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2023 NCAA Wrestling National Championships Recap

Penn State lives up to expectations, while two other Big Ten teams finish top four

Syndication: Herald-Mail Media Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

With two champions and three runners-up, totalling 137.5 team points, Penn State repeats as your 2023 NCAA Champions. Finishing 55 points behind them in second place is Iowa, with 82.5, and Cornell and Ohio State rounded out the top four with 76.5 and 70.5, respectively. We had five new champions (125, 133, 141, 197, 285) and four back-to-back champions (149, 165, 174, 184), with O’Connor a previous champ (2021, 149 pounds).

  1. Penn State Nittany Lions (137.5)
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes (82.5)
  3. Cornell Big Red (76.5)
  4. Ohio State Buckeyes (70.5)

6. Michigan Wolverines (58.5), 8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (54), 15. Minnesota Gophers (30.5), T16. Wisconsin Badgers (29), T20. Purdue Boilermakers (28), 25. Northwestern Wildcats (24.5), 31. Illinois Fighting Illini (11), T34. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8), T36. Maryland Terrapins (7.5), T38. Indiana Hoosiers (7), T40. Michigan State Spartans (6)

125 Pounds:

While the story at 125 is obviously Spencer Lee’s crushing semifinal loss to Purdue’s Matt Ramos, stopping the Hawkeye senior two wins short of his fourth national title, this weight was filled with upsets throughout. In the first round, the 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14 seeds all lost. 27th-seeded Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech and 28th-seeded Killian Cardinale of West Virginia would both make the quarterfinals and eventually earn all-American status, with Ventresca defeating Cardinale for seventh place. Ramos finished second and was joined by Liam Cronin (5th) and Spencer Lee (6th) as all-Americans from the Big Ten, while Dean Peterson and Eric Barnett lost in the bloodround. Ultimately, it was Patrick Glory of Princeton who claimed the throne, beating Ramos 4-1 in the Saturday night finale.

133 Pounds:

This weight was much chalkier, until Vito Arujau showed up and majored Daton Fix in the semifinals, then dominated RBY to win the finals 10-4. Arujau was the 57kg alternate for the Olympics last go-round, and looks to be even better now. His speed and athleticism baffled the cautious strategies of both Fix and Bravo-Young, making him the personal favorite champion of this humble writer. Aaron Nagao defeated Jesse Mendez 4-0 in the fifth place match, with the pair joining RBY as the only Big Ten all-Americans. Mendez won four in a row after his second-round loss, while Nagao was bumped in the quarterfinals by RBY. Lucas Byrd was the lone R12 loser from the Big Ten, failing to all-American after nearly taking out Fix.

141 Pounds:

This weight was filled with Big Ten guys, with Woods finishing runner-up to Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado, Bartlett defeating Lachlan McNeil for third, Hardy taking sixth, and FIlius getting seventh over D’Emilio. 3-seed Cole Matthews failed to all-American, losing consecutive matches to Bartlett and D’Emilio. There were no Big Ten losers in the bloodrounds, with the conference going 2-0. Even though he isn’t a Big Ten guy, I’d like to recognize McNeil, who took third at ACCs, won a Canadian freestyle national championship, and finished fourth at NCAAs in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Kudos, eh.

149 Pounds:

Yianni Diakomihalis took down his fourth national championship, becoming just the fifth wrestler to ever do so, and just a day after Spencer Lee reminded everyone just how hard that is. Credit to the Cornell senior, who defeated Sammy Sasso 4-2 for that honor. He also ran through Penn State’s Van Ness and Iowa’s Max Murin to get there. Van Ness would finish third, and Murin sixth. Michael Blockhus would also all-American in eighth. Graham Rooks, Chance Lamer, and Yahya Thomas would all lose in the bloodrounds.

157 Pounds:

The Big Ten would get their fifth consecutive finalist in Levi Haines, but it was Austin O’Connor who won the day with a 6-2 victory to claim his second national championship. Peyton Robb (6th) and Will Lewan (8th) would also all-American, while Chase Saldate fell in the bloodrounds.

165 Pounds:

After losing to him twice in the regular season, Keegan O’Toole would successfully defend his crown over David Carr in an 8-2 decision. Michigan State’s Caleb Fish notched the biggest upset of the first round, knocking off 4-seed Julian Ramirez, but he’d lose consecutive matches and fail to all-American. Only Cam Amine (4th) and Dean Hamiti (6th) all-Americaned from the Big Ten, with Carson Kharchla joining Fish as a bloodrounds victim.

174 Pounds:

Carter Starocci finished his title defense with a pinfall victory over Mikey Labriola, showing just how far ahead of the field he is at 174 pounds. The Penn State sophomore beat three Big Ten opponents in pursuit of his third national title. If he wins it again next year, we’ll get to talk about whether he should go for five. Can’t wait. Nelson Brands (6th) and Ethan Smith (7th) joined the finalists as all-Americans from the Big Ten, while Bailee O’Reilly and Edmond Ruth fell just one match short.

184 Pounds:

Aaron Brooks dominated from the three-seed, taking out four all-Americans en route to his third national title. Brooks has a remaining year of eligibility and could chase his fourth national title next year. Kaleb Romero took third place, but was the only other Big Ten wrestler to all-American after Finesilver and Salazar both lost in the bloodrounds.

197 Pounds:

Despite being billed as the least predictable weight, it was top-seeded Nino Bonaccorsi who won out at 197 pounds. He came from behind to defeat 7-seed Tanner Sloan. Five of the eight all-Americans were seeded inside the top-eight, which seems like a relatively normal number. Despite both of last year’s finalists being seeded outside the top eight, Max Dean and Jacob Warner repeated as all-Americans, finishing seventh and fifth respectively. They were the only Big Ten wrestlers to all-American, as Zac Braunagel, Silas Allred, and Jaxon Smith all lost in the bloodrounds.

285 Pounds:

Mason Parris looked dominant as he claimed his first national title over Greg Kerkvliet in a 5-1 decision. Parris had a tech fall and two majors in his championship run, winning his five matches by an average of 8.6 points. Cassioppi finished fourth, Davidson fifth, and Hillger eighth to finish strong for the Big Ten.

In total, the Big Ten finished with 33 of 80 all-Americans (41.25%), as well as 3 of 10 champions and 7 of 10 runners-up. Penn State had five finalists for the second straight year, but they took their first losses on Saturday night since 2019. Meanwhile, Iowa’s finalist streak was extended to year 32 with Real Woods’ appearance; however, the Hawkeyes haven’t had a champion since 2021 (and haven’t had multiples since 2011). Ohio State well-overperformed their ninth-place projection, as did Michigan from 12th. Nebraska slipped from theirs, though, going from 4th to 8th place.

I want to end this article, and indeed this season, with some personal news: after three fantastic years here, I am stepping away from Off Tackle Empire as a writer. From the wrestling coverage that my colleagues and I have been able to bring you, to Punting is Winning and the PISS metric, to most recently the SPORT game, I have loved my time here. I want to thank you for taking time to read my meandering thoughts, and I hope I have been able to improve your experience here ever-so-slightly. I also want to thank the folks who have put time in with me, including but not limited to our editor MNWildcat and my fellow wrestling writers He Was a High School Quarterback and Kind of… But Not Really. Covering 14 wrestling programs is no small task, and it would certainly be impossible with their help. It is also thanks to them that I know that our wrestling coverage will continue without me. This is also a great time to mention that if you are interested in adding in any capacity to our wrestling coverage, please make yourself known in the comments below.

I will still be around as a reader and commenter and supporter of this site for as long as it stands against the tides of the coastal elites and southern encroachers (and corporate money-crunchers), but for now, this is my goodbye as a minor writer of esoteric topics, even when viewed within the lens of a college sports blog. So long, and go Hawks.