Aaron Brooks, one of Penn State's five NCAA finalists (Photos courtesy of Sam JanickiPhoto.com)
Saturday night at the NCAA Championships is often billed as the "best round of wrestling" all year. It's easy to see why. Six mats are arranged in a "dogbone" formation that features Round of 12 matches on the outside, with the semifinals on the middle two. In both rounds, dreams are either realized or crushed. This year was no different as twenty wrestlers advanced to tomorrow night's championship final and still have hopes of winning a national title.
The night started off with a pair of New Jersey natives making the national finals at 125 lbs. Top-seeded Nick Suriano (Michigan) cruised to his third NCAA final. He previously won a title in 2019 at 133 lbs. His opponent, Patrick Glory (Princeton), became the first tiger to make a national final since Greg Parker in 2002. Glory took the rubber match in a series between he and EIWA-rival Vito Arujau (Cornell).
Speaking of rivalries, they're gonna run it back at 133 lbs as Roman Bravo Young (Penn State) and Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) are slated to meet in a rematch of their 2021 finale, won by the Nittany Lion.
Up at 141 lbs, Nick Lee (Penn State) is also seeking a second title. He'll do so against one of the tournament's biggest underdog's Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina). Clarke needed an at-large berth to compete in Detroit and was seeded 15th. He prevailed over ACC rival Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh) on the riding time tiebreaker.
Cornell's Yianni Diakomihalis is now 3-for-3 in making NCAA finals. He got by 2021 national runner-up, Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), to extend his winning streak to 73 matches and puts himself in a position to win a third NCAA final. Standing in his way is the opponent responsible for Diakomihalis' closest bout of the year, Ridge Lovett (Nebraska). Lovett survived a back-and-forth affair against the dangerous Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) to advance.
One of the top seniors in the nation, Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), will have the opportunity to compete for a national title for the first time, as he handed Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) his first loss of the year. Teemer notched an early takedown, but it was all Deakin after that. The Wildcat star won with a 10-2 major decision. It took Princeton 20 years to put a wrestler in the national finals; however, it only took them four matches to have a second, in Quincy Monday. Monday held off Will Lewan (Michigan) to take a 3-2 win and lock up his spot in tomorrow's 157 lb final.
The fourth time was the charm for Shane Griffith (Stanford) at 165 lbs. That was the number of times he's met top-seeded Evan Wick (Cal Poly), this year and Wick won the previous three bouts. Entangled in a tie match (with Wick holding riding time), Griffith got in on a leg attack with under :10 seconds remaining in the bout, and converted it for a takedown with :03 left. It puts him in a position to grab back-to-back titles at the weight. Griffith will face unbeaten Keegan O'Toole (Missouri), who never seemed to be in danger against Cam Amine (Michigan) and pitched a 4-0 shutout.
We've got champ versus champ on the docket at 174 lbs with the top two-seeds advancing, Carter Starocci (Penn State) and Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech). Starocci was a champion at the weight class last year, as a freshman. Lewis was also a freshman national champion, in 2019, at 165 lbs. He was embroiled in a tight match with #3 Logan Massa (Michigan) when he shocked the Wolverine with a third-period fall.
At 184 lbs, a Big Ten rematch is on the books with Myles Amine (Michigan) and Aaron Brooks (Penn State). Both prevailed in sudden victory of their respective matches.
More intra-Big Ten action is set for 197 lbs with top-seeded Max Dean (Penn State) meeting Jacob Warner (Iowa). Dean had little trouble with #21st seeded Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) and had a 9-3 victory. Warner made the finals and extended Iowa's streak with at least one NCAA finalist. It dated back to 1990.
Minnesota native Gable Steveson (Minnesota) and Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) clashed in a bout that was closer than the score may indicate. Steveson got by with an 8-3 win, but was pushed more than anyone else has. The real fireworks at 285 lbs came in the closing seconds of the other semifinal. Jordan Wood (Lehigh) looked like he locking up a winning takedown against Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) was inevitable. Wood had Schultz up in the air, ready to score, when Schultz rolled through for a score of his own.
Penn State went 5-for-6 in the semis and leads second-place Michigan 108 to 84.5 . Michigan has two finalists.
125 lbs - Nick Suriano (Michigan) dec Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) 4-1
125 lbs - Patrick Glory (Princeton) maj Vito Arujau (Cornell) 13-5
133 lbs - Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec Austin DeSanto (Iowa) 3-1
133 lbs - Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) dec Michael McGee (Arizona State) 5-1
141 lbs - Nick Lee (Penn State) dec Real Woods (Stanford) 3-2
141 lbs - Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) dec Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh) 2-2TB
149 lbs - Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) 6-3
149 lbs - Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) dec Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) 5-4
157 lbs - Quincy Monday (Princeton) dec Will Lewan (Michigan) 3-2
157 lbs - Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) maj Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) 10-2
165 lbs - Shane Griffith (Stanford) dec Evan Wick (Cal Poly) 7-6
165 lbs - Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) dec Cam Amine (Michigan) 4-0
174 lbs - Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec Hayden Hidlay (NC State) 10-3
174 lbs - Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) fall Logan Massa (Michigan) 6:19
184 lbs - Myles Amine (Michigan) dec Bernie Truax (Cal Poly) 3-1SV
184 lbs - Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec Trent Hidlay (NC State) 6-4SV
197 lbs - Max Dean (Penn State) dec Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) 9-3
197 lbs - Jacob Warner (Iowa) dec Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming) 6-4
285 lbs - Gable Steveson (Minnesota) dec Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) 8-3
285 lbs - Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) dec Jordan Wood (Lehigh) 5-3TB
125 lbs - Patrick McKee (Minnesota) fall Killian Cardinale (West Virginia) 3:25
125 lbs - Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) dec Sam Latona (Virginia Tech) 7-3
125 lbs - Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern) dec Joey Prata (Oklahoma) 2-0
125 lbs - Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) fall Noah Surtin (Missouri) 5:31
133 lbs - Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech) maj Matt Ramos (Purdue) 12-2
133 lbs - Devan Turner (Oregon State) dec Brian Courtney (Virginia) 8-4
133 lbs - Chris Cannon (Northwestern) fall Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh) 2:21
133 lbs - Lucas Byrd (Illinois) dec Dylan Ragusin (Michigan) 6-5
141 lbs - CJ Composto (Penn) dec Stevan Micic (Michigan) 10-4SV
141 lbs - Grant Willits (Oregon State) fall Chad Red (Nebraska) 3:45
141 lbs - Jake Bergeland (Minnesota) fall Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado) 2:35
141 lbs - Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers) dec Clay Carlson (South Dakota State) 6-2
149 lbs - Kyle Parco (Arizona State) dec Anthony Artlalona (Penn) 3-2
149 lbs - Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State) dec Max Murin (Iowa) 8-1
149 lbs - Tariq Wilson (NC State) dec Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) 9-5
149 lbs - Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) dec Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) 7-4
157 lbs - Peyton Robb (Nebraska) fall Ed Scott (NC State) 4:36
157 lbs - Hunter Willits (Oregon State) dec Dazjon Casto (The Citadel) 7-6
157 lbs - Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) dec Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) 4-3
157 lbs - David Carr (Iowa State) dec Jared Franek (North Dakota State) 4-3
165 lbs - Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin) maj Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh) 8-0
165 lbs - Peyton Hall (West Virginia) maj Justin McCoy (Virginia) 11-3
165 lbs - Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) dec Julian Ramirez (Cornell) 4-3
165 lbs - Alex Marinelli (Iowa) dec Phil Conigliaro (Harvard) 6-2
174 lbs - Michael Kemerer (Iowa) dec Mickey O'Malley (Drexel) 5-2
174 lbs - Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) dec Hayden Hastings (Wyoming) 5-3
174 lbs - Clay Lautt (North Carolina) dec Peyton Mocco (Missouri) 6-3
174 lbs - Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State) dec Ethan Smith (Ohio State) 9-7SV
184 lbs - Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) dec Taylor Venz (Nebraska) 7-5
184 lbs - Jonathan Loew (Cornell) dec Zac Braunagel (Illinois) 3-1SV
184 lbs - Kaleb Romero (Ohio State) maj Max Lyon (Purdue) 15-6
184 lbs - Marcus Coleman (Iowa State) Maj Trey Munoz (Oregon State) 13-2
197 lbs - Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) dec Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) 5-4
197 lbs - Greg Bulsak (Rutgers) dec Louie DePrez (Binghamton) 3-2
197 lbs - Rocky Elam (Missouri) dec Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) 6-1
197 lbs - Eric Schultz (Nebraska) dec Jay Aiello (Virginia) 4-2
285 lbs - Christian Lance (Nebraska) dec Lewis Fernandes (Cornell) 4-2SV
285 lbs - Lucas Davison (Northwestern) dec Gary Traub (Oregon State) 8-2
285 lbs - Mason Parris (Michigan) maj Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) 12-1
285 lbs - Tony Cassioppi (Iowa) dec Zach Elam (Missouri) 4-0
Day Two Team Scores
1) Penn State 108
2) Michigan 84.5
3) Arizona State 63.5
4) Iowa 62
5) Nebraska 54
6) Northwestern 49
7) Virginia Tech 48
8) Cornell 45
9) Missouri 42
10) Ohio State 42