Big Ten

What We Might Learn From Watching The Penn State vs Maryland Dual

What We Might Learn From Watching The Penn State vs Maryland Dual

We preview the college wrestling dual between the number one ranked Penn State Nittany Lions and the Maryland Terrapins.

Jan 26, 2024 by Andrew Spey
What We Might Learn From Watching The Penn State vs Maryland Dual

The top-ranked Nittany Lions travel to College Park, Maryland to wrestle the Terrapins on Sunday. Penn State will be heavily favored to win the dual by a large margin, however, there is still a great deal to be learned from this Big Ten matchup. 

But First: How Do You Watch It?

This is an important first step if you plan to acquire knowledge from a sporting event.

The dual will be aired live at 12:00 PM Eastern on Sunday, January 28. To watch live, you'll need a subscription to a cable TV package that includes the Big Ten Network. You can either tune into that channel on whatever service you pay for, or you can watch on the Fox Sports app after logging in with your cable provider's information. 

Alternatively, if you just want to know how every match ended, you can go to Trackwrestling and click a bunch of things until you find the box score, or you can go to the schedule page for Maryland and Penn State and look for the recaps there. And of course, we'll have you covered in our weekly box scores (link to come shortly). 

What Is The Marquee Matchup?

Now that we've figured out how to watch the dual, we can focus on what we want to learn from it. 

Often, fans will want to tune into a dual's marquee matchup. The bout that would be headlining the event if it were run like a boxing or UFC card. 

For this dual, that would be the top 5 bout slated to take place at 197-pounds, between #1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State and Maryland's standard bearer #4 Jaxon Smith. 

Brooks will be a heavy favorite, but Smith will be the highest-ranked opponent Brooks has seen this year, his first season at 197-pounds.  

And for as dominant as Aaron Brooks has looked (and he has looked pretty dominant), he's dropped a match in each of his last two seasons. Smith, meanwhile, has some pretty slick moves for a big guy. 

Still, Brooks has yet to be challenged this season. The three-time NCAA champion Nittany Lion is 8-0 so far this season with three pins and five tech-falls. If Smith goes the distance with Brooks he will be the first opponent to do so. 

We'll also learn if Smith can be just the second wrestler this season to push Brooks into the third period! Basically, you want to take advantage of every opportunity you have to watch Brooks compete this year, because he doesn't spend much time on the mat when he does!

Do Penn State's True Freshmen Get The Start?

It would appear that true freshman Braeden Davis is going to be the guy at 125 for the Nittany Lions this year, though Penn State still has 2021 bloodrounder Robert Howard and two-time U17 world champ Kurt McHenry on the roster. 

Things are less solidified at 149, as Coach Sanderson and staff are still evaluating both true freshmen #17 Tyler Kasak and junior David Evans. Kasak is 6-1 on the season while Evans is 8-2. Kasak did beat Evans 2-1 at the Black Knight Invite down at 141-pounds earlier this season.

Watch Kasak vs Evans at Army's Black Knight Invite:


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Either wrestler would be an All-American contender. Kasak has beaten #23 Graham Rooks and #26 Nash Singleton at 149 this season in dual meets. Evans has defeated #16 CJ Composto and #26 Jordan Hamdan this season down at 141. 

Davis will likely wrestle Maryland's unranked Tommy Capul at 125, whereas Kasak or Evans would get the #22 ranked Terp, Ethen Miller. Who gets the start will be important, as a win over a quality opponent like Miller would be a big boost for RPI and earning an NCAA qualification spot for the conference tournament. 

Will We See The Return of Starocci and Kerkvliet?

Neither Carter Starocci nor Greg Kerkvliet has missed much time, however they were both off the mat for Penn State's last dual against Michigan State on Sunday, January 21.

They're both ranked #1 in their respective divisions (174 and 285) and both would be favored to win via bonus in Sunday's dual with the Terps. Coach Sanderson said earlier this week that illness had kept them off that mat but that both have been feeling better and are "good to go again," which is encouraging news for Nittany Lions fans. 

And let it not be said that viewers won't learn if Starocci or Kerkvliet wrestled by the end of he match. I'd go so far as to guarantee it. 

Can Maryland Do Some Damage With Their Ranked Wrestlers? 

Maryland has nationally ranked wrestlers at 133 (#15 Braxton Brown), 141 (#17 Kal Miller) and 157 (#33 Michael North). That means we could get ranked matchups at those weights, as all 10 of PSU's starters are in the national rankings. 

All-American Aaron Nagao shook off getting pinned in overtime by Dylan Ragusin on Friday by picking up a tech-fall against Michigan State two days later. The #5 ranked Nittany Lion will be a favorite against Brown but that match could be close. Brown lost to Ragusin 5-1 for comparison. 

Though he is still undefeated, the last four matches #2 Beau Bartlett wrestled have been kept to regular decisions. Those four matches were to ranked wrestlers, and all of them were ranked below #17 Kal Miller, which would indicate that this could be a very competitive weight for Maryland. Bartlett is still the favorite but you can bet on Miller not going down without a fight. 

Michael North is perhaps the largest underdog of these three potential bouts if he were to face #1 Levi Haines, though Haines did show some vulnerability in his win in the second set of tiebreakers over #19 Chase Saldate last Sunday. 

What Will The Final Score Be?

Very rarely is a team with five nationally ranked wrestlers projected to be shut out in a dual meet. But very rarely does a team with five nationally ranked wrestlers face a team with ten nationally ranked wrestlers, four of whom sporting the number one rank. 

Penn State's lowest ranked wrestler is Tyler Kasak at #17. Everyone else is #7 or higher. Penn State will be the favorite according to rankings at every weight, so Maryland will have to pull off at least one upset if it wants to avoid getting shut out. Not impossible though, and certainly something we'll learn happens if we watch it!

But I'll punt on making a personal prediction since the whole point of this blog was to think of things we might learn while watching the dual, not to predict what will happen and then see if we're right after the dual happens. 

So watch the dual and learn something, why don't you?