TULSA, Okla. (AP)Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis became the fifth Division I wrestler to win four national titles and Penn State won its 10th team title in 12 years on Saturday at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships, with former President Donald Trump in attendance for the evening session.
Trump shook hands and took selfies with fans and greeted several of the national champions. He sat with staff members and U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin. The crowd stood when he went to the arena floor before the night session began with Mullin and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Diakomihalis capped the evening by defeating Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso 4-2 in the 149-pound final. He joined Kyle Dake, Pat Smith, Logan Stieber and Cael Sanderson – Penn State’s coach – as the only four-time champions ever in Division I.
“All those guys are great because they’re different,” Diakomihalis said. “And, you know, my style is different. I might take bits and pieces from each guy, but when you see the final product, it’s its own form.”
Diakomihalis, 23, won national titles in 2018 and 2019. He took an Olympic redshirt year while trying to make Team USA in 2019-20, then couldn’t wrestle in college during the 2020-21 season because the Ivy League cancelled winter sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. He came back to win in 2022 and 2023, and now has bigger goals in mind with the Olympics coming in 2024.
“What I did this weekend is far from the best version of myself,” he said. “And it’s far, far, far from what I need to be an Olympic champion, world champion.”
Penn State ran away with the team title, mathematically clinching before the evening session began. The Nittany Lions finished with 137.5 points. Iowa was second with 82.5 points and Cornell placed third with 76.5.
Two Penn State wrestlers won titles for the third straight season – Penn State’s Carter Starocci at 174 and Aaron Brooks at 184.
Starocci pinned Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola early in the second period. He had defeated Labriola in the Big Ten final and gave him his only two losses of the season. Brooks, the No. 3 seed at 184, defeated top-seeded Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa 7-2.
All didn’t go as planned for Penn State. Third-seeded Vito Arujau of Cornell defeated Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young – a two-time defending champion and an unbeaten No. 1 seed – 10-4 for the title at 133. Bravo-Young had the nation’s longest winning streak at 56 matches.
“The team had a great weekend,” Sanderson said. “A lot of gutsy, great performances. It’s an individual sport as well as a team sport. So as a coach, you’re always — your heart and mind is with the guys that don’t quite reach their goals. But we’ve got a lot to be happy about and proud of.”
Iowa’s Spencer Lee was in the running to win his fourth title before losing in the semifinals to Purdue’s Matt Ramos at 125 on Friday night. Lee medically forfeited out of Saturday’s action and officially finished sixth.
Ramos followed up his stunning upset by facing Princeton’s Pat Glory, the unbeaten No. 2 seed who was the runner-up in the class last year. Glory won 3-1 to claim Princeton’s first national title since 1951.
Glory expected a battle from Ramos.
“Not everybody goes off and knocks off Spencer Lee like that,” Glory said. “It takes cojones, and I knew he would have the same mentality coming into the match. I knew it was going to be dogfight. And I knew it was going to be one opportunity and I needed to capitalize and I knew I was going to be ready for it when it came.”
In other finals, at 141, Northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez defeated Iowa’s Real Woods 6-4 in a matchup of unbeatens. There was a long delay to sort out a series of moves in the second period, and the challenge by Northern Colorado paid off. It gave Alirez four points for a near fall instead of two and it pushed his lead to 6-2. He went on to claim his school’s first national title since 1962.
At 157, North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor won his second national title with a 6-2 win over Penn State true freshman Levi Haines. O’Connor, who won at 149 in 2021, is now a five-time All-American. O’Connor got on the board with an escape early in the third, then scored two takedowns to take command.
At 165, Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole repeated by defeating Iowa State’s David Carr, 8-2. The second-seeded O’Toole avenged two losses to Carr this season by dominating the third period to pull away. Carr, the champ at 157 in 2021, was unbeaten and the No. 1 seed this season.
At 197, Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi, the No. 1 seed, finished an unbeaten season by defeating South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan 5-3. Sloan, the No. 7 seed, took a 2-0 lead on a takedown in the first period. Bonaccorsi took a 4-3 lead on a takedown in the final minute to take the lead for good. Bonaccorsi lost to Oklahoma State’s A.J. Ferrari in the 197 final in 2021.
And at 285, Michigan’s Mason Parris completed an unbeaten season with a 5-1 win over Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet, the No. 3 seed. Parris and Kerkvliet had previously split six college matchups. Parris lost to Minnesota’s Gable Steveson in the final in 2021.
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