Oklahoma State’s Fix chases first national title. Penn State looks to win third straight team title

Oklahoma State wrestler Daton Fix is positioned to finally win an elusive national championship, and Penn State is poised to win the team title again with two potential four-time champions.

Fix has placed in the top four at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships four times, including three second-place finishes. He came back this season to use the extra year the NCAA offered because of the COVID-19 pandemic and won a record fifth Big 12 title. Now, he has earned the No. 1 seed in the 133-pound class at the NCAA tournament.

He wants to make the most of his last chance at a national title. The championships will run Thursday through Saturday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

“Obviously, I’ve been in position to win plenty of times, and I just haven’t got the job done,” Fix said. “So I know how to get there and I know what I need to do to to reach that next step on the podium. I’ve got to score some more points. And it’s something that I know that I can do. And it’s just a matter of getting back to that moment and doing it.”

Fix missed several matches with injury and illness this season for the first time in his college career. Oklahoma State coach John Smith said Fix has handled the challenges well.

“When you don’t have something for a period of time that, your identity is that, you realize just fortunate, how important it is to you,” Smith said. “So I think it helped him raise this level of hunger for a championship.”

It won’t be an easy path. Last year’s champion at 133, Cornell’s Vito Arujau, is back. Arujau beat Fix in last year’s semifinals. Lehigh freshman Ryan Crookham is undefeated, seeded No. 2 and has two wins over Arujau this season.

In the team race, two-time defending national champion Penn State is again the favorite under coach Cael Sanderson. All 10 Nittany Lions wrestlers are seeded in the top 10 and six in the top two. They seek their 11th national title in the past 13 years.

Penn State’s Aaron Brooks and Carter Starocci are looking for their fourth championships.

Brooks is the No. 1 seed at 197. North Carolina State’s unbeaten Trent Hidlay could derail him. Last year’s runner-up in that class, South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan, also is back.

Starocci is seeded just ninth at 174, in part because of a medical forfeit at the Big Ten Championships. He could have a tough road. He is one of three former national champs competing at 174. Mekhi Lewis, the 2019 champ at 165 and the No. 1 seed, and Michigan’s Shane Griffith, the 2021 champ at 165 while at Stanford, are there as well.

There’s more for Penn State. Greg Kerkvliet is the No. 1 seed at 285 after being national runner-up last year, though he could be challenged. Kerkvliet defeated Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson in the semifinals last year, and Hendrickson has put together another strong season.

Levi Haines, a runner-up last year at 157, and Braeden Davis, a true freshman at 125, also are No. 1 seeds for Penn State.

In the most recent NWCA Coaches Poll, Penn State was No. 1, Iowa No. 2, Nebraska No. 3 and Oklahoma State No. 4.

Here are some things to watch at this year’s national championships:


The top three seeds at 141 are from the Big Ten. Ohio State’s Jesse Mendez beat Penn State’s Beau Bartlett in the Big Ten final after beating last year’s national runner-up, Iowa’s Real Woods, in the semifinals. Mendez is seeded first, Bartlett second and Woods third in Kansas City.


Purdue’s Matt Ramos could win it all at 125. He shocked Iowa’s three-time national champion, Spencer Lee, in last year’s semifinals and finished second. He is seeded fourth. It’s a tough field. Penn State’s Davis is seeded No. 1, Lehigh’s Luke Stanich is No. 2 and Iowa’s Drake Ayala is seeded third.


Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole, last year’s champion in the 165 class, is the top seed. He might run into Iowa State’s David Carr, a four-time Big 12 champion who won a national title at 157 in 2021. O’Toole has a win over Carr this season.


The Penn State train won’t be stopping anytime soon. Davis, a true freshman, is coming off a Big Ten title. True freshman Tyler Kasak is the No. 7 seed at 149. Redshirt freshman Mitchell Mesenbrink is No. 2 at 165.


Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen has three top-three finishes, but hasn’t won a national title. He has been unstoppable this season in rolling to a 23-0 record. He has followed up last year’s runner-up season at 184 with an undefeated run and a No. 1 seed in the same class. Penn State’s Brooks, who beat Keckeisen in the 184 final last season, has moved up to 197.


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