PSU's Starocci sails to set up wrestling showdown with Hokies' Lewis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Carter Starocci thought it was a little strange that the selection committee gave him the No. 9 seed for the NCAA wrestling championships.

Most people did the same. After all, the Penn State 174-pound star has won three straight national championships.

Now, after advancing to the quarterfinals Thursday night with a 5-2 win over Rutgers' Jackson Turley, that seeding has become a very important matter: Starocci will face top seed Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech , the four-time ACC champion and a former 165-pound national champion, much sooner than he could have done Friday at the T-Mobile Center.

“I think it's more fun this way. And I guess the committee… as far as that goes, I honestly couldn't care less,” said Starocci, whose position was eliminated due to a knee injury suffered in the championship. of the Nittany Lions. final dual meet, resulting in a default injury at the Big Ten championships. “I think they put it a little weird, but again, it doesn't really matter.”

Whoever advances to the semifinals with 174 will not have finished. San Diego State's second-seeded Cade DeVos and third-seeded Illinois' Ed Ruth also advanced to the quarterfinal round, and those two could also be on a collision course Friday night.

Two-time defending team champion Penn State once again looked dominant with eight of its wrestlers still alive for a national title. He had 34.5 points, while Iowa and Iowa State were tied for second place with 24.5 points.

The Nittany Lions' Braeden Davis, the top seed at 125, needed to earn a 2-1 decision over Cornell's Brett Ungar in a weight class where No. 2 seed Luke Stanich of Lehigh was eliminated from the championship bracket by No. 15th seed Caleb Smith in a sudden victory.

Second-seeded Beau Bartlett pinned Rutgers' Mitch Moore to advance to the Penn State quarterfinals in the 141-pound clean class. No. 1 seed Jesse Mendez of Ohio State advanced in the fall along with third-seeded Real Woods of Iowa, the NCAA runner-up a year ago.

Others advancing for Penn State were top seed Levi Haines at 157 pounds, second seed Mitchell Mesenbrink at 165, sixth seed Bernie Truax at 184, three-time champion and No. 1 seed Aaron Brooks at 197 and undefeated top seed Greg. Kerkvliet weighs 285 pounds.

Brooks, who has lost just three times in his five-year NCAA career, appears destined to face Trent Hidlay in the finals after standout second-seeded North Carolina State advanced to the quarterfinals with a pair of technical drops on Thursday. Brooks has defeated the four-time ACC champion all three times they have met in a rivalry that dates back to their high school years.

Missouri's Keegan O'Toole, Missouri's two-time defending 165-pound champion, won both of his fall matches Thursday before what amounted to a home crowd in Kansas City. But O'Toole's path to another title is brutal: He faces Nebraska's Antrell Taylor on Friday before a potential semifinal matchup with Iowa State's David Carr, whom he beat for the championship last year.

If O'Toole can make the finals, Messenbrink or third seed Julian Ramirez of Cornell could be there waiting for him.

“Any time you have someone that good in your weight class, they're going to push you to improve in the areas that you're weak in,” O'Toole said. “This weight class has a lot of good fighters. It wasn't just (Carr) who pushed me this year. I've had a lot of battles, a lot of wars.”

Oklahoma State's Daton Fix remains on track at 133 pounds to win the championship that has eluded him for so long.

The three-time finalist and two-time runner-up, not to mention a record five-time Big 12 champion, won his first match by technical fall on Thursday before needing an escape in the third period to make it 5-4. victory over Ohio State's Nic Bouzakis.

Sixth-seeded Cornell's Vito Arujau, who beat Fix on his way to the title last year, outscored his first two opponents 28-5 to advance to the quarterfinals. The world freestyle champion has a tough road back to the championship with North Carolina State third seed Kai Orine awaiting Friday ahead of a potential semifinal showdown with undefeated Lehigh star Ryan Crookham.

At 285 pounds, a pair of unbeatens were still on track to meet in the finals.

Kerkvliet outscored his first two opponents 28-4 to advance for Penn State, and Iowa State's Yonger Bastida needed just 1:50 to win his first match before dispatching Cornell's Lewis Fernandez via technical fall to advance to the quarterfinals. .

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