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2023 Big Ten Wrestling Championships Recap

Penn State ends up on top, but not without tough challenges from Iowa and Nebraska

NCAA Wrestling: Big Ten Championship Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Another one in the books. To little surprise, Penn State came out on top, but Iowa kept things fairly competitive, and several teams had what I would consider to be good tournaments compared to expectations. In fact, I would say Penn State had a slightly worse tournament than I expected, despite four champions and two runners-up. Nebraska did well to get five into the finals, and they did get one champion, though not the one everyone expected. Minnesota got two into the finals and finished sixth overall, where they were projected to get eighth. A couple teams did poorly on the front side (Illinois) but battled hard to get back to about their projected finish. Purdue went 0fer in the dual season but finished ninth in Ann Arbor, which is an impressive turnaround for the young Boilermakers. Let’s get into the results!

125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) def Liam Cronin (Nebraska), 8-2

133: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) def Aaron Nagao (Minnesota), 5-2

141: Real Woods (Iowa) def Brock Hardy (Nebraska), 2-1

149: Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) def Michael Blockhus (Minnesota), 7-5 (SV)

157: Levi Haines (Penn State) def Peyton Robb (Nebraska), 3-1 (SV)

165: Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin) def Patrick Kennedy (Iowa), 9-6

174: Carter Starocci (Penn State) def Mikey Labriola (Nebraska), 6-1

184: Aaron Brooks (Penn State) maj dec Kaleb Romero (Ohio State), 12-2

197: Silas Allred (Nebraska) dec Max Dean (Penn State), 6-3

285: Mason Parris (Michigan) dec Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State), 5-3 (SV)

125 Pounds:

It was no surprise to see Spencer Lee atop the podium Sunday night, after the senior teched Jack Medley and Pat McKee to advance to the finals, where he grinded out an 8-2 decision over Liam Cronin. Elsewhere, Michael DeAugustino had a good tourney, making the semifinals as the six seed and defeating Eric Barnett to make it to the third-place match, where he medically forfeited. Barnett and McKee traded victories, with McKee winning a back-and-forth match by pinfall in the quarterfinals and Barnett dominating a 7-3 decision for fifth-place. Matt Ramos won three backside matches before being awarded third-place by forfeit. With eight allocations to NCAAs, all eight place-winners qualified. Braxton Brown was awarded an at-large bid yesterday as the Big Ten’s ninth representative at the weight.

1. Spencer Lee (IA), 2. Liam Cronin (NE), 3. Matt Ramos (PU), 4. Michael DeAugustino (NU), 5. Eric Barnett (UW), 6. Pat McKee (MN), 7. Dean Peterson (RU), 8. Jack Medley (MI), at-large Braxton Brown (MD)

133 Pounds:

Obviously Roman Bravo-Young won this weight, earning a major and two spacious decisions in his championship run. But the biggest surprise of this weight was six-seed Aaron Nagao of Minnesota getting through Lucas Byrd and Jesse Mendez to make the finals, where he actually gave RBY a tough match. Byrd would wrestle back from his quarterfinals loss to win four straight and claim third place. Mendez, meanwhile, would end his tournament with three straight losses, finishing sixth. Another nine allocations means that Taylor LaMont punched his ticket in the extra bracket

1. Roman Bravo-Young (PSU), 2. Aaron Nagao (MN), 3. Lucas Byrd (ILL), 4. Chris Cannon (NU), 5. Dylan Ragusin (MI), 6. Jesse Mendez (OSU), 7. Brody Teske (IA), 8. Joe Heilmann (RU), 9. Taylor LaMont (UW)

141 Pounds:

Real Woods had to fight a full seven minutes to hold off Brock Hardy, but ultimately the Hawkeye won his third conference championship and his first in the Big Ten. The weight was fairly chalky, with the top four seeds making it to the semifinals and the top three seeds finishing 1-3-2, but we got some excitement on the backside thanks to Frankie Tal-Shahar, who lost to eight-seed Dylan D’Emilio in the consolation semifinals and nine-seed Parker Filius in the fifth-place match. Two double-digit seeds punched tickets to NCAAs, with 11-seed Joey Zargo finishing seventh and 14-seed Kal Miller finishing ninth. That left Danny Pucino (6) and Joey Olivieri (7) on the outside looking in. Tenth-seeded Cole Mattin was also awarded an at-large bid.

1. Real Woods (IA), 2. Brock Hardy (NE), 3. Beau Bartlett (PSU), 4. Dylan D’Emilio (OSU), 5. Parker Filius (PU), 6. Frankie Tal-Shahar (NU), 7. Joey Zargo (UW), 8. Jake Bergeland (MN), 9. Kal Miller (MD), at-large Cole Mattin (MI)

149 Pounds:

Despite the champion being Sammy Sasso, this was a pretty fun weight. Michael Blockhus made the finals as a six seed after beating Yahya Thomas in sudden victory and then Graham Rooks in the semifinals, who himself knocked off two-seed Austin Gomez (whose performance made it clear that he is not 100%). Max Murin beat Shayne Van Ness twice, first in the quarterfinals and then again in the third-place match, to improve to 3-0 against the Penn State freshman on the year. Yahya Thomas finished sixth after injury defaulting from his consolation semifinal match with Murin because of concussion concerns, and then MFF’ing the fifth-place bout. It was Rooks who got the honors there, while Lamer and Miller shared seventh after a double forfeit. Fortunately there were nine spots allocated, because I don’t really know the rules on double forfeits. Ninth place went to Tony White of Rutgers.

1. Sammy Sasso (OSU), 2. Michael Blockhus (MN), 3. Max Murin (IA), 4. Shayne Van Ness (PSU), 5. Graham Rooks (IU), 6. Yahya Thomas (NU), 7. Chance Lamer (MI), 7. Ethen Miller (MD), 9. Tony White (RU), at-large Austin Gomez (WI)

157 Pounds:

Levi Haines was one of two non-one seeds to win a weight, which, when you say it outloud, is pretty shocking. Especially since he and the other, Silas Allred, were both 2s. So yeah, Haines beat Peyton Robb 3-1 in sudden victory to claim the crown and shake up the national rankings right before NCAAs. The front side of the weight was nearly all chalk, but third-place was six-seed Will Lewan defeating eight-seed Trevor Chumbley. Saldate got fifth over Coleman, and Siebrecht over Derek Gilcher. With ten AQs, Andrew Clark and Garrett Model also earned tickets to Oklahoma, which sounds like the worst Wheel of Fortune prize ever. “You’ve won two tickets to an all-expense paid trip to desolate Oklahoma! You’ll be staying at a Motel 6 in the Tulsa industrial district, and included are tickets to the Tulsa Union Depot Museum and a free oil change!”

1. Levi Haines (PSU), 2. Peyton Robb (NE), 3. Will Lewan (MI), 4. Trevor Chumbley (NU), 5. Chase Saldate (MSU), 6. Kendall Coleman (PU), 7. Cobe Siebrecht (IA), 8. Derek Gilcher (IU), 9. Andrew Clark (RU), 10. Garrett Model (WI), at-large Paddy Gallagher (OSU)

165 Pounds:

Ah man, we were so close to Patrick Kennedy, Big Ten Champion. I’ll be honest though, Patrick Kennedy, Big Ten Finalist still sounds alright. Of course, all credit goes to the actual Big Ten champion, Dean Hamiti. Hamiti got through Kennedy 9-6 in the final, and majored Andrew Sparks and Carson Kharchla on his way there. Kharchla, for his part, finished third, passing Cam Amine by medical forfeit. Maxx Mayfield beat Bubba Wilson for fifth place, and Alex Facundo had a disappointing seventh-place finish over Danny Braunagel.

1. Dean Hamiti (WI), 2. Patrick Kennedy (IA), 3. Carson Kharchla (OSU), 4. Cam Amine (MI), 5. Maxx Mayfield (NU), 6. Bubba Wilson (NE), 7. Alex Facundo (PSU), 8. Danny Braunagel (ILL), at-large Andrew Sparks (MN), at-large Caleb Fish (MSU)

174 Pounds:

Yeah, Carter Starocci rolled. Only one bonus point though. That’s kind of odd. Still crushed Mikey Labriola 6-1 though, which is plenty dominant. Labriola beat Ethan Smith 4-3 in the semis, who beat 4-seed Bailee O’Reilly for third place. Nelson Brands lost to O’Reilly in sudden victory, but beat Edmond Ruth 5-1 for fifth place (avenging a regular season loss). Jackson Turley beat DJ Washington for seventh place, earning the final auto-qualifier bid at the Big Ten’s thinnest weight (both DJ Washington and Northwestern’s Troy Fisher would earn at-large bids). Pretty chalky.

1. Carter Starocci (PSU), 2. Mikey Labriola (NE), 3. Ethan Smith (OSU), 4. Bailee O’Reilly (MN), 5. Nelson Brands (IA), 6. Edmond Ruth (ILL), 7. Jackson Turley (RU), at-large DJ Washington (IU), at-large Troy Fisher (NU)

184 Pounds:

I don’t know why I keep expecting something interesting to happen here. Aaron Brooks owns this weight, and showed it with maybe the most dominant performance of the tournament. The 2-time national champion bonused his way through the tournament, finishing with a 12-2 major decision over Kaleb Romero. Romero surrendered a takedown in each frame and four stall calls, nearly being disqualified for inaction. The front side of this bracket was all chalk, and the top eight seeds all finished in the top eight as well. Brian Soldano pinning Abe Assad was probably the biggest upset of the weight, and came just one match removed from Assad being pinned by Mitch Finesilver in the quarterfinals. Nine seed Dylan Connell finished ninth to grab the final autobid, and unsurprisingly there were no at-larges for the conference.

1. Aaron Brooks (PSU), 2. Kaleb Romero (OSU), 3. Mitch Finesilver (MI), 4. Isaiah Salazar (MN), 5. Lenny Pinto (NE), 6. Brian Soldano (RU), 7. Abe Assad (IA), 8. Layne Malczewski (MSU), 9. Dylan Connell (ILL)

197 Pounds:

Boy did we get a surprise here! Sure, Max Dean dropped a couple of matches early in the year, but he was undefeated and fairly dominant in Big Ten play and looked like his best self going into March. Silas Allred came out of nowhere (Nebraska) (he’s actually from Indiana, so double-burn) to put a stop to that hype train. Allred won 6-3, scoring a takedown in each frame on a guy who does not give up many takedowns. Elsewhere, Jaxon Smith had back-to-back sudden victory wins (and four 3-1 wins in a row) in his long march to third place. Smith lost in sudden victory to Zac Braunagel in the quarterfinals, but got him back for the medal. Little Maryland shoutout, Smith is their highest Big Ten finisher since 2019, and their five national qualifiers in their most since 2014. Jacob Warner took fifth by medical forfeit from Cam Caffey, who injury-defaulted his consolation semifinal match. Braxton Amos defeated Michial Foy for eight, and Andrew Davison took ninth place to punch his ticket. Gavin Hoffman received an at-large bid.

1. Silas Allred (NE), 2. Max Dean (PSU), 3. Jaxon Smith (MD), 4. Zac Braunagel (ILL), 5. Jacob Warner (IA), 6. Cam Caffey (MSU), 7. Braxton Amos (WI), 8. Michial Foy (MN), 9. Andrew Davison (NU), at-large Gavin Hoffman (OSU)

285 Pounds:

Mason Parris repeated his dual victory over Kerkvliet in sudden victory to take the Big Ten crown, while Cassioppi got through Davison and… Tate Orndorff? to take third. Orndorff had probably his best weekend since he All-American’ed at Utah Valley with a fourth-place finish, beating national qualifiers Jaron Smith, Boone McDermott, and Trent Hillger on his way. Davison took fifth over Hillger by medical forfeit, and it was Hayden Copass taking seventh over McDermott (who did not wrestle after injury-defaulting against Orndorff). Jacob Bullock took the ninth and final auto-bid, while Garrett Joles and Jaron Smith got at-large spots.

1. Mason Parris (MI), 2. Greg Kerkvliet (PSU), 3. Tony Cassioppi (IA), 4. Tate Orndorff (OSU), 5. Lucas Davison (NU), 6. Trent Hillger (WI), 7. Hayden Copass (PU), 8. Boone McDermott (RU), 9. Jacob Bullock (IU), at-large Garrett Joles (MN), at-lage Jaron Smith (MD)

I think the folks probably most happy about their team’s showing are Nebraska, Purdue, and Maryland fans. And Penn State fans who can just take the win. I don’t think anyone’s teeth-gnashingly mad, but certainly Ohio State and Illinois fans (among others) are going to expect a stronger showing at NCAAs. Are you pleased with how your guys wrestled? Comment below. As an Iowa fan, I’m pretty okay. Ten national qualifiers (all auto-bids), and all ten placed seventh or higher. That means every guy that starts for Iowa is in the top half of the toughest conference in the country. That’s cool.