Three Penn State comebacks send seven Nittany Lions to NCAA semis

Updated: March 17, 2023

Photo: Beau Bartlett (left) scored a takedown with just seconds left in the second tiebreaker to beat Pitt’s Cole Matthews at 141 pounds. (Sam Janicki photo)

By Mike Finn & Tristan Warner

TULSA, Okla. — Penn State flexed its muscles as the wrestling powerhouse hopes to win a second straight NCAA team title and 10th in the 14-year career of head coach Cael Sanderson … as all seven Nittany Lions won their quarterfinal bouts to give Penn State nearly a 30-point lead over a trio of schools in the 2023 NCAA Division I Championships.

Two-time defending champs Roman Bravo-Young (133), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184), as well as two-time All-American Greg Kerkvliet (285) all advanced to Friday night’s semifinals, which start at 7 p.m. in the BOK Center.

But there were also the dramatic comebacks by three other Nittany Lions Friday afternoon that showed the depth of a powerful Penn State team.


First, junior Beau Bartlett scored a takedown in the closing seconds of overtime to beat Pitt’s Cole Matthews at 141. Then redshirt freshman Shane Van Ness overcame a 7-2 deficit to beat Indiana’s Graham Rooks at 149. And finally, true freshman Levi Haines got thrown to his back in the first period by Virginia Tech’s Bryce Andonian, but rallied to score a fall at 157 pounds.

Also staying alive for All-American honors for Penn State is defending champ Max Dean, who won two wrestlebacks on Friday, giving the Nittany Lions 80 points after three rounds of the annual postseason tournament.

In what appears to be a battle for second place, Iowa (48) and Cornell (45.5) will send three to the semis, while Nebraska (44) will send four to the semis.

The Cornhuskers will send Liam Cronin (125), Brock Hardy (141), Peyton Robb (157) and Mikey Labriola (174) to the semis.

For the Hawkeyes, that included three-time champ Spencer Lee, who actually got put on his back before beating Lock Haven’s Anthony Noto at 125. Also advancing were Real Woods at 141 and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, who beat 2022 national runner-up Cohlton Schultz in overtime.

Cornell’s semifinalists are Vito Arujau at 133, three-time national champ Yianni Diakomihalis at 149 and 174-pound Chris Foca.

Iowa State’s David Carr (right) did not score a takedown against Stanford’s Shane Griffith, but used riding time to beat the Cardinal in the battle of 2021 NCAA champs in a 165-pound semifinal. (Ginger Robinson photo)

One of the more notable quarterfinals came at 165 pounds, where Iowa State’s David Carr, a 2021 national champ at 157 pounds, edged Stanford’s Shane Griffith, 2021 NCAA champ at 165, by a 2-1 margin.

Meanwhile, Purdue, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State and Air Force got a chance to see rare semifinalist in the Boilermaker’s Matt Ramos (125),  UNC’s Andrew Alizez (141), SDSU’s Tanner Sloan (197)  and Wyatt Hendrickson (Hwt), who earned their first All-American honors in 20 years.

Also, Princeton saw last year’s finalists — Pat Glory (125) and Quincy Monday (165) — also win their quarterfinal bouts.

Team Standings

Pl. School Pts
1 Penn State 78
2 Iowa 48
3 Cornell 45.5
4 Nebraska 44
5 Michigan 39
6 Missouri 34
7 Ohio State 31
8 NC State 29
9 Iowa State 28
10 Arizona State 27
11 Lehigh 22.5
12 Northern Iowa 22
12 Princeton 22
14 Virginia Tech 21
15 Air Force 20
15 South Dakota State 20
17 Minnesota 18
17 North Carolina 18
17 Oklahoma State 18
20 Wisconsin 17.5
21 Northwestern 16.5
22 Northern Colorado 16
22 Pittsburgh 16
24 Oregon State 15
25 Purdue 12.5

2023 NCAA Quarterfinal Highlights

125 pounds

#1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) major dec. #8 Anthony Noto (Lock Haven), 14-4 — While the three-time defending national champ added a 14th all-time bonus point victory, he also got a scare from Noto in the first meeting between these two. Lee led 10-0 after scoring a takedown and a pair of four-point nearfalls, before Noto put Lee on is back in the second period for a four-point nearfall. Lee eventually scored two escapes and ended the bout on a takedown with three seconds left.

#4 Matt Ramos (Purdue) dec. #28 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia), 8-7 – In a wild back-and-forth battle, Ramos controlled much of the match before surrendering a late takedown that put the upset-minded Mountaineer in the lead with under 20 seconds to wrestle. Ramos then hit a series of Granby rolls and found himself on the winning end of a scramble with four ticks remaining, giving Tony Ersland his first All-American for the Boilermakers.

#3 Liam Cronin (Nebraska) dec. #27 Eddie Ventresca (Va. Tech), 3-1 sv – The Husker earned a second win over the Hokie this season but it was much tougher and ended with 1:12 left in sudden victory when Cronin scored the takedown.

#2 Pat Glory (Princeton) dec. #10 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State), 8-4 – While Glory controlled the match early in this battle of former NCAA finalists. Courtney rallied in the third period, scoring two takedowns of his own to bring the deficit to within two. With 20 seconds remaining, the Sun Devil’s late Flying Squirrel attempt was stifled, as the Tiger punched his ticket to the semifinals for the second consecutive season.

133 pounds

#1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec. #8 Aaron Nagao (Minnesota), 4-1 – In a rematch of the 2023 Big Ten final, the two-time defending national champ rode out the Gopher the entire second period, then eventually ended the bout with a 1:39 riding time advantage.  Nagao did escape in the third period for a point.

#4 Michael McGee (Arizona State) dec. #5 Kai Orine (NC State), 8-2 – While Orine closed the gap on a previous 18-4 result, McGee controlled the bout, scoring three takedowns, an escape and a point for riding time advantage.

#3 Vito Arujau (Cornell) dec. #6 Sam Latona (Va. Tech), 8-5 – The rubber match of the season between these All-American started in crazy fashion, as the Hokie scored the first takedown a minute into the bout before each wrestler reversed the other. Arujau fought back to score an escape and takedown to end the first period with a 5-4 lead, then ended any doubt when he scored a clinching takedown with three seconds left.

#2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) dec. #10 Lucas Byrd (Illinois), 3-2 – Fix became a four-time All-American, scoring a third-period reversal to settle the score between the former All-American Illini.

141 pounds

#1 Real Woods (Iowa) major dec. #8 Allan Hart (Missouri), 9-0 — The Hawkeye scored the first of three takedowns midway through the first period, then added a two-point nearfall to lead 4-0 after one period. By scoring two more takedowns, one in each the second and third periods, Woods compiled a 3:18 riding time advantage.

#4 Brock Hardy (Nebraska) dec. #12 Parker Filius (Purdue), 7-0 – Hardy still has not surrendered a point to Filius after two meetings, as the Husker controlled the match from start to finish, scoring one takedown in each period to cruise to the semifinals.

#6 Beau Bartlett (Penn State) dec. #3 Cole Matthews (Pitt) 3-1 tb — In the first meeting between wrestlers of PA schools, the Nittany Lion scored the winning takedown with one second left in the second tiebreaker. This came after the Panther rode out Bartlett in the entire 30 seconds of a tiebreaker and Matthews chose neutral in his tiebreaker option.

#2 Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado) dec. #10 Lachlan McNeil (No. Carolina), 6-4 – Giving Northern Colorado its first All-American since 2010, Alirez scored two early takedowns and fended off the Canadian native McNeil to earn his first All-American honor and a spot in tonight’s semifinal.

149 pounds

#1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. #8 Max Murin (Iowa), 8-7 – In the first meeting between these two, the three-time NCAA champ got a late scare by the Hawkeye who scored a takedown with 32 seconds left and nearly put the Big Red star on his back before Diakomihalis rolled through and moved on to his fourth all-time semifinal. Diakomihalis built his lead with two takedowns in the first period, a double in the second and a reversal to open the third period.

#12 Shane Van Ness (Penn State) dec. #20 Graham Rooks (Indiana), 10-7 – Despite a season record of 3-0 with two major decisions against Rooks, it was the Hoosier who jumped out to a 7-2 lead with three takedowns, but the freshman Nittany Lion mounted a furious comeback in the third period, scoring a takedown and two nearfall points on the edge of the mat while also adding a stall point and a riding time point to punch a ticket to the semifinals.

#3 Kyle Parco (Arizona State) dec. #6 Brock Mauller (Missouri), 4-3 – The Sun Devil recorded a second one-point win over the Tiger when he scored a takedown with 20 seconds left. This happened shortly after Mauller scored the first takedown of the bout with 48 seconds left to lead 3-1 before Parco tallied an escape and the winning takedown.

#2 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) dec. #7 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern), 2-1 – Just 27 seconds of riding time separated these two quarterfinalists, as Sasso improved to 3-0 on the year against his Wildcat foe.

157 pounds

#1 Austin O’Connor (North Carolina) major dec. #8 Will Lewan (Michigan), 10-2 — The 2021 NCAA champion scored four takedowns — two in the first and third periods — and added a 3:55 riding time advantage for the victory.

#5 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) dec. #4 Jared Franek (North Dakota State), 5-2. – The Mountain Hawk earned his first trip to the semifinals by dominating the second half of the bout, scoring a second period takedown and third period reversal before adding a riding time point.

#3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) dec. #6 Daniel Cardenas (Stanford), 6-4Robb scored two takedowns in the first period to lead 4-1 before an official challenge turned a four-point nearfall against the Husker — that appeared to give the Stanford freshman a 5-4 lead — into two-point nearfall midway through the second period as the Husker survived.

#2 Levi Haines (Penn State) pinned #7 Bryce Andonian (Va Tech), 6:12. — Andonian chin whipped the Nittany Lion freshman to his back in the early going for six points and was ever so close to securing a fall, but Haines poured it on in the second and third periods, hitting back-to-back skying double legs and threw a half nelson to finish off the returning All-American Hokie.

165 pounds

#1 David Carr (Iowa State) dec. #9 Shane Griffith (Stanford), 2-1 — A 1:35 riding time advantage provided the winning margin for the Cyclone in this battle of 2021 national champions. Carr nearly scored a takedown in the first before each man scored an escape in the second and third periods, but the Cyclone rode the Cardinal substantially longer.

#5 Quincy Monday (Princeton) dec. #29 Caleb Fish (Michigan State), 10-4.  — The returning NCAA finalist at 157 a year ago had little trouble advancing to the semifinals, scoring two early takedowns and then holding the Spartan on his back for a four-point nearfall to widen the gap in the third period.

#11 Cam Amine (Michigan) dec. #3 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin), 3-2 — The Wolverine, who beat the Badger in January, scored the winning takedown with 14 seconds left.

#2 Keegan O’Toole (Missouri) won by TF over #10 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State), 19-4 7:00.  — Widening the gap from a 2-0 victory in last year’s NCAA quarterfinal between these same two wrestlers, O’Toole scored two takedowns in all three periods and added two sets of nearfall to become a three-time All-American for the Tigers.

174 pounds

#1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec. #8 Bailee O’Reilly (Minnesota), 5-2 — The two-time defending champ beat the Gopher for a second time this season; this coming when the Nittany Lion scored a pair of takedowns in the first period.

#4 Chris Foca (Cornell) pinned #5 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State), 1:54. — The first-time All-American for the Big Red broke an early 0-0 deadlock by throwing a headlock and planting the Cowboy in the first period.

#3 Mekhi Lewis (Va. Tech) dec. #11 Nelson Brands (Iowa), 2-0 — The 2019 national champ put a stamp on this victory when he rode the Hawkeye the entire third period; giving him an escape (in the second period) and a riding time point .

#2 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) dec. #7 Peyton Mocco (Missouri), 4-3 — A first period takedown and second period reversal was enough for the four-time All-American Husker to punch his ticket to the semifinals.

184 pounds

#1 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) dec. #9 Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota), 3-2 — The Panther scored the bout’s only takedown with 1:21 left in the match to earn his third All-American honor.

#4 Trey Munoz (Oregon State) dec. #5 Marcus Coleman (Iowa State), 3-1 SV — In a rematch of a December matchup that Munoz handled by an 8-4 decision, the Beaver and Cyclone battled to a 1-1 deadlock into the sudden victory period where Munoz converted a quick shot attempt to earn his first All-American honor.

#3 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec. #6 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State), 4-1 — The two-time champ beat the Buckeye for a third time this season … by scoring the bout’s only takedown with 18 seconds left in the second period with a single on the edge of the mat.

#2 Trent Hidlay (NC State) dec. #7 Hunter Bolen (Va. Tech), 5-0 — Hidlay poured the points on late, as the match entered the third period tied 0-0, but the Wolfpack senior scored an escape, stalling point, takedown and riding time point to earn another berth to the semis.

197 pounds

#1 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) dec. #8 Silas Allred (Nebraska) 5-3 — The Panther, a 2021 NCAA finalist — scored two takedowns in the first period then held off a good ride by the young Cornhusker for his second All-American honor.

#4 Ethan Laird (Rider) dec. #12 Zac Braunagel (Illinois), 3-2 — Laird broke a 1-1 tie with a takedown in the final 30 seconds of regulation but was nearly taken down in the waning seconds on the edge of the mat. The Illini coaches threw a challenge brick, but the call was confirmed, giving Rider a semifinalist for the first-time All-American.

#3 Rocky Elam (Missouri) dec. #11 Jaxon Smith (Maryland), 6-3 — The Tiger scored a takedown in both the first and third periods to lead 5-0 before the Terp got on the board with an escape and takedown in the final 38 seconds.

#7 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) dec. #2 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly), 6-4 SV — The pair traded takedowns in regulation, but it was Sloan who converted a high crotch to a double takedown on the edge of the mat to earn his first All-American honor and a trip to the semifinals.


#1 Mason Parris (Michigan) won by major decision over #9 Lucas Davison (Northwestern), 10-1. – Parris, who won by just a 6-4 decision earlier this winter over the Wildcat, had no trouble with Davison, scoring two takedowns and four-point fall in the first period. The 2021 national runner-up also added a 3:22 riding time advantage over Davision.

#4 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa) dec. #5 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State), 3-1 SV – The Hawkeye converted a single leg takedown in sudden victory and was able to keep the Sun Devil from scooting behind on a scramble attempt to punch his ticket to the semis.

#3 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) dec. #11 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin), 4-0. — The two-time All-American guaranteed his team a seventh semifinalist by scoring the bout’s only takedown with 23 seconds left in the second period and added a 2:20 riding time advantage.

#2 Wyatt Hendrickson (Air Force) major dec. #10 Zach Elam (Missouri), 17-8. – Becoming the first Falcon All-American since Kevin Hoy in 2003 (also a heavyweight), Hendrickson was lateral dropped early on and trailed 6-0, but reversed the Tiger heavyweight to his back to tie the score 6-6 after one. Hendrickson broke open a close match early in the third period, hitting an escape and then a double leg straight to the back for six more points, putting an exclamation point on his quarterfinal victory.