Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis wins 4th NCAA wrestling title

Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis wins 4th NCAA wrestling title

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  • March 19, 2023
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TULSA, Okla. — 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 at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships on Saturday, in the presence of former President Donald Trump at the evening session.

Trump shook hands and took selfies with fans and greeted several of the national champions. He sat with staff and US Senator Markwayne Mullin. The crowd stood as he walked into the arena before the night session with Mullin and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began.

Diakomihalis capped the evening with a 4-2 win in the 149-pound final against Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso. He joined Kyle Dake, Pat Smith, Logan Stieber and Penn State coach Cael Sanderson as the only four-time all-time champion in Division I.

“All these guys are great because they are different,” Diakomihalis said. “And, you know, my style is different. I might take parts from each guy, but when you see the end product it has its own shape.”

Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis joined Kyle Dake, Pat Smith, Logan Stieber and Cael Sanderson as the only four-time champion in Division I. Brett Rojo – USA TODAY Sports

Diakomihalis, 23, won national titles in 2018 and 2019. He spent an Olympic redshirt year trying to get to Team USA in 2019-20 and then was unable to wrestle in college in the 2020-21 season because the Ivy League canceled winter sports during the COVID-19 Pandemic. He returned to win in 2022 and 2023 and now has bigger goals in mind with the 2024 Olympics.

“What I did this weekend is far from the best version of myself,” he said. “And it’s far, far, far from what it takes for me to be an Olympic champion, a world champion.”

Penn State ran away with the team title and won mathematically before the evening session began. The Nittany Lions finished with 137.5 points. Iowa was second with 82.5 points and Cornell was third with 76.5 points.

Two Penn State wrestlers won titles for the third straight year – Penn State’s Carter Starocci with 174 and Aaron Brooks with 184.

Starocci pinned Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola early in the second period. He had defeated Labriola in the Big Ten Finals, giving him his only two losses of the season. Brooks, No. 3 with 184, defeated Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa 7-2.

Things didn’t go as planned for Penn State. Third-seeded Cornell’s Vito Arujau defeated Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young — a two-time defending champion and undefeated No. 1 seed — 10-4 for the title at 133. Bravo-Young had the nation’s longest winning streak at 56 games.

“The team had a great weekend,” said Sanderson. “A lot of courage, great achievements. It is both an individual sport and a team sport. So as a coach, you’re always – your heart and mind are with the guys who don’t quite achieve their goals. But we have a lot to be happy about and proud of.”

Iowa’s Spencer Lee was in contention for his fourth title before losing to Purdue’s Matt Ramos in Friday night’s semifinals by 125. Lee was medically retired on Saturday and officially finished sixth.

Ramos continued his amazing upset by taking on Princeton’s Pat Glory, the undefeated No. 2 who was second in class last year. Glory won 3-1 to secure Princeton’s first national title since 1951.

Glory expected a fight from Ramos.

“Not everyone goes out and knocks Spencer Lee out like that,” Glory said. “It takes Cojones and I knew he would have the same mentality when he got into the match. I knew it was going to be a dogfight. And I knew it was going to be an opportunity, and I had to capitalize on it, and I knew I was going to be ready when the time came.”

In other finals, Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado with 141 points defeated Real Woods of Iowa 6-4 in an undefeated duel. There was a long delay in sorting out a number of moves in the second period, and Northern Colorado’s challenge paid off. It gave Alirez four points instead of two for a near fall and extended his lead to 6-2. He took 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 freshman Levi Haines. O’Connor, who won in 2021 with 149, is now a five-time All-American. O’Connor got on the board with a run early in the third and then scored two takedowns to take command.

At 165, Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole repeated by beating Iowa State’s David Carr 8-2. Second-placed O’Toole avenged two losses to Carr this season by dominating the third third and pulling away. Carr, the 2021 champ at 157, was undefeated and No. 1 this season.

At 197, Pitts No. 1 seed Nino Bonaccorsi ended an unbeaten season by beating South Dakota’s Tanner Sloan 5-3. Sloan, the No. 7 seed, took a 2-0 lead on a first-half takedown. Bonaccorsi went 4-3 up in the last minute to take the lead for good. Bonaccorsi lost to Oklahoma State’s AJ Ferrari in the 2021 final of 197.

And at 285, Michigan’s Mason Parris ended an unbeaten season with a 5-1 win over Penn State’s No. 3 seed Greg Kerkvliet. Parris and Kerkvliet had previously split six collegiate matchups. Parris lost to Minnesota’s Gable Steveson in the 2021 finals.

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