116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / Iowa Hawkeyes / Hawkeye Wrestling
NCAA wrestling finals: Runner-up finishes for Woods, Carr, Keckeisen and Sloan
Iowa finishes second in team race
TULSA, Okla. — Iowa State’s David Carr faced a gauntlet in a stacked weight class.
The 2021 national champion moved up a weight and found himself as the top seed in a loaded 165-pound bracket. In his attempt to reclaim a title, his last three tests were against a national finalist and two national champions, including a third meeting with Missouri’s reigning champion Keegan O’Toole.
Carr managed to reach the finals but the third time was the charm for O’Toole, who posted an 8-2 decision for the 165 title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday night in front of 16,855 fans at the BOK Center.
Carr earned his third All-America honor, adding the runner-up finish to a third-place last season and the 2021 title.
“I just learned to trust in God,” Carr said about moving up to the deep weight after the semifinals. “Wrestling isn't everything about me. It's not who I am. It's just something that I do. My faith and who I am, my character is who I am. Whether I'm talking to a janitor or an opponent, I want to show them love, no matter who I am talking to, because my character is more important than winning championships.”
O’Toole lost to Carr in a dual to close the regular season and Carr won by fall in sudden victory in the Big 12 Championships. This time, O’Toole dictated the action, getting the opening takedown on a re-attack in the first. They exchanged escapes when O’Toole’s flexibility came into play, countering a Carr shot and turning it into a turn of his own. O’Toole iced it with two nearfall and added a riding-time point.
While Carr made a return trip to the finals, Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen and South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan made their first. Just by reaching Saturday night, Keckeisen already improved his previous third-place finishes.
UNI’s 10th three-time D-I All-American faced a familiar foe in Penn State’s three-time NCAA champion Aaron Brooks, who beat Keckeisen in the NWCA All-Star meet in November and in the 2021 national semifinals.
Brooks led throughout, scoring takedowns in each of the first two periods and added points from an escape, penalty point for three Keckeisen cautions and riding time for a 7-2 decision.
Keckeisen is UNI’s first finalist since Drew Foster won the 184 title in 2018.
UNI Coach Doug Schwab said Keckeisen has set the bar incredibly high.
“He’s like, ‘I know what I’m doing Monday. I‘m going to go back to work and get better,’” Schwab said of Keckeisen. “He loves the process and loves the sport. Even when it tears your heart out, it’s still something that you’re grateful for. Yeah, you hurt for him but you know he put all his effort in it and you’re incredibly proud of it.”
Keckeisen said his effort was better than the meeting in the semifinals his freshman year but has learned from it, like he will from the finals loss.
“I went out there and tried my best,” Keckeisen said. “Sometimes the worst answer is more time and I’m not afraid to put time in. I’m going to go get better.”
Sloan became the first Jackrabbit finalist since Seth Gross reached back-to-back finals in 2017 and 2018, winning in his second appearance. Sloan made his fourth NCAA appearance and first trip to the podium. He envisioned wrestling on Friday and Saturday nights with a title on the line.
“This whole season I knew I could be a top-eight guy,” Sloan said. “I know I could make the national finals. Be a national champ, so it’s just believing and tunnel vision of where I can stand at the end of the year.”
Sloan snagged the opening takedown and led 2-0 after one. He extended his lead with an escape in the second. Bonaccorsi, a 2021 runner-up, rebounded by scoring the last five points with takedowns in each of the last two periods for a 5-3 decision.
Sloan has had a banner year, though. He finished 27-3 and was the lowest seed in the championship matches. He was second at the 2022 U23 World Championships before the season and that helped him to a top-two finish here.
“Winning a silver medal in Spain, this close to the gold, hurt a little bit but it motivated me for the collegiate season for March,” Sloan said.
Real Woods and Hawkeyes take second
The pair were joined in the finals by Iowa’s Real Woods, who lost 6-4 to Northern Northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez at 141 pounds. Woods was one of six All-Americans for the Hawkeyes, who placed second with 82 1/2 points.
Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi led the way with a fourth-place finish, while Nelson Brands and Jacob Warner earned fifth. Seniors Max Murin and Spencer Lee were sixth.
Warner concluded a strong career as a five-time All-American highlighted by last year’s NCAA finals appearance. He maneuvered his way through elimination matches, winning five of six consolation bouts. Warner capped his Hawkeye performance with a 7-3 victory over Rider’s No. 4 Ethan Laird.
“It feels like I went out on a good note,” Warner said. “Wrestled really a great match. Got taken down right off the bat and fought back and had a pretty dominant win in my eyes.
“I’m happy I could go out with a win for my team.”
Warner entered the tournament as the No. 14 seed and went 6-2 in the tournament with his only losses coming to Missouri’s No. 3 seed Rocky Elam, who was third. Warner finished with 97 career wins, placing seventh and fourth in his first two national tournaments.
“I went through a lot this year. Had a lot of deep talks within myself and my coaches,” Warner said. “I came here to win a national title. I fully believed I could have won a national title. It just didn’t happen. I think I’ve been a contender every single year and when you don’t win a national title that’s all you can ask for.”
Murin reached the round before placing in his three previous appearances but couldn’t get on the awards stand. He cleared that hurdle Friday with a win over Michigan’s Chance Lamer.
“I got the job done,” Murin said. “Just kept moving forward.”
Murin has been a hard-nosed competitor and a constant in the Hawkeyes lineup. He was mentally exhausted and broke down after last season, wanting to call it a career. Teammates and coaches swooped in and encouraged him to come back. He ended with hardware, even if it wasn’t the one he preferred.
“Obviously, not the way I wanted it to end,” Murin said. “I felt like I gave it my all and left it out there. I got All-American, which I’ve been striving for but I wanted to be a national champ. I didn’t get it.”
Lee, Warner and Murin competed for at least six years for Iowa. They were part of a group that helped Iowa return to the top of college wrestling, winning the 2021 NCAA team title. The trio placed their stamp on the program.
“They’re journeymen,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “They stayed in it. They’re loyal. That’s probably the biggest characteristic that comes to mind is loyalty – to themselves, to their path, to their drive and what they’re after.
“Loyalty to each other and team. Tight-knit there.”
Nelson Brands finished six spots above his seed. He scored a takedown in sudden victory for a 4-2 win over Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott in the placing match. He praised the coaches for their support to get to this point.
“They’re just so good at keeping you positive,” the younger Brands said. “Positivity is huge for coming back from hardships or shoving up the doubter’s butt. You need that positive from the coaches and we’ve got that and I love it.”
Nelson caught fire this tournament, reaching the quarterfinals and winning three of his final four matches. He proved he can score on anyone and has a stronger top game than he thought but still needs work on the bottom.
Injuries, accidents, and close matches helped prepare him for this week.
“A little gut check,” Nelson said. “That’s the best thing about overcoming injuries and hardships is now I get to feel a little bit better about a fifth-place finish, even though I probably don’t feel very good about it. I want to be on the top of that stand.”
Penn State locked up its 11th and second straight team title well before the finals. The Lions had five finalists and 127 1/2 points before they took the mat.
NCAA wrestling finals
125: No. 2 Pat Glory (Princeton) dec. No. 4 Matt Ramos (Purdue), 4-1
133: No. 3 Vito Arujau (Cornell) dec. No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), 10-4
141: No. 2 Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado) dec. No. 1 Real Woods (Iowa), 6-4
149: No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. No. 2 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), 4-2
157: No. 1 Austin O’Connor (North Carolina) dec. No. 2 Levi Haines (Penn State), 6-2
165: No. 2 Keegan O’Toole (Missouri) dec. No. 1 David Carr (Iowa State), 8-2
174: No. 1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) pinned No. 2 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska), 2:46
184: No. 3 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec. No. 1 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa), 7-2
197: No. 1 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) dec. No. 7 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State), 5-3
285: No. 1 Mason Parris (Michigan) dec. No. 3 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State), 5-1
3 Stars from Day 3 of NCAA Wrestling Championships
Top performers of the NCAA Division I championship matches.
* - Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis, 149: Diakomihalis became the fifth wrestler to win four NCAA Division I individual titles. He beat two-time Ohio State’s two-time national finalist Sammy Sasso in the finals, 4-2. Diakomihalis joined Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson, Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Ohio State’s Logan Stieber in the four-timer’s club.
* - Cornell’s Vito Arujau, 133: Arujau completed an impressive showing with a dominant win over Penn State’s top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young, beating the Lions’ two-time NCAA champion, 10-4, for the title. He was exciting with two eye-popping takedowns in the first and a six-point move in the second. Arujau also beat Oklahoma State’s No. 2 seed Daton Fix to reach the finals, giving him wins over the two favorites of the weight.
* - Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole, 165: O’Toole won his second straight title, avenging two previous losses to Iowa State’s David Carr in a battle of NCAA champions. O’Toole scored eight points in an 8-2 decision for the win.
Compiled by Gazette contributor Larry Pilcher