Penn State freshman Shayne Van Ness (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Friday at the NCAA Championships is typically the best day of the collegiate wrestling season and with half the day in the books, it didn't disappoint. Defending champions Penn State were expected to win again, but in the quarterfinals, they distanced themselves from the rest of the moreso than most would have imagined.
After the third session of action, the Nittany Lions led Iowa by 30 points. Cael Sanderson's team went seven-for-seven in the quarterfinals and now has at least seven wrestlers that will finish at least in sixth place. They also have 2022 national champion, Max Dean, wrestling in the Round of 12, still able to earn All-American status.
The Penn State lineup contains a handful of title favorites; however, it was their freshmen who stole the show Friday morning. #12 seed Shayne Van Ness got in an early hole against Big Ten foe #20 Graham Rooks, falling behind 7-3 after two periods. Van Ness already put together an incredible comeback in the opening round, so he was clearly not phased. The redshirt freshman stayed on the offensive and got a takedown, then proceeded to get a set of back points. With a point for riding time tacked on, the final margin for Van Ness was 10-7. He'll face top-seeded, three-time national champion Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell in tonight's semifinals.
Penn State's true freshman #2 Levi Haines survived an early onslaught from the dangerous #7 Bryce Andonian of Virginia Tech. Within the first :30 Andonian had Haines on his back looking for a fall. Not flustered, Haines battled back and seemed to wear down the returning All-American before pinning him in the third period. Haines will have a rematch of the Big Ten finals as he takes on Nebraska's #3 Peyton Robb in the semifinals.
While two-time champion Roman Bravo-Young was the first Nittany Lion to take the mat and locked up a berth in the semifinals, it was 141 lber Beau Bartlett that got the PSU faithful on their feet. He and 2022 All-American Cole Matthews were deadlocked at one point after seven minutes of regulation and two minutes of sudden victory. In the tiebreaker series, Matthews held the advantage after riding Bartlett for the entire period. The second :30 period started in neutral and appeared to be headed towards a win for the Panther. Bartlett didn't let up and stayed on the offensive, securing the winning takedown in the waning seconds of the bout.
Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Greg Kerkvliet joined their teammates in the finals.
Some of the main storylines heading into this tournament have revolved around Spencer Lee and Yianni Diakomihalis' quest for four national titles. Both experienced their share of adversity just to make the semifinals. Lee appeared to be cruising against #8 Anthony Noto (Lock Haven) with a 10-0 lead. In the second period, Noto tilted Lee for four points and rode him for a significant portion in the second and third periods.
Diakomihalis was engaged in a close match with #8 Max Murin (Iowa) when he gave up a late takedown and was dangerously close to surrendering back point. A foot or two either way in the crab ride would have put him into near-fall criteria. That never happened and Diakomihalis got away with an 8-7 victory.
Tonight's semifinals will begin at 8pm eastern/7pm central.
For a full list of quarterfinal winners Click Here