied 0-0. Meredith chose down to start the second period. Cardani was able to work his way into control of the Lion for the first minute and then turned the Lion for four near fall points. Cardani finished the period on top and Meredith trailed 4-0 after one. Cardani chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 5-0 lead. Meredith spent the middle part of the period fighting off another Cardani shot, forcing a stalemate with :29 on the clock. Cardani went on to post the 6-0 victory with 1:48 in riding time.

133: Sophomore Roman Bravo-Young (Tucson, Ariz.), ranked No. 3 at 133, did not compete and sophomore Austin Clabaugh (York Springs, Pa.) made his Lion debut against No. 7 Travis Piatrowski of Illinois. The duo battled evenly for the first minute before Piotrowski got in on a low shot that forced a scramble in the middle of the mat. Clabaugh worked his way into a stalemate with 1:33 on the clock. Piotrowski blew through a high double after the reset and took a 2-0 lead on the edge of the mat. Piotrowski controlled the action from the top position for the rest of the period and carried that lead into the second stanza. Clabaugh chose down to start the second period. Piotrowski was able to maintain control for the first :30 before Clabaugh escaped to a 2-1 score. The Illini quickly countered with a quick shot and takedown to up his lead to 4-1, working his riding time over 2:00 in the process. Clabaugh escaped to a 4-2 score after the reset and action resumed in neutral. Piotrowski muscled his way through a third takedown as the period wound down and Clabaugh trailed 6-2 after two periods. Piotrowski chose neutral to start the third period. Clabaugh nearly connected on a high single, but Piotrowski was able to counter the move for a fourth takedown and an 8-3 lead. With 1:15 left on the clock. Piotrowski shot low at the :45 mark but Clabaugh countered the move to force a stalemate at :38. Piotrowski used a high double to take Clabaugh to the mat and then turned him for a quick fall, getting the pin at the 6:54 mark.

141: Junior Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), ranked No. 2 at 141, took on No. 16 Dylan Duncan. Lee scored quickly, using a fast scramble to take Duncan down for an early 2-0 lead. Duncan escaped and action resumed in neutral at the 2:08 mark. Lee snapped a low single and finished it off for his second takedown midway through the period to open up a 4-1 lead. He went to work on top, building up his riding time a bit before cutting Duncan loose. The twosome battled evenly and then Lee countered a late Duncan shot for a last second takedown to lead 6-2 after the opening period. Duncan chose down to start the second period and Lee cut the Illini loose to a 6-3 score. Lee worked the middle of the mat, controlling the action from the standing position as the clock moved under 1:00. Lee could not break through Duncan's defense and carried the 6-3 lead into the third period. Lee chose down to start the third period and quickly reversed the Illini to open up an 8-3 lead. Lee cut Duncan loose at the 1:22 mark and went back to work on offense. Lee countered a slight Duncan shot after forcing a stall and took the Illini down to lead 10-5 after cutting him quickly. Looking for bonus points, Lee worked his way in on a low shot and forced a scramble as time wound down. Lee picked up a takedown with just one second left and, with 1:27 in riding time, posted the 13-5 major decision.

149: Sophomore Jarod Verkleeren (Greensburg, Pa.) took on Mousa Jodeh at 149. Jodeh took an early shot that Verkleeren was able to counter, picking up his own takedown on the edge of the mat to lead 2-0 at the 2:25 mark. Verkleeren then controlled the action from the top position, building up :45 in riding time before Jodeh escaped to a 2-1 score. Verkleeren then shot low, forcing a scramble in the middle of the mat with 1:00 on the clock. The Lion sophomore worked his way through the move for another takedown and a 4-1 lead at the :40 mark. Verkleeren finished the period on top and led 4-1 with 1:33 in riding time after one period. Jodeh chose down to start the second period. Verkleeren controlled the action for a minute before Jodeh got the escape to cut the lead to 4-2. The period finished in neutral and Verkleeren led 4-2 with 2:01 in riding time after two periods. Verkleeren chose down to start the second period and steadily worked his way to an escape and a 5-2 lead. Jodeh took a low shot that Verkleeren countered, forcing a scramble and a stalemate at the :47 mark. Verkleeren fought off two late Jodeh shots and, with 1:31 in riding time, rolled to the 6-2 victory.

157: Junior Bo Pipher (Paonia, Colo.) stepped in for No. 4 Brady Berge at 157 and battled Illinois senior Eric Barone. The match began with the wrestlers working for control in the middle of the mat. Action was stopped twice early on stalemates with neither wrestler finding an offensive opening. The clock moved down below 1:00 mark with Pipher trying to set up his offense in the middle of the mat. The first period ended in a scoreless tie. Barone chose down to start the second period and quickly reversed Pipher and took him to his back. Pipher rolled to an escape and trailed 2-1 at the 1:38 mark. The move was reviewed and two back points were awarded and Pipher trailed 4-0 to start the second period. Pipher worked his way to an escaped and a 4-1 score with 1:10 on the clock and then went to work on offense. But Barone was able to keep Pipher from connecting and the Lion trailed 4-1 after two periods. Pipher chose down to start the final period and forced Barone into a stall warning. But Barone was able to maintain control of the Lion for nearly the full period before Pipher escaped. Barone posted the 5-2 win with over 2:00 in riding time.

165: Senior Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh, Pa.), ranked No. 1 at 165, did not compete and redshirt freshman Konner Kraeszig (Louisville, Ky.) made his Penn State dual debut against No. 15 Danny Braunagel. Kraeszig took a solid high single at the 1:40 mark but Braunagel countered for the bout's first takedown to lead 2-0 at the opening period's midway point. Kraeszig escaped to a 2-1 score and action resumed in neutral with 1:10 on the clock. Kraeszig used a low single to force a scramble with :20 on the clock. The Lion freshman nearly picked up the takedown but the Illini was able to kill the clock and Kraeszig trailed 2-1 after one. Braunagle chose down to start the second period, quickly escaped and then immediately took Kraeszig down to open up a 5-1 lead. Braunagle finished the period on top and carried that lead with 1:45 in riding time into the third period. Kraeszig chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 5-2 score. Braunagle took the Lion down and picked up two near fall points to open up a 9-2 lead at the 1:00 mark. The Lion escaped to a 9-3 score with :55 left in the bout. Braunagle finished off the bout with a final takedown and ride out. He finished with nearly 3:00 in riding time and notched the 12-3 major decision.

174: Senior Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.), ranked No. 1 at 174, took on No. 8 Joey Gunther. Hall countered an early slight shot by Gunther and took an early 2-1 lead with a takedown and cut just seconds into the bout. He then worked his way in on a high single for a second takedown and led 4-1 with 2:00 left in the period. Hall built up nearly 1:00 in riding time before cutting Gunther loose. He then used a fast high double for a third takedown and a 6-3 lead with 1:07 on the clock. Hall picked up a fourth takedown at the :24 mark and finished the period on top to lead 8-3 with 1:23 in riding time after the opening stanza. Gunther chose down to start the second period. Hall cut the Illini loose to an 8-4 score and then forced a first Gunther stall before grabbling his fifth takedown to lead 10-5 with 1:05 left in the period. Hall picked up a point on a stall and led 11-5 with 1:48 in time after two periods. Hall chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 12-5 lead. He moved his way around Gunther for another takedown and a 14-6 lead with 1:30 on the clock. Another stall point put Hall up 15-6. Another Gunther Stall to lead 17-6 and then, with consistent pressure, forced Gunther into yet another stall and picked up the disqualification victory (stalling) at the 6:40 mark for six team points.

184: True freshman Aaron Brooks (Hagerstown, Md.), ranked No. 8 at 184, met Illinois' Zach Braunagel. The duo battled evenly for the first minute-plus before Brooks broke through on offense. The Lion freshman worked a low single into a takedown to lead 2-1 at the midway point. The Lion freshman continued to pressure Braunagel but the Illini was able to fight off Brooks' offense. Brooks nearly scored on a late shot but time ran out and the Lion led 2-1 after one. Braunagel chose down to start the second period and Brooks controlled the action for the first minute, working his riding time up over 1:00. The Nittany Lion freshman maintained control of the Illini until the :40 mark before he escaped. With time running out in the second, Brooks muscled his way for another takedown and led 4-2 after two periods. He chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 5-2 lead. Braunagel countered a Brooks shot for a takedown of his own and cut the Lion lead to 6-4 after a Brooks escape. Brooks fought off a late Braunagel shot and countered for a final takedown of his own. He had 1:45 in riding time and posted the 9-4 victory.

197: Senior Shakur Rasheed (Coram, N.Y.) made his season debut at 197 against Illini Matt Wroblewski. Rasheed and Wroblewski battled evenly for the first minute-plus. Rasheed stepped back from two slight Illini shots and looked to set up his own offense in the center circle. Rasheed took a fast low shot but Wroblewski was able to step aside from the effort and the bout moved to the second period knotted in a scoreless tie. Wroblewski chose neutral to start the second period. The duo continued to hand-fight for the first minute-plus. Neither wrestler was able to break through on offense and the bout moved to the third period tied 0-0. Rasheed chose neutral to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. Rasheed countered a slight Wroblewski shot but could not finish off the move and continued to lead by one at the 1:00 mark. Rasheed continued to look for an opening and found it, countering a shot for a takedown and a 3-0 lead late in the period. Rasheed finished on top to open up his season with a 3-0 victory.

285: True freshman Seth Nevills (Clovis, Calif.) made his Nittany Lion dual meet debut against Illinois heavyweight Luke Luffman. Nevills scored quickly, using a low shot to take Luffman down for an early 2-0 lead. Nevills then controlled the action on top and built up over 1:00 in riding time. Nevills continued to work on offense as the clock moved below the :50 mark. He finished the period on top and led 2-0 with 2:34 in riding time after the opening stanza. Nevills chose down to start the second period and quickly scrambled to an escape and a 3-0 lead. He then turned in on offense and went back to work on his feet. Nevills shot low from a standing position but Luffman countered for a late takedown to cut the Nevills lead to 3-2 after two periods. Luffman chose neutral to start the third period. He got in on a high shot but Nevills deftly used his strength to counter the move, work his way around the Illini and take a 5-2 lead with another takedown. Luffman notched a late escape but Nevills, with 3:04 in riding time, rolled to the 6-3 decision.

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