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Penn State Wrestling: Duo of Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks win National Titles

Penn State Wrestling: Aaron Brooks
Photo by Penn State Wrestling: Aaron Brooks

TULSA, Okla. — The Penn State wrestling duo of  Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks won national titles at the NCAA Championships in the BOK Center Saturday night.

No. 1 Starocci (24-0) took on No. 2 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska (29-2) in the final at 174 pounds. Starocci took down Labriola and then pinned him 2:46 into the first period to win his third straight national title. Starocci has now won 52 straight matches. 

“It feels good getting a pin, but I wanted to drag him in deep waters and feel his soul leave his body and just keep coming after him, and him realizing there’s nothing left in the tank and I’m still coming,” Starocci said post-match. “That kind of gets me going. I like that feeling. But it’s cool getting a pin, but I love wrestling. This is what I do every day. I enjoy being out there and under the lights. That’s where I thrive.”


Brooks (17-1) faced a tough matchup with the No. 1 wrestler in the country, Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen (26-2), at 184 pounds. Brooks ended up dominating Keckeisen, making three takedowns en route to a 7-2 decision after riding time.


Brooks places a large part of his strength in his faith and said post-match that placing God above wrestling allowed him to compete at a much higher level.

“It’s all from the glory of God,” Brooks said. “Back when I just worshipped wrestling, I burned out. Now I’m doing it for him. I don’t do it to win a trophy in these things. It’s to preach to people. That’s what motivates me. That’s what’s on my mind all the time because everything else comes and goes. People are winning and losing; it’s all vanity. Once this is over, they’re talking about what’s going on next year. That’s how the world works. When I’m out there, what lives can I change with the holy spirit in me because that goes for eternity.”

Although Starocci and Brooks finished atop the podium, other Penn State wrestlers did not enjoy the same success.

No. 1 graduate Roman Bravo-Young (20-1) failed to establish control in his final match with No. 3 Vito Arujau of Cornell (25-1). Arujau got two takedowns and then put Bravo-Young on his back for four near-fall points to take an 8-1 lead. Arujau eventually held on for the 10-4 win after riding time to take home the National Title in a colossal upset.

For RBY, the loss ended his opportunity to win three straight national titles, his 56 match winning streak and his college career.

No. 2 freshman Levi Haines (24-2) took on No. 1 Austin O’Connor of North Carolina (23-0) in the final at 157 pounds. After two scoreless periods, O’Connor made an escape and a takedown to take a 3-0 lead. O’Connor would make one more takedown and would win the national title in a 6-2 decision.

No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet (19-3) stood no chance against No. 1 Mason Parris of Michigan (33-0) in the final at 285 pounds. Parris had complete control in the match, with a second-period takedown proving crucial. Outside of that, Kerkvliet couldn’t get from underneath Parris, who rode him for riding time in a 5-1 decision.

Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said that despite the sad losses in the finals, the team achieved its goal of a national title, which matters most in the end.

“The team had a great weekend, a lot of gutsy performances,” Sanderson said. “It’s an individual sport as well as a team sport, so as a coach, your heart and mind is with the guys that don’t reach their goals. But we’ve got a lot to be happy about and proud of ourselves.”

Nittany Sports Now coverage of the NCAA Wrestling Championships has finished. Here is the previous coverage from this weekend if you missed any of it.

Penn State Wrestling: Bartlett, Van Ness, Dean Compete, Penn State Clinches Team Title

Penn State Sits in First Place, Places 5 in National Title Matches After Day 2

Penn State Places Seven in the Semifinals at the NCAA Wresting Championships

Penn State Stands in 1st Place After Day 1 of NCAA Wrestling Championships

Penn State Wrestling: 8 Advance to Round of 16 at NCAA Championships

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