Penn State Wins 10th NCAA Wrestling Title in 12 Years

penn state wins 10th ncaa wrestling title in 12 years

For the second straight year, Lions clinch the team title before Saturday night’s main event.

Penn State will begin Saturday night’s finals at the NCAA Wrestling Championships having already won the team title. The Lions clinched their 10th NCAA title in 12 years during the tournament’s medal round Saturday morning in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Penn State took a commanding lead over Iowa after Friday’s semifinal round and needed a maximum of 9.5 points Saturday to secure the title. Then Iowa’s Spencer Lee, a three-time national champ, medically forfeited out of the tournament Saturday after being upset in the 125-pound semifinals by Purdue’s Matt Ramos.

That reduced Penn State’s magic number to one point. Ultimately, the Lions clinched even before their first wrestler, Beau Bartlett, took the mat at 141 pounds. Which means that, for the second consecutive year, Penn State will wrestle the prime-time championship bouts with the team title already in hand.

Five Lions will compete for individual titles, including three who seek to become three-time national champions. Penn State went 5-0 in the championship round last year after clinching the team title earlier.

“That’s the reason I came back, to get that team title,” Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young said Friday night after reaching his third NCAA final at 133 pounds. “And I’m glad my decision paid off.”

The national championship is the 10th for Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who took over the program in 2009. After finishing ninth in Sanderson’s first NCAA tournament as head coach, the Lions have not won only twice. They finished sixth in 2015 and second in 2021.

“I think that our coaches do a great job with getting the right talent, the talent that they want and that they think they can mold,” said heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet, one of Penn State’s five finalists. “And as you see, they’re molding them pretty good, and they’re doing the right thing.”

Sanderson ranks third all-time among Division I coaches with 10 national championships. Iowa’s Dan Gable won 15, and Oklahoma State’s E.C. Gallagher won 11.

Penn State already has matched its team record with eight All-Americans. It also can tie a team record with five individual titles, a feat Penn State has achieved twice (in 2017 and 2022).

“It’s not any real magic,” said freshman Levi Haines, who will wrestle for his first NCAA title at 157 pounds. “They just recruit guys that love to wrestle. And when you have a true passion for the sport, it makes everything else a lot easier.”

Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks (184) seek to join Bravo-Young tonight as three-time NCAA champs. Both are 14-0 in their NCAA tournament careers, Penn State’s only wrestlers with perfect NCAA records and at least 10 bouts.

Starocci is confident he can become a three-time champ. He’ll wrestle Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola, whom he defeated for the Big Ten tournament title two weeks ago.

“I look forward to these moments,” Starocci said Friday night. “I believe God created me to be a warrior, and there is nothing I would rather do than be here right now. There is nothing else going through my mind, but crushing the guy in front of me.”

Heavyweight might be the most fascinating final, as it represents a Game 7 between Kerkvliet and Michigan’s Mason Parris. The two have wrestled six times in their careers, winning three apiece.

Parris has defeated Kerkvliet twice this season, including for the Big Ten tournament title. This is their first matchup for an NCAA title.

“I’m excited,” Kerkvliet said. “We went back to the drawing board, made a couple of tweaks that I can bring to this meeting. I think it will be good. It’s fun to try to figure out these sort of games because it’sjust a game at the end of the day.”

Penn State’s Max Dean (197) became a four-time All-American on Friday, while Bartlett and Shayne Van Ness (149) clinched their first NCAA medals.

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AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button’s on the home page) for more great content across the network.

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