Penn State sophomore wrestler Mark Hall, a reigning national champion, rose from his spot in the bleachers at Lehigh University’s Grace Hall and leaned forward Sunday. Like numerous others at FloWrestling’s Who’s No. 1 dual, he wanted a closer glimpse at the Nittany Lions’ future.
Four of Penn State’s 2018 commits — Michael Beard (195 pounds), Gavin Teasdale (126 pounds), Roman Bravo-Young (132 pounds) and Joe Lee (160 pounds) — competed at the dual for the country’s top high school talent. None of the four came away with a win, but Hall and the quartet cheered on each other throughout the day.
The talented foursome weren’t happy with their performances Sunday, but they still make up a loaded and talented recruiting class nonetheless. And, despite the results, they’re set on continuing Penn State’s proud wrestling tradition under coach Cael Sanderson.
“I feel like the Class of 2018 is one of the best classes for Penn State there ever will be,” Beard said. “I think we can replace all the guys there.”
Beard said he and his future teammates will improve after competing against the country’s top talent in an “insane” atmosphere. Fans packed the bleachers and erupted throughout the day, while an announcer wearing a white suit and black bowtie introduced each wrestler as if Grace Hall was hosting a heavyweight title fight. Fans in Penn State shirts and hats dotted the crowd to see four future Nittany Lions, who were all at one point ranked as the No. 1 recruits in the country in their respective weight classes.
Beard represented the group’s last chance to leave with a win Sunday, but he came up short and fell in a 7-6 decision to Ohio State commit Gavin Hoffman. Teasdale went into Sunday’s match ranked No. 2 at 126 pounds and fell to No. 3 Pat Glory from New Jersey.
Teasdale later soaked in some advice from Hall, whom he wrestled with once as a high school freshman, while sitting in the bleachers.
“You got to be aware of everything,” Teasdale said of Hall’s advice. “Finishing every attack I’m on. Finishes. Finishes.”
Immediately after Teasdale’s match Sunday, top-ranked Bravo-Young competed against No. 2 Joey Silva, a Michigan commit. He slapped his face and pounded his chest as he prepared for his introduction onto the mat. Bravo-Young, an Arizona native, also had Hall sitting in his corner and walked off the mat with the Nittany Lion wrestler after his 3-1 loss. Bravo-Young said he’s hungry to get back to work and to learn more tactics to improve, adding he needs to work on his ability to make mid-match adjustments.
He’ll continue to develop once he arrives at Penn State and dreams of winning national titles for the Nittany Lions.
“It’s months until I’m there,” Bravo-Young said of joining the Nittany Lions, “and I’m just really ready for it to happen now.”
Joe Lee, an Indiana native, will take the same big goal of becoming a national champion into Penn State career — and he’s already getting a glimpse of his life at Penn State after moving to State College in August. Lee is training with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club and plans to compete unattached in some college opens. He’s still a high school senior and working on finishing an English class while homeschooling to graduate. He’s worked out with Hall and received a little instruction from Sanderson, and he knows he still has plenty of work to do.
His 6-1 loss Sunday to Ohio’s David Carr provided another reminder.
“I just lost. Not representing them to my fullest ability right now yet, I don’t think,” said Lee, who wore a Nittany Lion wrestling shirt before his match. “But I enjoy wrestling, warming up and everything with my Penn State shirt. It just helps me think about those guys and what they go through and all the sacrifices the coaches made and just being part of the program. It’s incredible.”
The sacrifices include early-morning workouts — sometimes as early as 4 a.m. — as Penn State works toward its next national championship. He looks up to the Nittany Lions wrestlers, especially 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph, who upset No. 1-seeded Isaiah Martinez to win a national championship last season. And he said he’s working every day to get closer and closer to his future teammates’ level of success.
Beard works out with Lee with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, too. He spent the past four-five weekends training at the club after staying in an apartment near the university for one month. Like his teammates, he’s excited to move to campus full-time and chase after more banners.
“I think I could be a four-time NCAA champ,” Beard said.
But he knows he needs to improve — he has to get bigger and build more stamina — after Sunday’s setback.
And the rest of the future Nittany Lions left Lehigh University with the same mindset.
“We didn’t get what we wanted going 0-4,” Bravo-Young said. “We got a lot of improvement to do, and that’s part of the sport.”