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Penn State Wrestling Wins Two Individual Titles To Close Out National Championships

After clinching the team title earlier Saturday morning, two Nittany Lions secured individual national titles of their own. Aaron Brooks and Carter Starocci both won their third-career national titles as the 2023 National Championships concluded.

The final session was highlighted by Carter Starocci’s pin in the final seconds of the first period. His victory will allow him to compete for his fourth national title next year, a feat that only four other wrestlers have completed.

How It Happened

Starting off the night was No. 2 Levi Haines’ matchup with No. 1 Austin O’Connor of UNC at 157 lbs. Haines, a true freshman, found himself wrestling for a chance at a national title in just his first year of collegiate wrestling. 

Despite attempts from both wrestlers, neither could tally a point after the first three minutes. Haines found himself in bottom position to start the second, struggling to escape and nearly giving up near-fall points to the Tar Heel, though they were waived off after a review. O’Connor rode out the entire second period, accumulating 120 seconds of riding time with the score remaining level at 0-0.

An escape from O’Connor lit a fire under the wrestler, as he went for two takedowns in the third and won the match 6-2. As a result, the Nittany Lions’ true freshman took second place in his first year of competition.

Next up for the blue and white, No. 1 Carter Starocci battled No. 2 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska at 174 lbs. Starocci was the first to strike, finishing off a takedown attempt for two points with just over a minute left in the first. In a move that looked to be effortless, Starocci rolled the Husker onto his back for the pin with 14 seconds left in the first. 

Starocci will leave Tulsa as a three-time National Champion over the course of his three seasons.

Shortly after, No. 2 Aaron Brooks stared down No. 1 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa at 184 lbs. Brooks opened up the scoring with a takedown late in the first period, staying in top control. An additional takedown in the second extended the Nittany Lion’s lead to 4-2 heading into the final two minutes. 

Brooks kept the pedal down in the third, escaping from bottom position and finishing off the match with a third takedown. Brooks’ 7-2 win secured the third national championship of his career.

Next Lion up was No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet, as he faced No. 1 Mason Parris of Michigan at heavyweight. In their six all-time matches, the record was split 3-3 heading into the ultimate grudge match.

Parris took the initial lead after a takedown and 2:29 of riding time, up 2-0 after one. The Wolverine opened the second with an escape, scoring the lone point of the period and extending his lead to 3-0 heading into the final two minutes. 

Kerkvliet would ultimately drop the match 5-1, awarding runner-up status to the three-time All-American.

Finishing off the night for Penn State was No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young, against No. 3 Vito Arujau of Cornell. Bravo-Young would fall victim to two takedowns in the first, giving Arujau a 4-1 lead after one. More offense from Arujau would extend his lead to 8-2 after a handful of near-fall points. A late takedown from Bravo-Young wouldn’t be enough, as he dropped the match 9-4.

With Saturday’s tournament finish, Bravo-Young –– a five-time All-American and two-time national champion –– called it a career, cementing his legacy as one of the best to come through Happy Valley.

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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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