I know it was hard for Penn State fans to watch Roman Bravo-Young drop his final collegiate wrestling match. But let’s face it, RBY and Daton Fix were the clear kings of the 133 weight class for the better part of the past two and a half years. And Vito Arujua completely dismantled both of them to the tune of a combined score of 21-7.
Bravo-Young finished with a career record of 101-10, was a four time All-American, a three time Big Ten Champion, and a two time NCAA Champion. He’s an all time Nittany Lion great and he is the best Penn Stater to ever don a singlet at 133 pounds.
Only Roman Bravo-Young knows what the future holds, but I’m guessing no matter what it is, he’s going to be really good at it.
Beau Bartlett was finally unleashed at his perfect weight class and all he did was go 27-3 on the year, finish as an All-American, and have a top three podium finish.
Bartlett took a massive step forward this year and his finish in the 2023 NCAA’s, where he dismantled Clay Carlson and Lachlan McNeil in the wrestlebacks, was just a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
Shayne Van Ness
Speaking of “just a glimpse”, the same can be said for Van Ness’ abilities as well.
He was completely on the ropes in his opening match and it looked like his first run in the NCAA’s would be over quickly. But Shayne stayed focused and pulled off the incredible third period fall. Van Ness then proceeded to get down in his next two matches, only to come back and win each time.
His first outright lead of the entire tournament was when he escaped from the bottom position in the second period against the eventual champion, Yianni Diakomihalis. Van Ness then took the lead in the third period by snagging a takedown and the 3-2 advantage.
Ultimately Shayne lost the semifinals match but obviously something clicked with him in the 2023 NCAA Championships because he proceeded to breeze by both Caleb Henson and Kyle Parco to claim third place. All-American, podium finish, rinse and repeat.
I have no idea what else I can say about Levi Haines’ 2023 NCAA Championships. As a true freshman Haines finished the year 27-2, won a Big Ten Title, bulldozed his way to the finals at 157, and went toe-to-toe with the eventual winner, Austin O’Connor. Who is a sixth year senior.
And Haines had one of the must-see moments of the 2023 NCAA’s when he did this to Virginia Tech’s Bryce Andonian in the quarterfinals.
It’s safe to say the future looks incredibly bright for Levi Haines.
Facundo didn’t look quite right in the 2023 Big Ten Championships. And his seventh place finish there was foreshadowing for how his 2023 NCAA’s would go.
After dropping a gut punch decision loss in the opening round to Holden Heller, Facundo then had to face the overall No. 4 seed at 165 as Julian Ramirez also lost his first match.
And this match went exactly how I feared it would. Which was Facundo getting boat-raced on the losing end of a 12-2 major decision. Alex Facundo’s 2023 NCAA Championships ended before they could even begin.
Carter Starocci capped off his dominant run and his third straight NCAA Title with a pin of Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola in the first period.
His electric ending was one of the lone bright spots on Saturday night as I felt the finals had a weird feeling to them with blowout losses and sometimes slightly boring matches.
Aaron Brooks completed the same trifecta as he powered past UNI’s Parker Keckeisen to snag down his third straight NCAA Title.
Brooks has now won a title as the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 seed. So clearly the NCAA selection committee’s complete disrespect has no impact on him and his results. They simply speak for themselves.
This was clearly not how Max Dean wanted to end his college wrestling career. But if you watched his post-NCAA interview, then I don’t know how you couldn’t come away from that with more admiration and more respect for the man than what you had before.
Dean laid it all out on the mats last weekend and he laid it all out in that interview. The emotions of his finish and realizing it was his last ride in college were clearly overwhelming. And in the end Max Dean took to the mat each and every time, he gave his all out effort, and after his finish he thanked the entire Penn State Wrestling community for their support and the coaching staff for everything they did for him.
Max Dean finished his college career with a 139-24 record, he was a four time All-American, a national champion in 2022, and he’s a damn good man who should be a role model for everyone.
Greg Kerkvliet only had a single weakness this year. Unfortunately for him it was a fellow grappler who just happened to be in his weight class.
Kerk plowed his way through the field at 285 and everyone knew exactly who would be standing in his way of his first NCAA Title, Michigan’s Mason Parris. And Kerkvliet had some chances to take Parris down but they slipped through his grasp and Parris took home his first title.
Greg finished the year 19-3 (all three losses were to Parris), is now a three time All-American, and had his first ever podium finish. If the past is any insight to what will happen next year, Greg Kerkvliet will be back and he’ll be better than ever.