The featured match between NCAA champion Bubba Jenkins and three-time NCAA champion Jason Nolf capped another excellent night of wrestling.
And finished off another successful event for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
The NLWC hosted its second high-level Senior freestyle wrestling event in as many months on Tuesday night. The event was streamed live on Rokfin.
The 12-match card included numerous athletes who have excelled at the international, collegiate and high school levels. The event provided fans an opportunity to watch some top-level competitors take the mat.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for Rokfin Dual #2! All the matches will be archived and posted on our channel within 24 hours. We are hoping to do it again in November and December.
�” NLWC (@NittanyLionWC) October 21, 2020
Penn State’s stable of talented young wrestlers were impressive as the next wave of Nittany Lions prepare to make an impact collegiately.
David Taylor deserves mention for the outstanding job he did providing color commentary on the live broadcast. He offered great perspectives and analysis.
Here is my breakdown from the evening’s matches:
155 pounds: Terrell Barraclough vs. Kyle Shoop
This was a good, hard-fought kickoff match to the evening with Barraclough, a four-time Utah state champion, battling Shoop, a 2019 NWCA All-American. Barraclough came out firing to record two takedowns in the first minute en route to an 8-3 lead at the break. Shoop battled back with a leg attack and finish to draw within 10-7 in the final 90 seconds. Barraclough came back with a counter and TD to lead 12-7. He finished strong to prevail 15-9.
155 pounds: Jarod Verkleeren vs. Brock Zacherl
Verkleen, a decorated age-group star for Team USA, faced off against Zacherl, who had a solid college career. Verkleeren took a 1-0 lead after Zacherl was put on the shot clock. Zacherl powered in for a blast double-leg takedown and scored two exposure points in the exhcange to lead 4-1 after one period. Down 4-1, Verkleeren charged back aggressively. He scored on a succession of leg laces to eventually end the match by a 15-4 score on technical superiority.
196 pounds: Jaime Espinal vs. Brett Pfarr
This was another bout that fans were eager to watch with Espinal, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, squaring off against Pfarr, who excelled as an All-American for Minnesota. Pfarr scored a quick takedown and two-point turn to jump out to a 4-0 advantage. Pfarr kept the pressure on, adding a takedown and pushout to lead 7-0 at the break. Espinal wasn’t able to generate any offense and Pfarr earned a dominating 10-0 victory.
77 kilograms: Bekzod Abdurakhmanov vs. Nestor Taffur
This was another intriguing matchup with Bekzod, a two-time world medalist taking on a tough opponent in Taffur. Bekzod powered in for a double-leg takedown early in the bout before building his lead to 6-2. He kept the pressure on, winning a scramble to lead 10-2 after the opening period. Bekzod finished a leg attack early in the second period to end the match while winning 12-2. He will be in the mix to medal at the Olympics next year.
60 kilograms: Jane Valencia vs. Vayle-Rae Baker
Valencia, an Olympian for Mexico, took on a top young prospect in Baker. Valencia shot in for a pair of early takedowns to take a 4-0 lead. She followed with another leg attack and a quick finish to go up 6-0. Valencia struck on a slick re-attack early in the second period to lead 9-2. She hit another double and nearly scored a fall before winning 13-2. Valencia is a proven veteran who delivered with a strong showing.
182 pounds: Carter Starocci vs. Devin Skatzka
This was a compelling matchup between a top incoming collegian in Starocci and a 2019 collegiate All-American in Skatzka. Starocci was impressive early, shooting in for a takedown and following a pushout. Starocci followed with an explosive double-leg attack to lead 5-0. He continued to fire off shots and added another double for a 7-0 advantage. Starocci took Skatzka to his back to record the pin with one second left in the first period. Starocci is someone fans are going to enjoy watching.
205 pounds: Michael Beard vs. Greg Bulsak
This was a matchup between guys who are familiar with one another. They had split matches the past two years in college. Beard struck first, spinning behind for a takedown and adding a leg lace to lead 4-0. Bulsak battled back before Beard scored late in the period to lead 8-2 at the break. Bulsak kept battling, closing to within 10-9 in the final seconds before falling just short. There was good action in a bout between evenly matched athletes.
Heavyweight: Greg Kerkvliet vs. Demetrius Thomas
Kerkvliet dominated at the age-group levels internationally and now everyone wants to see how the promising prospect fares collegiately. Kerkvliet is an athletic and explosive heavyweight, and he showed that early on Tuesday. He shot in on a textbook low-level attack before putting six points on the board in the blink of an eye. He followed with a double-leg shot, lifting Thomas and driving him to the mat with an emphatic four-point move. He won 10-0 in a match that ended in under a minute. Kerkvliet is a tremendous young prospect who will make an immediate impact for Penn State.
68 kilograms: Alejandra Romero Bonilla vs. Alexis Porter
This women’s freestyle bout promised to be an interesting clash between two wrestlers with excellent credentials. Romero led 1-0 after one period between evenly matched opponents. She shot in on a strong double before finishing for a takedown to lead 3-0 early in the second period. Romero was strong defensively and prevailed 3-0 with a solid performance.
67 kilograms: Beau Bartlett vs. Bryce Meredith
Barlett is another top young prospect who faced a proven wrestler at the collegiate level in Meredith. An early flurry saw Meredith come out on top to take a 2-0 lead. Bartlett charged back with a takedown and turn to go up 4-2. Meredith responded with back-to-back takedowns to lead 6-4 at the break. Bartlett came back to tie it 6-6 after a long scramble with two minutes left. Meredith battled back, finishing for a takedown to lead 8-6 with just over a minute left. Bartlett shot in late on a single, but Meredith kicked free to earn the two-point win. That was an entertaining match to watch with plenty of action and some superb scrambles.
140 pounds: Roman Bravo-Young vs. Shelton Mack
Bravo-Young is somebody who typically puts on a show and he had that opportunity against another excellent competitor in Mack. RBY finished on a quick shot to lead 2-0 a minute into the bout. Bravo-Young continues to improve and his superb quickness was on full display. He spun behind Mack to lead 4-0 midway through the first period. RBY added a pushout and takedown to lead 7-0 at the break. Bravo-Young hit a front headlock turn to end the match early in the second period as he prevailed 11-0. He is wrestling at a very high level.
167 pounds: Bubba Jenkins vs. Jason Nolf
Jenkins won an NCAA title, but it was nine years ago. He returned to Penn State, where he competed for most of his college career, to take on a very tough opponent in a three-time NCAA champion in Nolf. Nolf scored an early takedown to lead 2-0. Nolf followed with a pair of takedowns and a leg lace to lead 8-0. Nolf added another takedown to prevail 10-0. Fans were hoping for a better match, but Jenkins has been competing in mixed martial arts and hasn’t wrestled competitively in a number of years. Nolf is in the prime of his career as a wrestler and is expected to contend for the U.S. Olympic Team next year.
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He’s covered three Olympic Games, written 10 books and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.