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Lee & Fix stunned in semis; Penn State sends five to finals

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Updated: March 17, 2023

Photos: Purdue’s Matt Ramos (left) celebrated after beating Iowa’s three-time NCAA champ Spencer Lee in a 125-pound semifinals, while Cornell’s Vito Arujua stunned Oklahoma State’s three-time NCAA finalist Daton Fix at 133 pounds. (Ginger Robinson photo)

By Mike Finn & Tristan Warner

The excitement of qualifying for a first-ever NCAA final was special for Purdue’s Matt Ramos and Cornell’s Vito Arujau … in the wake of the stunning surprises each wrestler accomplished against an expected NCAA finalist Friday night in the BOK Center.

The Boilermaker, who became the first All-American at this Big Ten school during Tony Ersland’s coaching tenure, stunned the 15,694 fans in the BOK Center and many others around the country when he pinned Iowa’s three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee in a 125-pound semifinal.

Ramos was trailing 7-5 and was also down on riding time to the Hawkeye when he caught Lee and pinned him with one second remaining in the match. This victory came two months after he had also taken Lee to his back before Lee came back to pin the Boilermaker.

The Big Red wrestler, meanwhile, added to the drama in the 133-pound semifinals when he dominated Oklahoma State’s three-time NCAA finalist Daton Fix, 11-3. The Cowboy had hoped to end his career on top — after losing in three finals — before many of his fans in a location that is 10 miles from his hometown of Sand Springs, Okla.

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This gives Cornell two finalists as Arujau joins senior teammate Yianni Diakomihalis, who rallied to beat Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness at 149 pounds and will be looking to become the fifth all-time wrestler to win four national titles.

Otherwise, it was a big night for Penn State, which is getting closer to winning a second-straight team title and a 10th NCAA team title under Cael Sanderson by sending five wrestlers to Saturday night’s finals.

Roman Bravo-Young (133), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) will be shooting for a third individual title, while true freshman Levi Haines (157) and two-time All-American Greg Kerkvliet (Hwt) hope to win a first championship.

Heading into Saturday morning’s All-American round, which begins at 10 a.m., the Nittany Lions have scored 116.5 points. Beau Bartlett (141) and Shayne Van Ness (149), who lost in the semifinals, still have a chance to claim third place while Max Dean will wrestle for seventh place.

 Second-place Iowa with 77 points will have four All-Americans, including Stanford transfer Real Woods, who earned a spot in the finals at 141 pounds.

It was also a big night for other wrestlers, whose programs fight for respect, including Northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez at 141 pounds, Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen at 184 pounds and Tanner Sloan of South Dakota State at 197 pounds. Sloan will face 2021 NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt.

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Team Standings

Pl. School Points
1 Penn State 116.5
2 Iowa 77
3 Cornell 64
4 Ohio State 62
5 Missouri 55
6 Michigan 51
6 Nebraska 51
8 Iowa State 44
9 NC State 41.5
10 Virginia Tech 40.5
11 Arizona State 37.5
12 North Carolina 34.5
13 South Dakota State 34
14 Minnesota 29.5
15 Northern Iowa 29
15 Princeton 29
15 Wisconsin 29
18 Purdue 27
19 Oklahoma State 25
20 Northwestern 23.5
21 Northern Colorado 23
21 Pittsburgh 23
23 Lehigh 22.5
24 North Dakota State 21
25 Air Force 20

Semifinal Highlights

125 pounds

#4 Matt Ramos (Purdue) fall #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa), 6:59 — In an instant classic, Ramos jumped out to an early lead with a big throw in the first period to go up 4-1. Lee, who chose top to start the second period, used a bar tilt to rack up four nearfall points and a 5-4 lead plus riding time advantage. But the third period belonged to Ramos, who surrendered an early third period takedown but hit a cement mixer in the final minute and secured a fall with just one second left to dethrone the three-time NCAA champion Hawkeye.

#2 Pat Glory (Princeton) dec. #3 Liam Cronin (Nebraska), 8-2 — Glory scored in the first 10 seconds with a shot right off the whistle and never looked back. The Tiger scored two more takedowns and racked up nearly five minutes of riding time to punch his second consecutive trip to the national finals.

133 pounds

#1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec. #4 Michael McGee (Arizona State), 6-4 SV – A second-period reversal and a strong ride by McGee had the Sun Devil in the driver’s seat early, but Bravo-Young used a third period escape and takedown to force overtime. In the sudden victory period, the two-time defending national champ wasted little time, striking with a quick low ankle shot and converted for the takedown and a third consecutive finals berth.

#3 Vito Arujau (Cornell) major dec. #2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State), 11-3 — Arujau controlled the bout from start to finish, scoring a first period takedown, second period reversal, and then using two takedowns including a feet-to-back body lock in the final frame to cruise to a bonus-point victory for the Big Red.

141 pounds

 #1 Real Woods (Iowa) major dec. #4 Brock Hardy (Nebraska), 11-1 — Woods jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead with an early takedown and four nearfall count in his second NCAA semifinal. The first-year Hawkeye and transfer from Stanford added another takedown, two-point nearfall and a riding time point to clinch a bonus point victory and an NCAA final bid for Iowa.

#2 Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado) dec. Beau Bartlett (Penn State), 6-2 — After already becoming the first NCAA finalist for Northern Colorado since 1969, Alirez used takedowns in the first and second periods plus an escape and riding time point to hand Penn State its first loss of the semifinal round.

149 pounds

#1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. #12 Shayne Van Ness (Penn State), 8-2 — With just over a minute to go in the final period, the Nittany Lion freshman scored a go-ahead takedown to take a 3-2 advantage with under a minute to wrestle, but the three-time returning NCAA champion shot a double and fended off a defensive throw attempt by Van Ness to score takedown and back-points en route to his fourth NCAA finals appearance.

#2 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) major dec. #3 Kyle Parco (Arizona State), 14-2 — Sasso earned his second trip to the NCAA finals by dominating the third-seeded Sun Devil. The Buckeye scored four takedowns and four nearfall late to pull away in huge fashion for the surging Buckeyes.

157 pounds

#1 Austin O’Connor (North Carolina) dec. #5 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh), 4-3 — The 2021 NCAA champion led 1-0 entering the third period before the pair traded reversals, but a match-tying escape from the Mountain Hawk was not enough to overcome the 2:00 riding time advantage accumulated by the Tar Heel.

#2 Levi Haines (Penn State) dec. #3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska), 5-3 — After a scoreless first period with little action, the Nittany Lion true freshman scored takedowns in the second and third periods to defeat the returning All-American Husker in a rematch of the Big Ten final, which Haines also won. Robb nearly scored on two slide-by attempts where he was able to get behind Haines in the rear-standing position but was unable to force him to the mat for takedowns in either scenario.

165 pounds

#1 David Carr (Iowa State) dec. #5 Quincy Monday (Princeton), 6-5 — The 2021 NCAA champion Carr overcame an early deficit and slapped together a tough ride to accumulate just under three minutes of riding time on his way to the one-point victory. After surrendering an early takedown and two-point nearfall, Carr clawed his way back with a reversal to narrow Monday’s lead and scored an escape and a takedown in the second before using the riding time point to win the match.

#2 Keegan O’Toole (Missouri) dec. #11 Cameron Amine (Michigan), 6-0 — The defending NCAA champion scored takedowns in the first and third period to go with a riding time point for a controlling shut-out semifinal victory, setting up a date with fellow Big 12 foe David Carr (Iowa State).

174 pounds

#1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec. #4 Chris Foca (Cornell), 6-0 — The two-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lion handled the first-time All-American Big Red wrestler, scoring takedowns in the first and third period while adding an escape and riding time point to ensure a third-straight championship finals appearance.

#2 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) dec. #3 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), 3-1 TB-1 — Setting up a final featuring two Pennsylvania natives, Labriola escaped in the first segment of the 30-second tiebreakers and chose neutral, as the Husker senior spun around for a late insurance takedown to earn his first trip to the NCAA finals.

184 pounds

#1 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) dec. #4 Trey Munoz (Oregon State), 5-1 — A second-period takedown for the Panther was the only form of offensive point scored in a bout that was mired by injury time and a coaches’ challenge, but Keckeisen added two escapes and a riding time point for a comfortable victory and his first NCAA finals berth.

#3 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec. #2 Trent Hidlay (NC State), 6-3 — The two-time defending NCAA champion scored successive opening period takedowns on a single leg and a pancake on the edge of the mat to jump out to an early lead. The Nittany Lion escaped in the second period and rode Hidlay for much of the third period to add an insurance riding time point.

197 pounds

#1 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) dec. #4 Ethan Laird (Rider), 10-4 — In a battle of two Pennsylvania natives who never won a high school state title, it was the Panther who scored a takedown in all three periods and controlled his way to his second NCAA finals appearance.

#7 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) dec. #3 Rocky Elam (Missouri), 7-2 — The lowest seed to reach the finals, Sloan surrendered the first takedown but tied the bout with an escape and a penalty point. In the second period, the Iowa native broke open the match with a four-point nearfall and added a late escape to give the Jackrabbits a national finalist.

Heavyweight

#1 Mason Parris (Michigan) won by TF over #4 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa), 16-1 5:12 — Parris dismantled his Hawkeye foe, racking up 10 points in the first period via a takedown and consecutive bar arms. After a second period escape and takedown, the top-seeded Wolverine finished off the bout with a third takedown just 12 seconds into the third frame to earn his first finals trip.

#3 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) dec. #2 Wyatt Hendrickson (Air Force), 4-2 — Hendrickson scored the opening takedown, but a second period reversal and a strong third period ride allowed the Nittany Lion to punch his ticket to his first NCAA final.

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