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Sacred Heart to challenge No. 2 Penn State in front of sellout crowd

Sacred Heart’s Nick Palumbo, left, and the Pioneers take on No. 2 Penn State Saturday night in Pennsylvania. (Chuck Steenburgh photo courtesy of VMI)

Sacred Heart University head coach John Clark is well acquainted with Big 10 wrestling. He was a two-time All-American at Ohio State and qualified four times for the NCAA Division I national championships.

As he continues to grow the Sacred Heart program, the fifth-year head coach wants his team to get a taste of competing in the upper levels of Division I wrestling.

The Pioneers will be facing No. 2 Penn State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., in Manheim, Pa., at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex, which hosted the EIAW championship meet last February during the pandemic. A sellout crowd of more than 1,200 fans is expected for this match and Penn State’s match with Oregon State immediately following the bout with the Pioneers.

Penn State will have four returning national champions – Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184) — in their lineup and with six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes.

“They have arguably the best returning team ever in terms of credentials,” Clark said. “We love that. We want to the kids to walk off the mat and say that was a great experience and maybe we’re not as far off as they believe. It’s a great opportunity.”

Sacred Heart (1-0) is coming off a 17-16 season-opening win over American University last weekend.

It will likely be the largest crowd that the Pioneers have wrestled in front of since the 2020 EIWA championship meet a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country. Penn State hasn’t wrestled a dual meet in front of any fans since February 2020.

“It’s exciting. It’s good for wrestling. It’s good for Penn State,” Clark said. “People think that it will be just be Penn State fans (in the building but) we will have a lot of fans support going (to the meet) as well.”

Newtown’s Joe Accousti (174) and Danbury’s Shaun Williams (149) are both expected to be in the starting lineup for the Pioneers.

It will be the highest ranked team that the Pioneers have ever faced. Sacred Heart did lose to No. 3 Michigan in November 2015. The last match against a top 25 team came in 2018 when Sacred Heart fell to No. 19 Oklahoma.

The match will be streamed live at and viewers will need to subscribe (monthly or yearly) to see the bout. Live radio coverage will be at Penn State’s Lionvison at

Sacred Heart will be the seventh New England school that the Nittany Lions have faced on the mat in dual meets. Penn State previously faced Coast Guard in 1946 and had a 4-0 record against Yale, which dropped varsity wrestling in the early 1990s. The Lions have also wrestled Brown, Boston University, Harvard and Springfield during their long history.

On Sunday, Sacred Heart will compete in the Journeyman Collegiate Classic at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex but it should be other wrestlers from the Pioneer program. The 10 starters from the Penn State bout are expected to have the day off.

Penn State (0-0) vs. Sacred Heart (1-0)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Series: First meeting
Streaming: (subscription needed)
Radio: Lionvision at

Tentative starting lineups
125: Gary Steen (PSU) vs. Sean Faraon
133: (1) Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) vs. Kyle Randall
141: (2) Nick Lee (PSU) vs. Jordan Carlucci
149: Beau Bartlett (PSU) vs. Shaun Williams
157: (24) Joe Lee (PSU) vs. Nick Palumbo
165: (32) Alex Facundo (PSU) vs. Cole McGill
174: (1) Carter Starocci (PSU) vs. Joe Accousti
184: (1) Aaron Brooks (PSU) vs. Robert Hetherman
197: (4) Max Dean (PSU) vs. Dante DelBonis
285: (5) Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) vs. Mark Blokh
The dual meet will be streamed live at Rokfin at You will have to subscribe to view the match. Jeff Byers’ audio call will also be streamed for free via Lionvision at

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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