The Rutgers University wrestling team gave it everything it had Sunday night against powerful Penn State before a sellout crowd of more than 6,000 at venerable Rec Hall in State College, Pennsylvania.
Hard-fought wins overtime wins at 149 and 157 pounds by Mike Van Brill and Rob Kanniard capped a three-bout run that enabled the Scarlet Knights to lead by five at intermission.
However, Penn State's upperweight firepower enabled it to win the final five bouts and pull away for a 27-11 win in a Big Ten Conference match.
A technical fall at 174 by Carter Starocci (174), a major decision by Aaron Brooks (184) and a 9-6 win by Max Dean (197) enabled Penn State (11-0, 3-0) to clinch the match with one bout remaining. The Nittany Lions won seven of the 10 bouts.
Penn State is ranked No. 1 in the country by intermatwrestle.com and No. 2 by flowrestling.org. Rutgers (12-2, 2-2) is ranked No. 16.
Starocci and Brooks were two of three defending national champions in the lineup for the Nittany Lions. Roman Bravo-Young (133) was the other.
Dean, who defeated four-time NCAA qualifier and previously unbeaten Greg Bulsak on a takedown in the final minute, was the NCAA runner-up at 184 in 2019 when he was at Cornell.
Starocci put on a clinic in mat wrestling in his 19-2 win in 4:25 over second-year freshman Connor O'Neill.
Brooks showed off his athletic ability and all-around talent in a 10-2 major decision over John Poznanski, the NCAA fourth-place finisher last year. Brooks had also majored Poznanski 10-2 last year in a Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
PSU's Brady Berge in comeback from retirement
Before Starocci and Brooks took the mat, Brady Berge (165) put a charge into the crowd with a 5-1 win in his comeback bout from retirement.
Berge, a two-time NCAA qualifier, rejoined the Penn State program last week after he announced his retirement from wrestling after last season due to injuries.
He had been serving as a volunteer assistant coach at South Dakota State under head coach and former Lakewood three-time NJSIAA champion and two-time Minnesota NCA champion Damion Hahn before he decided to resume his career.
Rutgers had grabbed the lead and had surprised the crowd with VanBrill and Kanniard both wrestling tenaciously.
Four-time NCAA All-American and three-time NCAA top six finisher Sebastian Rivera began the Rutgers run to the lead with a technical fall at 141. Penn State's defending 141-pound national champion Nick Lee did not weigh in because of "protocols," according to Penn State's wrestling Twitter handle.
LINE-UP NOTE //
Nick Lee will not be able to compete today as protocols will keep him out of the line-up once more...#PSUwr
— Penn State WRESTLING (@pennstateWREST) January 16, 2022
Lee defeated Rivera, ranked No. 3 in the country by intermatwrestle.com and flowrestling,org, 9-3 in last year's NCAA Tournament semifinal and 8-6 in on a takedown with one second left in sudden victory period No. 1 in a Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
VanBrill, a two-time NCAA qualifier, beat second-year freshman Beau Bartlett to give Rutgers an 8-6 lead, getting a 4-3 decision in tiebreaker period No. 2.
VanBrill rode Bartlett out in the first part of the second tiebreaker period to give him a 30-second riding time advantage. He then chose neutral in the second part of the period to maintain the riding time advantage and fought off a takedown attempt in the final seconds.
Both wrestlers rode each out in the first tiebreaker period and both had chances in a wild scramble for a winning takedown in the first sudden victory period.
Penn State fans thought Bartlett won the bout with a takedown in the final seconds off a counter of a VanBrill shot, but no takedown was awarded.
Rob Kanniard prevails with sudden victory
Kanniard, a second-year freshman, then rallied for a 6-4 win in sudden victory period No. 1 over Tony Negron. Negron led 4-1 after the first period.
A takedown with 50 seconds left enabled Kanniard to tie the bout. He won it with a takedown 27 seconds into the sudden victory period.
A rideout in the second period was also a key for Kanniard.
Rivera continued his streak of getting bonus points in every bout with a 17-1 technical fall win over Brandon Meredith in 3:36.
A four-time NCAA All-American and three-time national top six finisher, Rivera (16-0) has recorded nine technical falls, three major decisions, two pins and two forfeits this season.
He had 10 back points in the bout - eight in the first period and two that ended the match.
The Scarlet Knights also wrestled tough in the first two bouts in which they were heavy underdogs agains Young and Central Michigan transfer and returning NCAA fourth-place finisher Drew Hildebrant at 125.
Second year freshman Shawver outwrestled Hildebrant for much of the bout, but Hildebrant pulled out a 4-2 win on a takedown at the buzzer.
Rutgers challenged the takedown, but a review upheld the referee's call.
Freshman 133-pounder Joey Olivieri followed by limiting the damage against Young after Young had three takedowns in the first period. Young was held to a reversal and takedown in the final two periods.
PENN STATE 27, RUTGERS 11: 125: Drew Hildebrant (PSU) d. Dylan Shawver 4-2.
133: Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) d. Joey Olivieri 11-5. 141: Sebastian Rivera (R) tf. Brandon Meredith 3:36 (17-1). 149: Mike VanBrill (R) d. Beau Bartlett 4-3 (tiebreaker No. 2). 157: Rob Kanniard (R) d. Tony Negron 6-4 (sudden victory period No. 1).
165: Brady Berge (PSU) d. Andrew Clark 5-1. 174: Carter Starocci (PSU) tf. Connor O'Neill 4:25 (19-2). 184: Aaron Brooks (PSU) md. John Poznanski 10-2. 197: Max Dean (PSU) d. Greg Bulsak 9-6. HWT: Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) p. Alex Esposito 1:45.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Rutgers wrestling: Scarlet Knights hang tough in defeat at Penn State