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Photo: Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis (left) sat out two years of college wrestling before beating Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett for his third NCAA title in 2022.
There have only been four wrestlers to win four NCAA championships and Cornell University could become the first school to feature two wrestlers — joining Kyle Dake — with a perfect NCAA mark over four years in a national tournament if Yianni Diakomihalis captures his fourth title in 2023.
Check out WIN’s preseason preview at 149 pounds and see who the top contenders are to finish as champion at the 2023 NCAAs next March in Tulsa, Okla. WIN will update its rankings in the November issue as wrestlers finalize their weight classes for this season.
• Since first showing up in Ithaca, N.Y., in the fall of 2017, Yianni Diakomihalis dominated the competition in his first two years, going 66-1 with NCAA titles at 141 pounds over Bryce Meredith of Wyoming in 2018 and Ohio State’s Joey McKenna in 2019. The native of Rochester, N.Y., then sat out two years; one as an Olympic redshirt in 2020 and then in 2021 because of COVID. Last season, he moved up to 149 pounds and claimed his third NCAA title with a victory over Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett. It has been quite a year as he also earned a World freestyle silver medal in September.
If successful, the Big Red wrestler would also join this elite group that includes Pat Smith (Oklahoma State), Cael Sanderson (Iowa State), Kyle Dake (Cornell) and Logan Stieber (Ohio State) and perhaps current Iowa senior Spencer Lee, who will also be shooting for a fourth championship at 125 pounds this season.
• Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett picked a great time to earn his first All-American honor as the native of Post Falls, Idaho, reached the 2022 NCAA finals as a No. 10 seed. The Husker’s biggest win in Detroit was a pin against NC State’s graduated Tariq Wilson in the quarterfinals. This came one year after Lovett was seeded No. 5 in the 2021 Nationals but won just one of three bouts. Lovett also qualified for the cancelled 2020 NCAAs at 133 pounds.
• There is another NCAA finalist in this weight class: Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso, who was seeded No. 1 at 149 in the 2021 NCAAs before losing the title to North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor (who now competes at 157 pounds). Unfortunately for the native of Nazareth, Pa., his 2022 NCAA finish (5th as a No. 4 seed) was not as high. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, the Buckeye reached the Big Ten final and qualified for the cancelled NCAAs.
• Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez (then with Iowa State) announced that his career was over in 2020 after a number of injuries; one year before he had reached the Round of 12 at 133 pounds in 2019 for the Cyclones. But two years later, the native of Carol Stream, Ill., found a new home in Madison with the Badgers, and competed at 149 as he earned a No. 3 seed in Detroit. The red-hot Gomez then secured his first All-American with a fourth-place finish.
• Appalachian State has had eight All-Americans and one of those, Jon Millner, is back this year. Millner finished sixth in 2022 with four wrestleback wins, one year after the native of Greensboro, N.C., claimed eighth place in 2021. Millner joined Charlie Parks (1939 and 1941) and Mark Fee (2002 and 2003) as the school’s only two-time All-Americans.
• Kyle Parco is also a two-time All-American; first in 2021 for Fresno State when he claimed sixth place as a No. 17 seed; then eighth in 2022 for Arizona State after FSU dropped wrestling. The native of Danville, Calif., also won a Pac-12 championship last season.
• Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas, a surprise All-American in 2021, returns after losing in the Round of 12 in 2022. The native of Chicago was seeded 25th two years ago, but reached the quarterfinals and claimed third place. Last year, he was seeded No. 19 and lost a first-round match. He won three wrestlebacks before falling in the blood round to NC State’s Tariq Wilson, the No. 2 seed who finished his eligibility in Detroit.
• Stanford’s Jaden Abas also finished in the Top 8 (7th) in 2021 but failed to place in 2022; going 1-2 as a No. 23 seed for the Cardinal.
• Three wrestlers who lost in the Round of 12 last year return: Iowa’s Max Murin, Oklahoma State’s Kaden Gfeller and Penn’s Anthony Artalona. It marked the second straight year that Murin just missed out on All-American honors by losing in the blood round, while Artalona lost in the Round of 12 in 2019 for the Quakers.
1st – 1. Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. 10. Ridge Lovett (Nebraska), 10-5
3rd – 11. Bryce Andonian (Va. Tech) dec. 3. Austin Gomez (Wisconsin), 10-6
5th – 4. Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) dec. 6. Jon Millner (Appalachian St.), 5-4
7th – 2. Tariq Wilson (NC State) major dec. 5. Kyle Parco (Arizona State), 14-2
|4||Sammy Sasso||Ohio State||Sr.||5th|
|5||Jon Millner||Appalachian State||Sr.||6th|
|6||Kyle Parco||Arizona State||So.||8th|
|9||Yahya Thomas||Northwestern||Gr.||R12/3rd in 2021|
|13||Zach Sherman||North Carolina||Gr.||R24|
|14||Dom Demas||Cal Poly||Sr.||Transfer/Oklahoma|
|15||Jarod Verkleeren||Virginia||Gr.||Transfer/Penn State|
|16||Colin Realbuto||Northern Iowa||Jr.||R16|
|17||Corbyn Munson||Central Michigan||Sr.||R32|
|18||Marcus Robinson||Cleveland State||So.||R24|
WIN will preview additional weights between now and Oct. 21