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Penn State Wrestling Sends Five To NCAA Championships Finals

Penn State will send five wrestlers to the NCAA National Championships finals, after concluding session four Friday night at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Seven Penn State wrestlers battled in the semifinals, cementing its lead in the team standings and tallying over 30 points.

After going undefeated in the third session, the Nittany Lions kept up the pressure high to close out day two. Penn State is in first place with 116.5 points ahead of Iowa with 77.0. The session was highlighted once again by No. 2 Levi Haines beating previously No. 1 ranked Peyton Robb for his second time.

National Championship rookies Levi Haines and Greg Kerkvliet will join veterans Roman Bravo-Young, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks as they compete for championship hardware. Beau Bartlett and Shayne Van Ness will compete for third place.

Session Four — Semifinals

Undefeated No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young took on on No. 4 Michael McGee of Arizona State at 133 lbs. A deep shot from McGee was shrugged off from Bravo-Young after a good scramble. The wrestlers returned to neutral position and after some more standup grappling, the first period ended with no points scored. McGee turned a reversal from bottom position and took a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Bravo-Young escaped before time ran out, tightening the gap to 2-1 heading into the final two minutes.

Bravo-Young was on bottom to start the third, escaping to tie up the score after nearly securing a reversal of his own. Bravo-Young turned a takedown attempt from McGee into his first takedown of the match to lead of the bout with less than a minute to go in the third. An escape from McGee tied the match 4-4, heading into sudden victory.

The Nittany Lion didn’t waste time shooting for a takedown, taking the match 6-4 in sudden victory. Bravo-Young will head to the finals for the third consecutive year.

Next to the mat was No. 6 Beau Bartlett staring down No. 2 Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado at 141 lbs. Bartlett fought hard but eventually fell victim to a takedown from Alirez. Bartlett escaped after some time to close the gap to one point heading into the middle period. An escape and takedown from Allrez gave him a 5-1 lead heading into the final period, Bartlett now in bottom position.

Despite escaping, Beau dropped the match 6-2, sending him into the third-place match.

Shortly after, No. 13 Shayne Van Ness took on No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell. Both wrestlers seemed inches away from securing a takedown, however, neither could score points in the first. Van Ness took the first point in the match with an escape to start the second, but no more points were scored after this in the second. Van Ness had a 1-0 lead after two.

Diakomihalis escaped from bottom to start the third, leveling the score with almost all of the third period left to go. Van Ness then shot for the first takedown of the match, quickly allowing an escape to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Nittany Lion. Diakomihalis then got a takedown of his own paired with four near-fall points, winning the match 8-3 and placing Van Ness in the third-place match.

No. 2 Levi Haines took the mat to face No. 3 Peyton Robb of Nebraska at 157 lbs. Haines defeated Robb in the Big Ten Championship finals two weeks ago, allowing the previously undefeated Robb a much-anticipated rematch. The first period ended 0-0 after little action between both wrestlers. Robb was in bottom position to start the second, where he escaped to take the first lead of the match. Haines would then shoot for the first takedown of the match, only for Robb to escape shortly after to tie the match at 2-2 heading into the final two minutes.

Haines started in bottom position this time, escaping to take a 3-2 lead with more than half of the final period remaining. Haines put the nail in the coffin with a final takedown, winning the rematch 5-2 to send the true freshman to the finals.

It was then No. 1 Carter Starocci’s turn to punch his ticket to the finals, facing off against No. 4 Chris Foca of Cornell at 174 lbs. Starocci had an early takedown and 1:45 of riding time to lead 2-0 after one. Starocci escaped starting the second, extending his lead to 3-0 after two. An additional Starocci takedown gave him the 6-0 win and a trip to the finals for his third time.

No. 3 Aaron Brooks took the mat next, staring down No. 2 Trent Hidlay of NC State at 184 lbs. Brooks earned two takedowns in the first, taking a 4-1 lead into the middle period after an escape from Hidlay. Brooks was able to escape from bottom position after some difficulty, putting him in front 5-1 after two. An escape from Hidlay could not help him overcome the deficit as Brooks took the match 6-3 heading back to the finals once again.

No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet took on No. 2 Wyatt Hendrickson of the Air Force. Kerkvliet fell to an early takedown in the first, escaping shortly after to go down 2-1 after the first. After starting in bottom position, Kerkvliet fought hard for a reversal, taking the lead 3-2 heading into the third. Kerkvliet took the the 4-2 victory after riding time, sending him to the National Championships for the first time.

Session Four — Consolation Matches

The first consolation match of the night was between No. 9 Max Dean and No. 11 Jaxon Smith of Maryland. Both wrestlers found little offense in the opening period, keeping the score 0-0. Dean escaped from bottom position to start the second and took the first point of the match. After an escape, Dean achieved the first takedown of the match, taking a 3-1 lead into the third after an escape from Smith.

Smith earned another escape point out of bottom position to bring him within one point of Dean. Displaying great defense, Dean held on for the 3-2 win, earning him All-American status for the fourth time. Dean would wrestle again for a chance at the third-place match.

In Dean’s second bout, he faced No. 2 Bernie Truax of Cal Poly. After a takedown Dean found himself down 2-1 early into the first. Another takedown from Truax put Dean down 4-2 after one. An escape, followed by a takedown from Dean, gave him a 5-4 lead early in the second, riding out the remainder of the period on top. A reversal from Truax was countered by an escape from Dean, tying the match 6-6 to head into sudden victory.

Dean fell to a takedown early in sudden victory, sending the Nittany Lion into the seventh-place match.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will wrestle for consolation and placing bouts in session five at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 18, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All matches will be streamed on ESPN+.

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About the Author

Brendan Wagner

Brendan is a Junior majoring in print and media journalism. Born in Pittsburgh, he now lives in Mooresville, North Carolina. As a die-hard Pittsburgh sports fan, you can find him on Twitter, @brchwags, often complaining about the Pittsburgh Steelers and probably Russell Wilson.

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