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Penn State sends five to finals with dreams of recapturing team title
Photo: Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young used a late takedown to beat Iowa’s Austin DeSanto. The Nittany Lion is one of five PSU wrestlers to qualify for Saturday night’s final. (John Sachs photo)
By Mike Finn & Tristan Warner
Not a lot of good things have happened since Penn State won its last NCAA team championship since 2019. A pandemic prevented the Nittany Lions from defending their crown in 2020, Penn State finished second to Iowa in 2021 and the program failed to win the Big Ten tournament the past two years.
But that all changed Friday night when five of six Penn State semifinalists won their matches in Little Caesars Arena and put the Nittany Lions in view of winning a tenth team championship in the past 12 tournaments.
Penn State, which holds an 108.5-84 point margin over Big Ten team champion Michigan, features four defending champs — Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) — and top-ranked Max Dean (197) in the finals that begin Saturday night at 7 p.m. EDT.
The Wolverines, which still have a mathematical chance at catching the Nittany Lions, will have two finalists: 125-pound Nick Suriano (a 2019 NCAA champ from Rutgers) and five-time All-American Myles Amine (184) whose last name is synonymous with Michigan wrestling.
There are four other past NCAA champions, who have returned to the finals: Cornell’s two-time champ Yianni Diakomihalis, who had not competed in a national tournament since 2019; Stanford’s Shane Griffith (165), who beat Cal Poly’s Evan Wick for the first time in four outings this season; Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis (174), who won at 165 in 2019; and Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson, who will retire from college wrestling for the WWE after his final bout Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, a three-time NCAA finalist, hopes to win his first national title in a rematch with Bravo-Young, while Princeton features two national qualifiers in Pat Glory (125) and Quincy Monday (157).
Before the championship round, there will be an All-American round Saturday morning when the third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches will be decided.
2022 NCAA Semifinal Highlights
#1 Nick Suriano (Michigan) dec. #4 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State), 4-1 – The Michigan senior will make his third trip to the NCAA finals after scoring an early takedown and coasting to a semifinal victory.
#3 Pat Glory (Princeton) major dec. #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell), 13-5. – After falling to Arujau 19-6 at the EIWA Championships earlier this month, Glory flipped the script in prime time, becoming the first Princeton finalist since Greg Parker in 2002. The Tiger opened up the scoring for a reversal and four nearfall in an unorthodox scramble position where both wrestlers appeared to have a cradle, but Glory was awarded the points as the top wrestler.
#1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec. #5 Austin DeSanto (Iowa), 3-2. – The returning NCAA Champion broke a 1-1 deadlock in the final 15 seconds, collecting both ankles on the edge to punch his ticket to the finals for a rematch with #2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State).
#2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) dec. #3 Michael McGee (Arizona State), 5-1 – Fix was impenetrable against the explosive McGee, stifling several double leg attempts and scoring two takedowns of his own to advance to the finals for the third time in his career.
#1 Nick Lee (Penn State) dec. #4 Real Woods (Stanford), 3-2. – Nick Lee will return to the finals to defend his title after slipping by Real Woods on the strength of a first period takedown and escape.
#15 Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) dec. #6 Cole Matthews (Pitt) , 2-2 UTB. – In a low scoring affair that saw no offensive points scored, it was the Tar Heel Kizhan Clarke who earned more riding time advantage to punch his ticket to tomorrow night’s NCAA final.
#1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. #4 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), 8-3 – Two-time NCAA Champion Diakomihalis will return to the finals for a third time after controlling his Buckeye counterpart, racking up two takedowns, an escape and a point for riding time advantage.
#10 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) dec. #11 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) 6-4 – In one of the wildest matches of the NCAA Championships, Lovett prevailed in a back-and-forth scramble fest that featured three total reversals.
#5 Quincy Monday (Princeton) dec. #8 Will Lewan (Michigan), 3-2. – A first period takedown was all Monday needed to join teammate Pat Glory in tomorrow’s NCAA finals, giving the Tigers two finalists for the first time in school history.
#2 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) major #3 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State), 10-2. – After the Sun Devil struck first with a takedown and cradle that nearly yielded near fall points, Deakin scored 10 unanswered points on his way to a commanding major decision and his first NCAA finals appearance.
#5 Shane Griffith (Stanford) dec. #1 Evan Wick (Cal Poly), 7-6 – The returning NCAA champion Griffith trailed 6-5 with under 10 ticks remaining but converted a double on the edge of the mat for a takedown in the waning seconds to avenge three regular season losses to his PAC 12 foe.
#2 Keegan O’Toole (Missouri) dec. #6 Cameron Amine (Michigan), 4-0 – O’Toole converted an early takedown and put together a solid ride to earn a decisive victory and a berth in his first NCAA Championship finals against defending NCAA champion Shane Griffith (Stanford).
#1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) vs. #4 Hayden Hidlay (NC State) – Defending NCAA champion Starocci gave the Nittany Lions a third finalist, racking up four takedowns to defeat five-time All-American Hidlay.
#2 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) fall #3 Logan Massa (Michigan), 6:19. – 2019 NCAA champion Lewis will return to the finals against 2022 NCAA Champion Carter Starocci (Penn State), as the Hokie broke open a 1-1 deadlock in the final minute, coming out on top of a rolling scramble situation to secure a fall on the edge of the mat.
#1 Myles Amine (Michigan) dec. #5 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly), 3-1 OT – The top-seeded Wolverine converted a low leg attack for a takedown in the sudden victory period to set up a Big Ten finals rematch with defending NCAA champion #2 Aaron Brooks (Penn State).
#2 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec. #3 Trent Hidlay (NC State), 6-4 OT – In a rematch of last season’s NCAA finals, the Nittany Lion and Wolfpack 184-pounders traded takedowns and escapes in regulation, but it was Brooks who converted a quick takedown off the whistle in overtime for the victory.
#1 Max Dean (Penn State) dec. #21 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State), 9-3. – Punching his ticket to the NCAA finals for the second time but the first in a Penn State uniform, Dean took the surprise semifinalist Buckeye down on the strength of three takedowns.
#6 Jacob Warner (Iowa) dec. #2 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming), 6-4. – Warner gave the Hawkeyes their first and only finalist at this year’s championships, knocking off second-seeded Buchanan with a four-point tilt in the final frame.
#1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) dec. #4 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State), 8-3 – The returning NCAA champion scored three takedowns in a battle of Minnesota natives to give Penn State its only loss of the semis.
#2 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) dec. #6 Jordan Wood (Lehigh), 5-3 TB-1 – The final match of the night had the arena on its feet, as Wood trailed 3-2 in the final seconds of the tiebreaker period and lifted Schultz in the air on a high crotch attempt, but the Sun Devil managed to roll through and come out on top for a takedown of his own to seal the victory.