Penn State Wrestling: 2023 NCAA preview and road map to another national title

Penn State Wrestling's Aaron Brooks (Image via the Des Moines Register)
Penn State Wrestling's Aaron Brooks (Image via the Des Moines Register) /
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Mar 5, 2023; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Penn State wrestler Roman Bravo-Young. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2023; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Penn State wrestler Roman Bravo-Young. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

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Roman Bravo-Young

1. Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) 16-0
2. Daton Fix (OKST) 26-0
3. Vito Arujau (COR) 20-1
4. Michael McGee (ASU) 20-10
5. Kai Orine (NCST) 15-5
6. Sam Latona (VT) 23-6
7. Michael Colaiocco (PENN) 23-5
8. Aaron Nagao (MINN) 18-4
9. Micky Phillippi (PITT) 13-3
10. Lucas Byrd (ILL) 28-4
11. Dylan Ragusin (MICH) 17-8
12. Chris Cannon (NW) 19-8
13. Jesse Mendez (OHST) 14-6
14. Zach Redding (ISU) 15-10
15. Kyle Biscoglia (UNI) 19-9
16. Joe Heilmann (RUT) 24-9

Opening Match: Winner of No. 32 McGwire Midkiff (NDSU) and No. 33 Ethan Oakley (APP)

I’m never going to assume anything when it comes to collegiate wrestling, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that RBY gets past his opening round match against either McGwire Midkiff or Ethan Oakley.

Key Match: Finals against either No. 3 Vito Arujau (COR) or No. 2 Daton Fix (OKST)

Let’s face it, Roman did not come back for his final season at Penn State to get knocked out early in the 2023 NCAA Championships. While RBY has been on cruise control for much of the season, he realizes that now is the time for the rubber to meet the road. And I don’t foresee him being really pushed until he meets either Vito Arujau or Daton Fix (for the third consecutive year) in the finals.

Beau Bartlett

1. Real Woods (IOWA) 16-0
2. Andrew Alirez (UNCO) 23-0
3. Cole Matthews (PITT) 19-1
4. Brock Hardy (NEB) 27-5
5. Ryan Jack (NCST) 20-3
6. Beau Bartlett (PSU) 21-2
7. Vince Cornella (COR) 19-4
8. Allan Hart (MIZZ) 15-5
9. Mosha Schwartz (OU) 21-4
10. Lachlan McNeil (UNC) 22-7
11. Clay Carlson (SDSU) 22-8
12. Parker Filius (PUR) 21-9
13. Carter Young (OKST) 15-12
14. Cael Happel (UNI) 16-6
15. Tom Crook (VT) 16-9
16. Josh Koderhandt (NAVY) 29-10

Opening Match: No. 27 Shannon Hanna (CAMP)

As with RBY, I don’t picture Bartlett having a difficult time in his opening match.

Key Match: Quarterfinals – possible matchup against No. 3 Cole Matthews (PITT)

Beau’s prize for being tabbed the No. 6 seed in this year’s 141 bracket is the fact both No. 2 Andrew Alirez and No. 3 Cole Matthews are on his half of the draw. If Bartlett can remain in the championship draw following his quarterfinals matchup then it would have to be a bit of an upset because Matthews is a tough, gritty, and experienced grappler.

But I will never count out any of the Nittany Lions.

Shayne Van Ness

1. Yianni Diakomihalis (COR) 16-1
2. Sammy Sasso (OHST) 25-2
3. Kyle Parco (ASU) 23-4
4. Caleb Henson (VT) 21-3
5. Paniro Johnson (ISU) 17-4
6. Brock Mauller (MIZZ) 16-2
7. Yahya Thomas (NW) 22-4
8. Max Murin (IOWA) 19-4
9. Jaden Abas (STAN) 19-5
10. Michael Blockhus (MINN) 17-5
11. Doug Zapf (PENN) 22-7
12. Shayne Van Ness (PSU) 19-6
13. Kellyn March (NDSU) 23-7
14. Austin Gomez (WIS) 10-4
15. Colin Realbuto (UNI) 19-6
16. Jackson Arrington (NCST) 20-7

Opening Match: No. 21 Ethan Miller (MD)

In their dual meet against Maryland in early February, Van Ness defeated Miller via a technical fall 19-4.

Key Match: 2nd Round – possible matchup against No. 5 Paniro Johnson (ISU)

In the 2022 National Collegiate Duals, Penn State took on the talented Iowa State Cyclones in the finals. And in that dual meet, Shayne Van Ness lost a nail-biting 3-2 decision to Johnson. Will Van Ness avenge the previous loss and make a deep run in the 149 bracket?

I really think there’s a good chance because if Shayne can get past Johnson, then most likely Max Murin would be his next opponent in the quarterfinals. And something tells me Murin won’t be a perfect 3-0 against Van Ness if they collide once again this year.

Levi Haines

1. Austin O`Connor (UNC) 18-0
2. Levi Haines (PSU) 20-1
3. Peyton Robb (NEB) 25-1
4. Jared Franek (NDSU) 22-1
5. Josh Humphreys (LEH) 16-0
6. Daniel Cardenas (STAN) 17-1
7. Bryce Andonian (VT) 8-2
8. Ed Scott (NCST) 18-7
9. Will Lewan (MICH) 21-6
10. Kaden Gfeller (OKST) 21-6
11. Chase Saldate (MSU) 25-6
12. Kendall Coleman (PUR) 27-6
13. Trevor Chumbley (NW) 24-7
14. Cobe Siebrecht (IOWA) 13-6
15. Jacob Wright (WYO) 18-5
16. Anthony Artalona (PENN) 26-6

Opening Match: No. 31 Ashton Eyler (LH)

Cael Sanderson’s newest young gun in the lineup was rewarded with a somewhat surprising No. 2 seed in this years NCAA’s. And yes, Haines’ 20-1 record was impressive and it was amazing to watch him plow through the competition and win his first Big Ten title after defeating Peyton Robb in the final.

But when it comes to the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the margins get thin and the competition is difficult in virtually every single round.

Key Match: All of them

Which is exactly why every single match for Haines will be key. As I have stated many times before, wrestling is not an easy sport. It’s just a referee, a 32′ wrestling area, you, another guy the same size as you who wants to crush you, and seven minutes. That’s it.

Levi Haines has handled himself incredibly well on the mat for his first year in college, and he will need to continue to stay focued in every match if he wants to make a deep run in the 157 bracket.

Alex Facundo

1. David Carr (ISU) 22-0
2. Keegan O`Toole (MIZZ) 15-2
3. Dean Hamiti (WIS) 21-3
4. Julian Ramirez (COR) 23-3
5. Quincy Monday (PRIN) 22-2
6. Patrick Kennedy (IOWA) 19-3
7. Michael Caliendo III (NDSU) 23-3
8. Matthew Olguin (ORST) 23-6
9. Shane Griffith (STAN) 20-3
10. Carson Kharchla (OHST) 13-4
11. Cameron Amine (MICH) 12-3
12. Izzak Olejnik (NIU) 27-2
13. Alex Facundo (PSU) 18-4
14. Peyton Hall (WVU) 23-4
15. Justin McCoy (UVA) 19-4
16. Joshua Ogunsanya (COL) 20-6

Opening Match: No. 20 Holden Heller (PITT)

Things are never easy anytime you are a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Championships. And Alex will be pushed from the opening round with Hofstra transfer Holden Heller.

Heller has 97 total collegiate matches under his belt and he has already taken down several ranked grapplers (No. 15 Justin McCoy and No. 16 Joshua Ogunsanya) on the season.

Key Match: 2nd round – possible matchup against No. 4 Julian Ramirez (COR)

And if Facundo gets past Heller in his opening round match then Julian Ramirez will most likely be his next opponent. But based on Facundo’s style when facing top ranked wrestlers, the end result could go either way.

When Alex faced No. 1 David Carr earlier in the season, he fought hard but ultimately lost the 4-2 decision. Same goes for when Facundo dropped a heart breaker to No. 6 Patrick Kennedy 2-1 in TB-1. So, he can clearly hang with the best, it will just likely come down to whether or not he can get a late third period takedown when he needs one.