Penn St closes in on title, sends 5 wrestlers to NCAA finals

Mar 18, 2022, 2:59 AM | Updated: 8:42 pm

DETROIT (AP) — Penn State moved closer to its ninth NCAA wrestling championship in 11 years Friday night, widening its lead in the team race as five of its six semifinalists advanced.

The Nittany Lions had 108 points after the semis. Michigan, trying for its first title 45 minutes away from its Ann Arbor campus, was second with 84.5 and two finalists set to compete Saturday night. Arizona State had 63.5 points and Iowa 62, and each has one finalist.

Cornell’s unbeaten Yianni Diakomihalis, the top seed at 149 pounds, stayed on track to become a three-time champion. He’ll have a surprise finals opponent, Nebraska’s 10th-seeded Ridge Lovett, whose run continued with a 5-4 semifinal decision over Virginia Tech’s Bryce Andonian.

“One match tomorrow is everything I have for seven minutes, and then I just got to live with what I have,” Diakomihalis said. “I’m really thankful to be here.”

Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson, the defending champion and 2020 Olympic gold medalist, made it through after being challenged in his quarterfinal against No. 9 Lucas Davison of Northwestern.

Steveson trailed for the first time this season after Davison scored an early takedown, but he came back to earn a 10-5 decision. He moved to the finals with an 8-3 decision over Penn State’s fourth-seeded Greg Kerkvliet.

Steveson’s finals opponent is unbeaten No. 2 seed Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State.

Penn State’s four defending individual champions — Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci andAaron Brooks — made it through to finals.

Bravo-Young will face Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix for the 133-pound title for a second straight year in a meeting of the top two seeds.

“I saw him after NCAAs last year and he took second in the world,” Bravo-Young said. “He is the real deal. That just excites me. I haven’t gotten as many chances as he has on the world stage, so this is my stage for now. I hope we go out and put on a show.”

Lee, No. 1 at 141, will meet 15th-seeded Kizhan Clarke of North Carolina, the lowest seed to reach the finals.

Starocci, No. 1 at 174, will square off against No. 2 Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech. Lewis won the 165 title in 2019, took an Olympic redshirt in 2020 and had to withdraw for medical reasons after two matches at last year’s nationals.

Brooks, No. 2 at 184, won his semifinal against No. 3 Trent Hidlay of North Carolina State in sudden victory. Brooks’ finals opponent, Michigan’s top-seeded Myles Amine, beat him in the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State’s Max Dean, No. 1 at 197 and a transfer from Cornell, will go for his first national title against sixth-seeded Jacob Warner of Iowa.

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