Penn State Wrestling: Nittany Lions Break Two Records En Route To 11th Team Title In 13 Years

Penn State Wrestling: Nittany Lions Break Two Records En Route To 11th Team Title In 13 Years Andy Mason, Herald-Mail

The NCAA Wrestling Championships took place in Kansas City starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions were seeking their 12th overall team title and their 11th since hiring Cael Sanderson  in 2009.

Incredibly, the Lions were able to wrap the title up midway through the session on Friday before any of the placement matches occurred.

In fact, they entered Saturday’s session with 148 points and their 11th team title in the last 13 years (including a second-place finish in that time).

In second place at that time, was Michigan, with 64.5 points, meaning they had an 83.5-point lead with six wrestlers in the finals and two more in the medal round.

By the end of the Championships, Penn State would have 172.5 points with second place going to Cornell (72.5) and third going to Michigan (71).

Below is a listing of some incredible records and the performances by all 10 of the Penn State wrestlers who qualified for each weight class.


  • The Nittany Lions 172.5 point is a new team record, breaking the previous mark of 170.
  • With their 100-point margin of victory over second place, they set a new record. The previous record had been 73.75.
  • Carter Starocci, by his own admission on crutches 12 days ago, became a four-time NCAA Champion. He is the sixth wrestler in history to do that.
  • Soon after, Aaron Brooks secured his fourth NCAA Championship, becoming just the seventh wrestler in history to accomplish the feat.
  • Four of their ten qualifiers wound up as NCAA Champs.
  • Eight of their wrestlers came away with All-American status.

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Braeden Davis had the most disappointing performance for the Nittany Lions this weekend despite a strong season as a freshman.

Entering the Championships as the B1G Champ and the No, 1 seed, he was simply unable to find any offense after his first match.

He won his first match with Michigan State’s Lujan pretty handily (7-1) but that was the last offense Davis was able to muster in Kansas City.

In his second match, he topped Cornell’s Ungar with a 2-1 victory with points coming from an escape and riding time.

He was upset in the quarterfinals by Arizona State’s Figueroa after a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 loss in the third period when Davis gave up the reversal and a riding time point to lose. There were arguments about stalling calls and the like, but the simple fact was that Davis didn’t have any offense in the match beyond his attempt to score points right at the end following his being ridden for over a minute following giving up the reversal.

He lost his consolation match with Wyoming’s Jore Volk by a score of 4-1 Sudden Victory. Davis attempted a shot but was countered and got taken down.

Overall, it was a strong season for the freshman, who went undefeated entering the championships, but the two losses and missing out on All-American status certainly put a bit of a damper on the end of the season.

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Julia Hansen, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Aaron Nagao (No. 10) also had a pretty strong season for the Nittany Lions, but was ultimately unable to come away with All-American status.

The sophomore got down early with an upset loss to Virginia’s No. 23 Marlon Yarbrough. (12-5)

In the consolation matches, he came up big to help the Nittany Lions on their quest for a scoring title with a 16-1 tech fall over Missouri’s Kade Moore (No. 26).

He got himself one win away from All-American status with two more wins over Chlebove (Arizona State, No. 24) and Bouzakis (Ohio State, No. 16).

Unfortunately, his session came to a close with an 11-4 defeat to the No. 3 seeded Kai Orine out of NC State.

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Nick Tre. Smith, USA TODAY Sports

Bartlett opened up with a solid match against the 31st seed from Maryland (Kai Miller), coming away with a rather comfortable decision of 6-1.

His next two matches were where he really helped in the team score area, registering two falls in a row against Moore (No. 15, Rutgers) and Vombaur (No. 26, Minnesota).

In the semis, he wrestled his only match against someone from outside the B1G, registering a 5-1 decision against UNC’s McNeil (No. 6).

Facing the top-seeded Mendez from Ohio State in the finals, Bartlett battled until the very end with the two tied 1-1 in the third period with just 10 second left. Bartlett took a shot and looked like he had it but Mendez was able to counter and get himself around for a takedown with one second left on the clock.

It looked like the senior Bartlett would come away with his first NCAA Championship, but he wound up taking a tough loss at the literal last second. It’s was a tough way to end a season he should be proud of with only two losses (27-2), each coming against the NCAA Champ.

This is Bartlett’s second All-American finish.

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Tyler Kasak had the best underdog performance by a Nittany Lion this year.

On a team filled with All-Americans, Kasak was a freshman listed at the 141lb weight class.

He was pressed into service due to an injury to Shayne Van Ness, who got third place at the nationals last year, and battled his way to the seventh seed.

He was quickly upset in the first round by No. 26 Abas out of Stanford in a 4-2 match that did not look good.

In the wrestlebacks he had a renewed focus and won seven straight matches, including three by major decision and one by fall that put up the extra team points Penn State was looking for.

Already an All-American, Kasak took home third place by toppeling the No. 1 seeded Lovett from Nebraska by a 11-1 win (major decision) and then taking down No. 5 Watters out of West Virginia.

It was an impressive performance for the freshman that was pressed into action and it will be interesting to see what the team does with the weight classes once Van Ness is back healthy next season.

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Nick Tre. Smith, USA TODAY Sports

Haines was the true freshman phenom last year who wound up being the runner up in the NCAA finals.

He entered this tournament with that loss from last year being his last one, holding a 22-0 record on the year.

Haines’ dominance was a big part of why the Nittany Lions could throw up so many points: his path to the finals included a 17-2 tech fall (No. 32 Isaac Wilcox, Ohio State), a 19-4 tech fall (No. 16 Teague Travis, Oklahoma State), an 8-0 major decision (No. 8 Payton Robb, Nebraska) and a fall (No. 12 Bryce Andonian, Virginia Tech).

The number two seed, Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer, stood in Haines way during the final, but Haines was not about to let his loss last year get in his way again, cruising to a 5-0 decision in which the number two seed didn’t score a single point.

That match was his only one in the entire tournament in which he didn’t score bonus points.

On top of his second All-American finish, he adds his first NCAA Championship.

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Nick Tre. Smith, USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell Messenbrink, the redshirt freshman, has been exciting to watch all year with his activity and ability to wear guys down.

With his heavy offensive abilities and relentless motor, he’s never out of a match.

His path to the finals was also lined with bonus points thanks to an 18-2 tech fall over No. 31 Maxx Mayfield (Northwestern) in the first round and major decisions against Brevin Cassella (Binghamton) and No. 6 Mike Caliendo (Iowa) in his second and fourth matches, respectively.

He also had a 6-1 decision of Michigan’s Cam Amine to reach the finals.

His finals match-up came to incredibly frustrating ending. Messenbrink matched up with the No. 4 seed David Carr.

Carr came out of the gate with a quick take down and managed to get another with riding time heading near two minutes. Carr kept checking the clock and, even when he was riding Messenbrink, he stayed on the edge of the mat to get out of bounds easily. Messenbrink was able to escape, and it certainly seemed like it was his match as Carr seemed drained by the second period.

Carr took three stall calls, giving Messenbrink two points. There’s certainly an argument to be made it could have been more given Carr basically never left the edge of the circle once the second period started. Messenbrink made multiple attacks and Carr did well to force a stalemate on one of them. With his escapes, the stalls, and a takedown, Messenbrink tied the match at 8-8 late in the third period.

The frustration comes in there, when Messenbrink stopped attacking with about 15-20 seconds left in the third. He apparently forgot that Carr had riden him for the majority of the first period and had locked up a riding point, thinking it would instead go to overtime. It certainly seemed Messenbrink would have a clear and heavy advantage in overtime, but he wasn’t in a position to force it. He had been in a position to continue attacking and force yet another stall call (which would have awarded two points and the win) if he didn’t get a takedown to win it, but took an uncharacteristic break instead.

Messenbrink’s freshman campaign ends with All-American status and second place overall, but does feel a bit hollow because we’ll never know if he could have won it had he not forgotten about the riding time point.

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Nick Tre. Smith, USA TODAY Sports

One of the more interesting storylines, Carter Starocci entered the tournament with two losses, both being one-second injury defaults in the B1G championships due to an unknown, undisclosed (but certainly severe) knee injury. He wrestles as the No. 9 seed in this tournament and with a huge knee brace as a result.

Starocci’s wrestling was uncharacteristic of himself and he was the only Penn Stater to not record bonus points with his injury seemingly have him focus more on his defense and making sure he didn’t further injure his knee. As he got back into things, he gave up takedowns in the first two bouts, ultimately winning those by 12-6 and 5-3 decisions respectively.

In the quarters and the semis, he refused to give up points, scoring 4-0 and 2-0 wins over the top-seeded Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech and the dangerous Shane Griffith of Michigan, who was only dropped to No. 4 because of his own injury at the B1G Championships.

In the final, he wrestled Ohio State’s Rocco Welsh.

Starocci may not have scored many points in his 2-0 win, but was on the offensive for a bit more than the first five minutes. It was to the point that Welsh, like every other Penn State opponent who also lived on the edge of the circle, took two stalls and that, combined with Carter’s escape, put him in control of the match and Welsh needed to start from neutral and manage a takedown.

Starocci never gave him anything to work with and so Carter managed to lock up his fourth NCAA Championship.

In his post match interview, he told ESPN that he was on crutches just 12 days ago and was glad that the Penn State staff and trainers could get him on the mat to secure the victory.

He will be wrestling for a spot on the Olympic team and could potentially return to PSU to seek a fifth NCAA Championship.

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Truax, the Cal Poly transfer with multiple previous All-American finishes, moved to another weight class to fit between Brooks and Starocci.

His weekend started out well with a tech fall and a decision but wound up falling to the higher seed in the quarterfinals.

Oklahoma State’s Plott got the major decision over Truax and then Ohio State’s Trey Munoz got a fall over him in the wrestlebacks.

Still, Traux managed the 12-o major decision over No. 2 Isaiah Salazar, leaving him in position for fifth place and his fourth All-American status.

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Andy Mason, Herald-Mail

Aaron Brooks headed into the NCAA Tournament with the longest active winning streak in the nation, with his last loss coming way back in 2021.

He was unfazed by his competition getting to the final, securing bonus points galore for the Nittany Lions, including tech falls in the first and semi rounds (19-4, 17-2) with two falls coming in between.

Brooks cruised his way to the finals, where he would face the No. 2 seed, NC State’s Trent Hidlay. Brooks kept his opponent in front of him and nearly shutout his opponent in the finals with a 6-1 win. The only point he gave up was an escape with about five seconds remaining in the match.

Brooks became the seventh-ever four-time NCAA Champion just minutes after Starocci accomplished the feat himself.


Julia Hansen, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Greg Kerkvliet, the senior, entered this NCAA Championships with his strongest season ever behind him.

He entered with a 19-0 record and plenty of bonus points in those thanks to his ability to move in a way most other heavyweights can’t do themselves or counter. That didn’t change in the first two rounds as he racked up a tech fall over Indiana’s Nick Willham and a major decision over Navy’s Grady Greiss.

In the quarterfinals, he survived his toughest battle with a 1-0 decision over No. 9 Nick Feldman of Ohio State. He followed that up by just missing a major decision in the semis with an 8-1 victory over Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz (No. 4).

In the final, Kerkvliet once again faced the wrestler wearing a Michigan singlet. This match would not go the same way as last year’s finals, however, with Kerkvliet dominating the match and scoring a major decision with a 13-4 victory. Lucas Davison could do nothing more than get out from under Kerkvliet after a bit of time and hope to spend enough time between takedowns that it wouldn’t be a tech fall that ended the match.

He has improved every season at PSU, going from 7th, to 4th, to 2nd and now has his first National Championship to go along with his four-time All American status.

Kerkvliet and the heavyweight class actually wrestled the first final before the rest of the weight classes went in their usual, ascending order.

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