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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Penn State Breaks NCAA Team Scoring Record and Crowns Two Four-time Champions

    It was truly a historic night in Kansas City, Missouri as ten national champions were crowned at the 2024 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships. As expected Penn State dominated the storylines and during the actual competition. The Nittany Lions established a new team scoring record with 172.5 points. That total surpassed the previous record of 170 set by Iowa in 1997. The Nittany Lions tally was bolstered by four national title-winning performances. A total of six Penn State wrestlers made the finals. 

    As the Nittany Lion squad hoisted the championship trophy DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” blared from the T-Mobile Arena sound system. That soundtrack was appropriate for a program that won its third straight national title and 11th overall under the leadership of Cael Sanderson. 

    If that wasn’t enough, two Penn State wrestlers, Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks, captured their fourth NCAA titles. There have never been two wrestlers who have won their fourth in the same season, much less teammates. Additionally, none of the previous five four-timers wrestled at Penn State (though Sanderson is one of them). 

    Heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet got the Nittany Lion party started with a 13-4 major decision victory over Lucas Davison in the opening bout of the evening. Kerkvliet was an NCAA runner-up in 2023 and is now a four-time NCAA All-American. 

    Levi Haines was the next Penn State wrestler to grab a national title. Haines was also a runner-up in 2023 who improved his podium position by a spot this year. He’ll finish his sophomore campaign with a perfect 23-0 record. 

    Two bouts later was one of the more anticipated matches of the finals as Starocci took on true freshman Rocco Welsh of Ohio State. Although limited by a severe knee injury, Starocci gutted out a win with a stalling point and a second from an escape to win 2-0. 

    In the finale, Brooks joined the exclusive four-timer club with a workman-like 6-1 win over NC State’s Trent Hidlay. The previously undefeated Hidlay was never close to putting Brooks in any danger. The win marked the second for Brooks over Hidlay in the national finals. 

    Finishing a distant second to Penn State was Cornell with 72.5 points. Cornell crowned a national champion at 133 lbs as Vito Arujau went back-to-back with his titles. Arujau won a challenge-filled, marathon match with Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, 5-3. The second-place finish marked a second-consecutive trophy-winning tournament for Cornell and head coach Mark Grey. The Big Red was third in 2023. 

    In perhaps the most anticipated finals bout of the evening, 165 lber David Carr held off freshman Mitchell Mesenbrink to win his second national title. Carr struck with takedowns in the first two periods, but was hit for stalling three times and surrendered a pair of points, as a result. In the final stanza, Carr was able to fend off any offense from Mesenbrink and used a riding time to win, 9-8. 

    Richie Figueroa (125), Jesse Mendez (133), Caleb Henson (149), and Parker Keckeisen (184) claimed the remaining titles. 

    It was fitting that Figueroa, an eighth seed, won a weight class that was chaotic all year. 

    Mendez won the rubber match between him and Big Ten rival Beau Bartlett. Bartlett won the dual matchup, but Mendez returned the favor in the conference and NCAA finals. 

    Most people expected fireworks at 149 lbs; however, not the majority of them came from Virginia Tech’s Caleb Henson. Henson surrendered a takedown to the dangerous Austin Gomez, but quickly rebounded to get one of his own, with back points involved. He’d add a second set in the first period, along with a second takedown to take a commanding 13-4 lead. It was one Henson never relinquished in a 15-7 major decision. 

    Last year, Parker Keckeisen fell in the national finals to Brooks. This year he stood alone - head and shoulders above the rest of the field at 184 lbs. Keckeisen was the only wrestler to earn bonus points throughout his championship run. 

    2024 NCAA Championship Finals

    125 lbs - Richie Figueroa (Arizona State) dec Drake Ayala (Iowa)  7-2

    133 lbs - Vito Arujau (Cornell) dec Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)  5-3

    141 lbs - Jesse Mendez (Ohio State) dec Beau Bartlett (Penn State)  4-1

    149 lbs - Caleb Henson (Virginia Tech) maj Austin Gomez (Michigan)  15-7

    157 lbs - Levi Haines (Penn State) dec Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)  5-0

    165 lbs - David Carr (Iowa State) dec Mitchell Mesenbrink (Penn State)  9-8

    174 lbs - Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec Rocco Welsh (Ohio State)  2-0

    184 lbs - Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) maj Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State)  14-5

    197 lbs - Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec Trent Hidlay (NC State)  6-1

    285 lbs - Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) maj Lucas Davison (Michigan)  13-4

    Final Team Scores

    1. Penn State  172.5

    2. Cornell  72.5

    3. Michigan  71

    4. Iowa State  68.5

    5. Iowa  67

    6. Arizona State  64.5

    7. Virginia Tech  64

    8. Ohio State  62

    9. Nebraska  60.5

    10. Oklahoma State  56

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