Behind five national champions, Penn State wrestling is back to its winning ways as a team, clinching the 2022 team title. Penn State officially locked up the top spot in the tournament halfway through Saturday morning’s medal matches, but the championship performances from Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks and Max Dean on Saturday night added an exclamation mark to the team win.
Penn State brought nine wrestlers to Detroit for the national championship and put six of those wrestlers on the podium.
“The guys did a great job, kept their composure, were the aggressors, went out there and got the takedowns. They were themselves. These big moments obviously when in the team race is on the line, that’s a lot, and that’s something our guys deal with,” head coach Cael Sanderson said after the semifinal round on Friday night.
Just like last year, Roman Bravo-Young set the momentum for Penn State, beating Daton Fix for the second NCAA finals in a row and building up his teammate, Nick Lee, for success. Lee followed with a comfortable win over No. 15 Kizhan Clarke of North Carolina despite giving up the first takedown. The Nittany Lion champion wrestled in control the entire match and wore down his opponent for the victory. Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks added championship performances with wins over 2019 NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis and 2022 Big Ten champ Myles Amine, respectively.
Max Dean, the transfer from Cornell, became the fifth NCAA title winner for the program after winning a close match against Iowa’s Jacob Warner, and his presence in this upperweight lineup only adds firepower to the already dominant Nittany Lion team.
“I remember thinking before the season even started, ‘If I don’t start, if I don’t ever win a match, I’m just lucky to be here,’ because their perspective on life. I think that’s why they are so successful,” Dean said, reflecting on his experience at Penn State. “In situations when it’s uncomfortable out here, we’re competing, it’s 1-1, your dreams are on the line, but you’re so focused because you have values. That’s Cael Sanderson.”
The positive culture within this program also produced an All-Americans in Greg Kerkvliet at heavyweight, who finished fourth after medically forfeiting his bronze medal match.
In the five NCAA finals matches that Penn State didn’t win, Nick Suriano claimed 125 pounds for his second title, Yianni Diakomihalis won a third title with a victory at 149 pounds, Ryan Deakin took home gold at 157 pounds, Keegan O’Toole of Missouri claim top honors at 165 pounds and Gable Steveson earned his second heavyweight crown.