Nittany Lions sweep finals, win five individual titles in epic final session

(Photo: Penn State Athletics, 247Sports)

First round: W – pin – 6:38 vs. No. 33 Connor O’Neill (Rutgers)

Starocci got O’Neill after the latter earned a pin in his pigtail match. Staorcci opened things up with a quick takedown to take a 2-0 lead. O’Neill earned the escape as the two went out of bounds. Starocci worked O’Neill to the mat for his second takedown, going up 4-1. He cut him loose, making it 4-2. Starocci immediately followed up with another takedown to take a 6-2 lead. With a turn, Starocci earned two nearfall points to go up 8-2 at the end of the period. O’Neill thing down to start the second period. After riding, Starocci would cut O’Neill loose, making it 8-3. He drew a second stall call, making it 9-3 and followed it up with a takedown but was penalized with a locking hands call, thus making it 11-4. Starocci ended the period on top and chose down to start the third. Starroci worked fast and earned the reversal for a 13-4 lead. An exchange of reversals made it 17-6 in favor of the defending national champion. Starocci cut O’Neill, making it 17-7. He followed up with a quick takedown, making it 19-7. Starocci finally locked up a cradle and pinned O’Neill.

Round of 16: W – Dec – 10-4 vs. No. 16 Adam Kemp (Cal Poly)

Starocci didn’t take long to land a takedown, going up 2-0 in the first period. Kemp managed to work his way out for an escape, making it 2-1. The score remained the same going into the second period. Starocci started down and then escaped to start the second period, going up 3-1. Starocci eventually worked his way for another takedown right at the end of the period to go up 5-1. Kemp went down to start the third. He escaped to make it 5-2, but Starocci re-attacked for another takedown and took a 7-2 lead. Kemp added a point with an escape with less than a minute to go, making it 7-3. Starocci earned a takedown to go up 9-3, cut Kemp loose and then tried earning another takedown but couldn’t finish. He added riding time to advance to the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinals: W – Dec – 6-1 vs. No. 9 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska)

Both wrestlers had a nice scramble in the first period but Starocci’s leg was caught, putting Labriola on top, but the referee called a stalemate and the reset in the center. Both guys went back and forth but the first period was scoreless. Starocci thing down to start the second period. Starocci earned the escape to go up 1-0 and followed it up with a takedown, giving him a 3-0 lead. The Nittany Lion managed to ride out Labriola for the remainder of the period and the Husker thing down to start the third. Labriola escaped to make it 3-1. Off a re-attack, Starocci got a hold of Labriola’s leg and finished the takedown to clinch the match and a spot in the semifinals.

Semifinals: W – Dec – 10-3 vs. No. 4 Hayden Hidlay (NC State)

Starocci and Hidlay traded good looks in neutral but the Nittany Lion landed the first takedown with less than a minute to go in the first period, but Hidlay escaped, making it 2-1. With less than 10 seconds to go in the period, Starocci worked his way for another takedown, going up 4-1. Starocci started on bottom in the second period and escaped for a 5-1 lead. Offa re-attacked, Starocci landed another takedown to go up 7-1 in the second period. Hidlay earned an escape to make it 7-2 and then started the third period on bottom. Hidlay escaped to make it 7-3. Starocci added a takedown plus riding time to clinch his second straight finals appearance.

Finals: W – dec – 6-5 TB1 vs. No. 2 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech)

Lewis had the first shot but Starocci defended it really well with a shin whizzer and it resulted in a stalemate. The two went back and forth with the hand fighting and feints and the first period ended scoreless. Starocci started the second period on bottom and earned the escape to go up 1-0. Lewis then hit a beautiful shot and took Starocci down near the boundary, recovered both legs and thought he finished. However, the referee called it out of bounds and the Virginia Tech bench challenged. After review, Lewis was awarded two points and a 2-1 lead. Starocci eventually worked his way out for an escape, tying the match 2-2. The second period ended in neutral and then Lewis started the third period on bottom. Lewis escaped to take a 3-2 lead. Then Starocci fired back with a takedown of his own, taking a 4-3 lead, riding time not a factor. Lewis eventually escaped with less than a minute to go to tie the match 4-4. The two were locked up and went to overtime. Lewis was hit with a stall warning after pressure from Starocci. Lewis nearly countered a shot but they went out of bounds. The two went to tiebreakers after a last second shot from Starocci but Lewis defended. Starocci chose down in the first 30 seconds and escaped to take a 5-4 lead, but Lewis had six seconds of a riding time advantage. Lewis thing down in the next 30 seconds. Lewis would escape but Starocci had the riding time advantage. Lewis chased Starocci but could not get him, giving the Nittany Lion his second straight national title.

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