The 2022 National Champion Penn State Nittany Lions (Photos courtesy of Sam JanickiPhoto.com)
Even though the Penn State Nittany Lions had the 2022 NCAA team title locked up before the first whistle blew tonight, there was still plenty of drama and uncertainty surrounding the championship finals. Five PSU wrestlers earned spots in the finals of their respective weights.
Fast forward to three hours later and all five Nittany Lion finalists were crowned national champions. 133 lber Roman Bravo-Young started the Penn State onslaught by downing his opponent from the 2021 finals, Daton Fix. RBY was able to withstand some dangerous scoring situations from Fix and converted for himself and prevailed, 3-2. It was a similar situation a weight later as Nick Lee also became a two-time champion at 141 lbs. Lee surrendered an early takedown to #15 seed Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) and managed to emerge from an amazing flurry without any further damage. From that point on, it was all Lee. He never gave Clarke space to breathe and claimed a 10-3 win.
The next run of champions for Penn State came at 174-197. Each of those three consecutive weights was won by a Penn State wrestler. At 174, Carter Starocci outlasted Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) in a battle of past champions. Each garnered a takedown in a bout that ended 4-4 in regulation. After a scoreless sudden victory period, both had a shot in the : 30-second tiebreakers. Starocci ended up with his hand raised after amassing more riding time than Lewis.
In the de facto main event of the night, Aaron Brooks reversed his Big Ten finals result by downing top-seeded Myles Amine (Michigan) 5-3. Brooks struck early in the first period with a takedown and started to rack up riding time. His top work throughout the match neutralized the dangerous Amine. Brooks is now a two-time champion, as well.
Rounding out the Nittany Lions sweep was Max Dean at 197 lbs. Dean scrapped to a hard-fought 3-2 win over Big Ten rival Jacob Warner (Iowa). Dean is the only first-time champion for Penn State this year.
Host Michigan finished as team runner's-up and got the evening started with a title from 125 lber Nick Suriano. Suriano jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and hung on despite a few stalling calls from the bottom position in the third period. Suriano is now a two-time champion and has earned titles at two different schools and weights (Rutgers - 133).
Also in the multiple champions club was Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) at 149 lbs. Diakomihalis faced Ridge Lovett (Nebraska), who represented Diakomihalis' stiffest test of the season. He took the Big Red star into sudden victory at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The final result was never in doubt this time as Yianni dominated on his feet, to the tune of an 11-5 win. He is now a three-time champion and has won 75 straight collegiate matches.
The lone senior that ended his career with his first national title was Ryan Deakin (Northwestern). Always a contender, with three Big Ten titles, Deakin finally got over the hump and won the Wildcats first national title since 2014. He faced some resistance from Quincy Monday (Princeton) in the early going, but ended up cruising to a 9-2 win.
A 2021 champion that did not repeat was Shane Griffith (Stanford) at 165 lbs. Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) wore down Griffith on the mat and grabbed a 6-5 win in one of the most star-studded weights of the tournament.
Finally, we have the last bout of the evening at 285 lbs. Gable Steveson (Minnesota) added his name to the two-time champs club, in a controlled 6-2 victory over Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State). After the bout, Steveson left his shoes on the mat, symbolizing his retirement from the sport. The 2020 Olympic gold medalist already has a NIL deal with the WWE and is expected to pursue that path in the near future. In his post-match presser, Steveson did leave open a possibility of a return. Either way, Steveson should be the odds on favorite to win a second consecutive Hodge Trophy.
125 lbs - Nick Suriano (Michigan) dec Patrick Glory (Princeton) 5-3
133 lbs - Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) 3-2
141 lbs - Nick Lee (Penn State) dec Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) 10-3
149 lbs - Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) 11-5
157 lbs - Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) dec Quincy Monday (Princeton) 9-2
165 lbs - Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) dec Shane Griffith (Stanford) 6-5
174 lbs - Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) 5-5RTTB
184 lbs - Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec Myles Amine (Michigan) 5-3
197 lbs - Max Dean (Penn State) dec Jacob Warner (Iowa) 3-2
285 lbs - Gable Steveson (Minnesota) dec Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) 6-2
1st) Penn State 131.5
2nd) Michigan 95
3rd) Iowa 74
4th) Arizona State 66.5
5th) Nebraska 59.5
6th) Northwestern 57.5
7th) Cornell 54.5
8th) Virginia Tech 52.5
9th) Missouri 49.5
10th) NC State 48