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Iowa’s Jacob Warner takes silver after eye-opening run to NCAA wrestling finals
Penn State’s Max Dean wins 3-2, 1 of 5 Nittany Lions to claim titles
DETROIT — Jacob Warner proved something to himself.
He possesses the mettle for a gold medal, even if he had to settle for silver.
Warner’s strong tournament run ended with a runner-up finish at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday night in front of 18,164 at Little Caesars Arena. He was the highest finisher for the Hawkeyes, who had five All-Americans and ended up third with 74 points.
Penn State’s top-seeded Max Dean scored all of his points in the third, getting a takedown with 34 seconds left, and edged Warner, 3-2, in the 197-pound final.
“I have what it takes,” Warner said. “That’s what this weekend proved to me, that I know I can be on the top of that podium.”
The duo measured each other up through the scoreless first period. Warner got on the board first with an escape in the second for a 1-0 advantage to begin the third. Dean escaped to tie the match.
In the final minute, Warner seemed to force a shot that Dean countered with a go-behind and the decisive score.
“I’ve got to follow through,” Warner said. “I’ve got to face him. I’ve got to turn.
“I still thought I was going to win that match. I went down and I thought I was going to get an escape to a takedown. I thought I was going to go score to score. That’s the mindset I need to have. Didn’t happen but I didn’t falter.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands wasn’t ready to break down Warner’s performance.
“We did a god job getting there,” Brands said. “I’m jealous of five titles by the championship team,” Brands said. “That’s where my mind is.
“I’m hurting with Warner. I’m not going to assess that match.”
Warner entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed and nearly swept the weight’s top three seeds. He defeated Nebraska’s No. 3 Eric Schultz, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. Warner reached Saturday night with a 6-4 decision over Wyoming’s No. 2 Stephen Buchanan.
“I won a lot of hard matches this weekend,” Warner said. “I just didn’t win the last one.”
This weekend can be a springboard into his final season. The senior has confirmed he plans to return for one more year. Second place provides fuel to his training fire.
“I want to be on the top of that stand bad,” Warner said. “I’ve gone up on the podium every year — seventh, fourth, second. There’s only one spot left.”
Warner was joined on the podium by Iowa seniors Austin DeSanto, Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer and sophomore heavyweight Tony Cassioppi. DeSanto was third at 133, while Kemerer and Marinelli were fourth and fifth at 174 and 165, respectively. Cassioppi placed eighth.
Iowa grabbed its 13th team trophy in the last 14 tournaments.
“That’s not what we want,” Cassioppi said. “I know every single one of the guys are going to want more.”
» Read more: Iowa wrestling senior All-Americans reflect on Hawkeye careers after 3rd-place NCAA finish
The finals were dominated by repeat champions. Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis led the way, capturing his third NCAA crown with an 11-5 decision over Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett in the 149 final.
Heavyweight Gable Steveson concluded his career early, winning his second heavyweight title. He defeated Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz, 6-2, in the final. Steveson left his shoes in the middle of the mat — signifying a wrestler’s last match. The Olympic gold medalist will pursue a professional wrestling entertainment career with WWE.
Penn State’s quartet of Roman Bravo-Young (133), 141-pounder Nick Lee, Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks at 184 won their second straight titles. In an overtime thriller and battle between national champions, Starocci topped Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis, 5-5, on criteria with a 16-second advantage of riding time in tiebreaker-1.
The Nittany Lions crowned five champions, tying the mark shared by their 2017 team, Iowa in 1986 and 1997 and Oklahoma State in 2005. Penn State amassed 131 1/2 points, beating runner-up Michigan by 36 1/2.
Michigan’s Nick Suriano won his second national title with different schools. Suriano, who won the 133-pound championship for Rutgers in 2019, took the title at 125 this year. He defeated Princeton’s Pat Glory, 5-3.
Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin (157) and Missouri freshman Keegan O’Toole (165) also claimed championships.