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Penn State Wrestling: Breaking Down This Weekend’s Best Possible Matches

Carter Starocci, Penn State Wrestling
Photo by NCAA: Carter Starocci

Penn State wrestling will have four returning national champions coming back for another shot at glory this weekend, and two of them have received top-seeds in their respective brackets.

Roman Bravo-Young is No. 1 at 133 pounds.

Carter Starocci is top seed at 174. The other two returning national champs in Aaron Brooks (184) and Max Dean (197) are seeded third and ninth, respectively.

Penn State will have wrestlers in nine of the 10 weight classes. Also competing for PSU are sixth-seeded Beau Bartlett (141), 13th-seeded Shayne Van Ness (149), second-seeded Levi Haines (157), 13th-seeded Alex Facundo (165), and third-seeded Greg Kerkvliet (285).

Along with Bravo-Young and Starocci, also grabbing top seeds are Iowa’s Spencer Lee (125) and Real Woods (141), Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis (149), North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor (157), Iowa State’s David Carr (165), Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen (184), Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi (197) and Michigan’s Mason Parris (285).

Penn State wrestling will already be at a disadvantage in the team race because 125-pounder Gary Steen didn’t  qualify for the NCAA Championships. Iowa, who likely shares the shortest odds for a team title with Penn State, has all 10 weight classes filled in the tournament. Penn State also entered nationals in 2021 with just nine of the 10 weight classes filled while Iowa had all 10 filled, and the Hawkeyes won the team title by 16.5 points. However, this year’s PSU team is probably more talented than the one two years ago, even while being fairly young.

Here’s a weight-class-by-weight-class breakdown of Penn State’s wrestlers and who they could be seeing

133: Roman Bravo-Young

There will be a good possibility that Bravo-Young will see Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix in the finals. Bravo-Young beat Fix, the No. 2 seed at 133, in the last two NCAA finals. Bravo-Young could also see Minnesota’s Aaron Nagao in the quarterfinals. Bravo-Young struggled with Nagao in the Big Ten championship match two weeks ago, but won his third straight title.


Bartlett could matchup with Pitt’s Cole Matthews in the quarterfinals. Matthews, a product of a wrestling factory at Reynolds High School, is the No. 3 seed and is 19-1 on the season.


Van Ness could see a couple wrestlers with local ties at 149 pounds. In his bracket are 28th-seeded Jarod Verkleeren of Virginia, who spent time with Penn State wrestling earlier in his career. North Carolina State’s Jackson Arrington, a Forest Hills graduate, is the 17th seed at 149.


Haines could have a Big Ten Championship with Nebraska’s Peyton Robb in the semifinals. Haines handed Robb his first loss of the season earlier this month. O’Connor, the top seed, is undefeated on the year.


Facundo will see Pitt’s Holden Heller in his first match Thursday, and could see Cornell’s fourth-seeded Julian Ramirez in a second round match on Thursday night.


Starocci’s run through the 174-pound bracket could be an interesting one. He could possibly see Indiana’s DJ Washington, who he has formed a rivalry with over the years. Starocci and Washington pushed and shoved each other after their bout in the dual meet. He could also see either Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola or Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis in the finals. Starocci beat Lewis in last year’s NCAA finals and beat Labriola in this year’s Big Ten Championship match.


Brooks will also have an interesting path to the finals with another local flavor. He could see North Carolina State’s Trent Hidlay in the semifinals. Hidlay is a Mifflin County native.



Dean’s path to the finals will be tough one. He could see the top-seeded Bonaccorsi in the quarterfinals. Former PSU wrestler Michael Beard of Lehigh is seeded fifth in the bracket.

285: Greg Kerkvliet

A rugged Big Ten heavyweight division has earned Kerkvliet the 3-seed. He wouldn’t have to see Michigan’s Parris or Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi until the finals, which could be a huge plus for Penn State’s heavyweight.

Thursday’s action begins at noon. Session 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday will also begin at noon, with Session 4 beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday’s Session 5 will start at 11 a.m., and the finals will begin at 7 p.m. All action can be seen on the ESPN family of networks.

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