ANN ARBOR, M.I.— Penn State wrestling has six men competing for Big Ten championships Sunday in Ann Arbor. Here’s a breakdown of what a win wound mean for each of them. This will also highlight the history— or lack thereof, depending on the wrestler— they share with their opponents. Let’s get into it.
No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) vs. No. 6 Aaron Nagao (Minnesota)
What a Win Would Mean For RBY: Beating Nagao would give Bravo-Young (15-0) his 52nd straight win. The only college wrestler with a longer win streak is also wrestling Sunday. That’s Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who’s won 54 straight. Bravo-Young’s last college loss happened in Big Ten championship match against Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera in the 2020 final. With two national championships and all 52 wins in the streak happening since then, it’s probably safe to say Bravo-Young has moved on. Still, he’d be happy to win in a similar setting to where he came up short a few years ago.
Series History: Bravo-Young and Nagao (20-3) have never wrestled in college. Nagao is the Big Ten’s No. 6 seed. He’s also 13th in the country according to to Intermat. He got to the finals by upsetting second-seeded and eighth-ranked Jesse Mendez of Ohio State in a 6-4 “sudden victory” in the semis.
No. 2 Levi Haines (Penn State) vs. No. 1 Peyton Robb (Nebraska)
What a Win Would Mean For Haines: A true freshman winning an individual title in America’s toughest wrestling conference would be pretty self-explanatory. Haines (21-1) has been fantastic for Penn State all year, and got the Big Ten’s No. 2 seed as a result. Now, Haines has the chance to beat the only person seeded higher. Oh, and Robb is also the No. 1 wrestler in the country at 157, so a win would put No. 7 Haines on a good path to win a national championship as a freshman.
Series History: Penn State didn’t wrestle Nebraska this season, and thus, Haines and Robb (26-0) haven’t wrestled each other in college yet.
Robb got a bye to start the event, then rolled past Northwestern’s Trevor Chumbley, seeded eighth and ranked in an 11-3 major decision. Both Robb and Haines had grinders in their second matches. Robb survived Michigan State’s Chase Saldate, seeded fourth and ranked No. 12, in a 4-3 decision. Haines got past third-seeded Kendall Coleman from Purdue, ranked No. 16, 3-2.
174: No. 1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska)
What a Win Would Mean For Starocci: Starocci (20-0) has only one Big Ten Championship. That would be plenty for a lot of wrestlers, but it’s always better to be a multi-time champ than a one-time champ.
Starocci is already a multi-time national champion, having won titles in his first two seasons at Penn State after redshirting the 2019-20 season. Being a two-time Big Ten champ— and winning a No. 1 vs. 2 national matchup— would add to what’s already a great career, and it’d mean Starocci’s season-long momentum would still be there headed into the NCAA Tournament.
Series History: Starocci is 2-0 against Labriola (27-0), the No. 2 wrestler in the country at 174, with both matches coming in the postseason.
Starocci beat Labriola in a 3-1 decision at the 2021 Big Ten Championships and beat him again, 6-1, at last year’s NCAA Championships.
184: No. 1 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State)
What a Win Would Mean For Brooks: Brooks (13-1) could easily be going for his fourth Big Ten title. He won it as a true freshman in 2020 and again in ‘21, but lost in a “sudden victory” to Michigan’s Myles Amine, 6-4, last year in Lincoln. Brooks regrouped and went on to win his second straight national title. Still, he’d like to do the double in 2023.
Series History: Brooks is 2-0 against Romero (23-4), beating him at last year’s NCAA Championships (13-2 MD) and in this season’s dual meet (3-2 dec.) Romero is No. 5 in the country.
197: No. 1 Max Dean (Penn State wrestling) vs. No. 2 Silas Allred (Nebraska)
What a Win Would Mean For Dean: Dean (22-2) has the chance to finish his Penn State career perfect at the Big Ten Championships. After transferring from Cornell before last season, Dean swept the conference and national championships.
Will he do it again?
Series History: Dean has never faced Allred (27-5) in college.
Allerd is ranked No. 10 in the country. After having his bye, Allred beat seventh-seeded and 19th-ranked Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State in a 6-2 decision. In the semis, Allred beat third-seeded and 15th-ranked Zac Braunagel of Illinois in a grinder, 4-3.
285: No. 2 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State wrestling) vs. No. 1 Mason Parris (Michigan)
What a Win Would Mean For Kerkvliet: Along with giving him his first Big Ten Championship in three tries, the two-time All-American would avenge his only loss this season. Parris (28-0) beat Kerkvliet (16-1) in a 3-1 decision at the Bryce Jordan Center in January. Since this is a battle between America’s top two heavyweights, a win would also make Kerkvliet the favorite to take him the grand prize: his first national championship. Beating Parris in front of his hometown fans in Ann Arbor would be a nice bonus, too.
Series History: These two have quite a history together. Kerkvliet is 3-2 against Parris, and he’d love to avoid his rival drawing even.