World champion David Taylor returned to headline a star-studded night of freestyle wrestling.
Taylor earned a hard-fought win over Gabe Dean in the main event at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club event that took place Tuesday night in State College, Pa.
There were 11 matches held and the card featured a number of world medalists and top-level competitors. The event was shown live on Rokfin. It was third event the NLWC has hosted over the past few months.
Here is a recap of Tuesday’s bouts:
Nick Lee tech. Brandon Wright, 10-0
Lee, an NCAA two-time All-American, was expected to face a tough matchup against a proven opponent in the night’s first bout. Lee charged out strong with a single and a finish to lead 2-0. Lee countered for another takedown before following with another leg attack to build a 6-0 advantage. He added a leg lace for two more for an 8-0 lead at the break. Lee struck for a takedown early in the second period to end the match by a 10-0 score. Lee totally dominated Wright in a bout that was more one-sided than most people expected. Lee is a wrestler with a huge upside.
Nick Nevills tech. Mauro Correnti, 12-2
The match began with a slow pace and was scoreless midway through the opening period before Correnti struck for a takedown. Nevills had difficulty finishing on his shots before finally scoring a late takedown and a succession of leg laces to win 12-2. Nevills didn’t score for nearly six minutes before scoring 12 points in the final 16 seconds of the match. You don’t often see a flurry of points like that late in a heavyweight bout. Credit Nevills for coming through.
Joe Lee pinned Zach Hartman, 0:21
This one didn’t last long. Joe Lee scored a quick takedown on a shot before cranking Hartman to his back with a turk for a fall in just 21 seconds. Lee is a bright young prospect and he barely broke a sweat in earning the quick pin.
Franklin Gomez dec. Borislav Novachkov, 7-4
This was a battle of Olympians between wrestlers who represented Puerto Rico and Bulgaria on the world’s biggest stage. Novachkov came out with a strong attack, building a 4-0 advantage. Gomez battled back, driving his opponent to the edge for a pushout. Novachkov led 4-1 at the break as both wrestlers pushed the pace. Gomez hit a slick single for a takedown and followed with a gut-wrench to lead 5-4. Gomez countered a late shot attempt to prevail 7-4. That was an entertaining match between two high-level wrestlers.
Max Dean dec. CJ Brucki, 13-4
Dean, an NCAA finalist, squared off against Brucki in another battle of solid competitors. Dean shot in on a single and looked like he was about to score before Brucki countered effectively with a four-point move to lead 4-1 early. Dean came back with a takedown late in the period to draw within 4-3. Dean kept the pressure on, spinning behind for a takedown and adding a turn to lead 7-4 with two minutes left. Dean kept the momentum going en route to a decisive 13-4 victory. Dean has a big gas tank and just keeps wrestling for the full six minutes.
Nate Jackson dec. Michael Beard, 7-0
Jackson has excelled on the Senior level and faced a top young wrestler in Beard. Jackson is an explosive wrestler and he came out with two early scores to take charge. Jackson stayed on the attack and finished with a low double late in the period to lead 5-0. Beard fired in on a good single leg early in the second period, but Jackson countered superbly and eventually scored a takedown. Jackson’s experience was too much and he finished with a 7-0 win against a top prospect in Beard.
Carter Starocci dec. Chance Marsteller, 4-2
This was billed as one of the most anticipated bouts of the night. Marsteller struck first, spinning behind the younger Starocci for the opening takedown. Marsteller maintained the 2-0 lead after the first three minutes. Starocci continued to attack, but Marsteller continually fought him off. Starocci finally broke through, driving straight in on a double to tie the bout 2-2 with just over a minute to go. Starocci countered a leg attack and spun behind to lead 4-2 with 40 seconds to go. It was an impressive win by Starocci against a more experienced opponent.
Jennifer Page dec. Laura Mason, 10-4
Page, a past National Team member, battled Mason, a top college wrestler, in the lone women’s freestyle match. Mason came out to score the opening takedown, but Page powered right back with a takedown to even the bout 2-2. She followed that with a takedown and turn to lead 6-2. Mason came back with an attack to draw within 6-4 late in the first period. This match featured some excellent action from the start. Page doubled her lead to 8-4 with a counter and takedown early in the second period. Page is an established wrestler with a strong resume, but Mason wrestled aggressively and was a worthy opponent. Page finished strong to prevail 10-4 in a match that included plenty of action.
Thomas Gilman pinned Frank Perrelli, 2:23
This was expected to be a good bout between a pair of veteran lightweights. Gilman, a world silver medalist, countered a shot to score the first takedown. Gilman’s pressuring style led to a takedown on the edge to lead 4-0. He followed with another quick takedown and gut-wrench for an 8-0 advantage. Gilman won a scramble and finished for a fall late in the first period. Known for being a strong second period wrestler, Gilman came out firing with an impressive and dominating first period. He said in a post-match interview he wants to face two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee.
Zain Retherford tech. Reece Humphrey, 10-0
This battle of past world team members was expected to produce its share of fireworks. The match started a little slower than expected before Retherford struck first late in the opening period for a 2-0 lead. He followed with a single and quick finish for a 4-0 advantage. Retherford kept the pressure on, finishing a textbook shot to start the second period. Retherford neutralized Humphrey’s big move capability. The Zain Train hit a blast double in the closing seconds to finish off an impressive 10-0 win. Retherford looked superb from start to finish.
David Taylor dec. Gabe Dean, 6-2
Taylor earned a hard-fought victory against a tough wrestler in a two-time NCAA champion in Dean. The Magic Man is bigger and more physical now, and it showed in this bout. Taylor scored an early pushout and followed with a relentless attack for a takedown off a single-leg shot. He added another pushout to lead 4-0 at the break. Dean kept battling, firing in on a leg attack for a takedown to draw within 4-2 with under a minute left. Dean shot in and nearly scored the winning takedown in the final 10 seconds, but Taylor scrambled superbly to score a takedown and win 6-2. That was an excellent match between two powerful and high-level athletes. Taylor said in a post-match interview he is interested in facing off against Olympic and world champion Jordan Burroughs.
The Taylor-Dean match was a great way to end a fun night of wrestling. Kudos to the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club for setting up another top-shelf event. It would be awesome to see Gilman-Lee and Taylor-Burroughs square off at the next NLWC event.
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.