2022 NCAA Championships Watch Party

Complete Penn State Bracket Breakdown

Complete Penn State Bracket Breakdown

How will Penn State win the 2022 NCAA Championships? Here's a look at what needs to happen.

Mar 11, 2022 by Kyle Klingman

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Penn State enters the 2022 NCAA Championships with four returning champions, five finalists, and seven place winners. Based on predicted placements, the Nittany Lions are expected to win thanks to six wrestlers seeded in the top four, including four top seeds.

Here is a full breakdown of what you can expect as Penn State attempts to win its ninth NCAA Championship over the last 11 contested tournaments. Projected points are based on a wrestler's seed and advancement. Bonus points are not factored in. 

125 pounds: #16 Drew Hildebrandt (9-3) — 1.5 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Central Michigan): 4th place (4-2), 12.5 team points
2020 (Central Michigan): NQ (Canceled due to COVID)
2019 (Central Michigan: NQ (1-2), 1 team point

Hildebrandt’s road to a second podium finish got tougher as the 16-seed — but he can still place. The former Central Michigan star went 0-2 at the B10 Championships, which affected his seed at the national tournament.

Looming large is a potential second-round match with top-seeded Nick Suriano of Michigan. Hildebrandt kept it close in the dual but eventually fell, 2-1. Suriano has been on an upward trend since his January 21 squeaker with Hildebrandt. He has won all his matches by major decision or better and is primed to bag his second NCAA title. 

Don’t expect Hildebrandt to pull off an upset here — if he makes it to the second round. Anthony Noto (29-1) of Lock Haven is a tough first-round match-up so it’s likely that Hildebrandt will be fighting for points on the consolation side. 

If Hildebrandt loses in the first round, he’ll face the loser of Suriano’s match. It’s a good bet he will win that match.

If Hildebrandt loses in the second round, he’ll face one of four wrestlers: Cornell’s Vito Arujau (unlikely), Cal Poly’s Antonio Lorenzo, Missouri’s Noah Surtin, or Northern Iowa’s Brody Teske.

Bonus points don’t change on the backside so this is where Hildebrandt can help his team. The Penn State senior hasn’t scored any bonus points at the NCAA Championships yet so this would be an ideal time to get started. The best way Hildebrandt can help is by getting on the podium. He is only expected to score 1.5 points so anything beyond that will lift Penn State as they battle Michigan and Iowa. 

133 pounds: #1 Roman Bravo-Young (17-0) — 20 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): 1st place (5-0), 22.5 team points
2020 (Penn State): NQ (Canceled due to COVID)
2019 (Penn State): 8th place (4-3), 5.5 team points

Roman Bravo-Young has shown that he’s a solid bet to reach the finals. His wide-open and diverse offense make him one of the toughest outs in the entire tournament. Oklahoma State’s #2 Daton Fix (21-0) and Michigan’s #6 Dylan Ragusin (21-6) are on the opposite side of the bracket. Bravo-Young vs Fix would be a rematch of last year’s finals (won by RBY, 4-2 SV) if everything goes according to plan.

The predicted quarterfinal match would be against #8 RayVon Foley of Michigan State or #9 Michael Colaiocco of Penn. RBY hasn’t faced either wrestler this season; however, Foley is a returning All-American at 125 pounds who is 26-4 on the season while Colaiocco is 21-2. 

A potential match with Iowa’s Austin DeSanto wouldn’t happen until the semis. Bravo-Young holds a 5-2 edge over DeSanto but the two matches this season — 3-2 in the dual and 3-1 at B1Gs — have been close. The Hawkeye senior will likely have to get by Virginia Tech’s #4 Korbin Meyers (18-1) in the quarters. The Nittany Lion star defeated Myers, 5-3, in last year’s NCAA tournament semifinals. 

Count on Bravo-Young to score anywhere from 15 to 23 points. 

141 pounds: #1 Nick Lee (17-0) — 20 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): 1st place (5-0), 23.5 team points
2020 (Penn State): NQ (Canceled due to COVID)
2019 (Penn State): 5th place (4-2), 16 team points
2018 (Penn State): 5th place (6-2), 11.5 team points

Lee’s biggest threats are Iowa’s #2 Jaydin Eierman and Rutgers’ #3 Sebastian Rivera — and both are on the opposite side of the bracket. The most intriguing potential match for Lee could happen in the quarterfinals. Michigan’s #24 Stevan Micic — a three-time All-American and 202One Olympian — is in the same quad and would have to win two matches to get to Lee. 

Expect Lee to reach the finals. He had a technical fall and two major decisions last year before defeating Rivera 9-3 in the semifinals and Eierman 4-2 SV in the finals. The Nittany Lion star should score anywhere from 19 to 25 points this year. 

149 pounds: #13 Beau Bartlett (14-8) — 1.5 projected points

NCAA tournament history
First-time qualifier

Bartlett enters his first college national tournament with an opportunity to give his team breathing room down the stretch. Defeating Michigan’s Kanen Storr at the B1G Championships for seventh knocked Michigan out of the national tournament at this weight. That’s a big win for Penn State before the tournament gets started. 

Iowa’s #8 Max Murin is on the same side of the bracket but an opposite quad.

The Nittany Lion sophomore faces Northern Iowa’s #20 Colin Realbuto (16-10) in the first round — a winnable match for both wrestlers. If Bartlett loses, he would face the loser of the Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) vs John Arceri (Buffalo) match. 

If Bartlett wins his opening match, he’ll likely have Ohio State’s #4 Sammy Sasso waiting in the second round. Sasso has a 2-0 college career advantage but both were two-point matches. An upset here by Bartlett could go a long way during a tight team race. 

Bartlett can help Penn State by grinding out wins on the consolation side of the bracket. He has three bonus-point victories this season but none against wrestlers with winning records. Bartlett went to tiebreakers at the B1G Championships with #12 Mike Van Brill of Maryland so he is competitive in tough matches. He’ll have to win a few to score more than his projected 1.5 points. 

157 pounds: #16 Brady Berge (9-2) — 1.5 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): R12 (2-2), 3 team points
2019 (Penn State): R16 (2-2), 1.5 team points

Berge is one of the biggest storylines of the year. He started the season as an assistant at South Dakota State before heading back to State College for one more shot at the podium. The Penn State senior started the season at 165 before moving down to 157 for a February 20 dual against Rider. 

He performed well at the B1G Championships — placing third with a 3-1 sudden victory semifinal loss to Michigan’s #8 Will Lewan (17-5). He defeated Iowa’s #9 Kaleb Young, 3-1 SV, in the consolation finals. 

Lewan and Young are expected to face off in the second round so this has team implications for Penn State. It seems unlikely that Berge will face either on the front side. He drew Oregon State’s #17 Hunter Willits (13-6) in the first round and would likely have returning NCAA champion David Carr (Iowa State) in the second round. 

A loss in the first round means a match against either Carr (unlikely), Ohio’s #32 Jordan Slivka, or Northern Iowa’s #33 Derek Holschlag. A predicted loss to Carr means Berge can get rolling in the consolation bracket. He would face Northwestern’s #2 Ryan Deakin, Central Michigan’s #15 Johnny Lovett, Navy’s #18 Andrew Cerniglia, or Oklahoma State’s #31 Wyatt Sheets.

Hildebrandt, Bartlett, and Berge all have the same storyline and the same opportunity should they wrestle back for third. Of the three, Berge has the best chance of scoring bonus points at the tournament. Penn State will need them down the stretch. 

165 pounds: No qualifier

174 pounds: #1 Carter Starocci (18-0) — 20 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): 1st (5-0), 21 team points

Starocci will face plenty of challenges in the bracket. Two of the toughest — Virginia Tech’s #2 Mekhi Lewis and Michigan’s #3 Logan Massa — are on the opposite side of the bracket. 

North Carolina State’s #4 Hayden Hidlay and Iowa’s #5 Michael Kemerer loom large on his half. A potential match wouldn’t happen until the semifinals. Starocci is 2-1 against Kemerer, winning the last two. Hidlay lost 3-2 to returning NCAA champion Lewis at the ACC Championships so either match should be tough. 

Starocci will face Connor O’Neill (Rutgers) or Dominic Solis (Maryland) in the first round followed by a match between Cal Poly’s #16 Adam Kemp (13-4) or Penn’s #17 Nick Incontrera (20-6). 

The predicted quarterfinal match is between either #8 Michael O’Malley of Drexel (22-2) or #9 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska (20-4). Labriola took Starocci into sudden victory last season so this could be an intriguing match if it materializes. 

Starocci can score bonus points so don’t be surprised if he scores 22 team points with a low end of 15. 

184 pounds: #2 Aaron Brooks (16-1) — 16 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): 1st (5-0), 21.5 team points
2020 (Penn State): NQ (Canceled due to COVID)

Brooks is the returning champion at this weight but is seeded second following a loss in the B10 Championship finals to Michigan's #1 Myles Amine. The two have split this year so a rubber match in the finals would be fun. 

A potential second-round match against Iowa’s #18 Abe Assad (13-8) is the one that stands out. Assad faces #15 Hunter Bolen (22-5) of Virginia Tech in the first round so either could offer a test for Brooks. Assad hung tough with Brooks at times during the dual while Bolen placed seventh at the 2021 NCAA tournament and is a four-time qualifier.

Ohio State’s #7 Kaleb Romero (13-3) is the projected quarterfinal match, which offers another tough test for Brooks. Rocky Jordan replaced Romero in the dual so a Romero-Brooks match has not happened this season. Of Romero’s three losses, two were to Amine — and both were two-point matches.

North Carolina State’s #3 Trent Hidlay (17-0) is projected to face Brooks in the semifinals, which would be a rematch of the 2021 NCAA tournament finals that Brooks won, 3-2. A repeat title won’t be easy for the Nittany Lion star but he has all the tools to be back in the finals again this season. 

Top-end team points for Brooks are around 22 with a low end of 14 since the weight class is filled with so many tough potential matches. 

A Brooks vs Amine final might decide the team race.

197 pounds: #1 Max Dean (18-1) — 20 projected points

NCAA tournament history
2019 (Cornell): 2nd (4-1), 17 team points
2018 (Cornell): 8th (3-3), 6.5 team points

Michigan’s #4 Patrick Brucki is on the same side of the bracket but a possible match wouldn’t happen until the semifinals. It’s a matter of getting there for both wrestlers. 

Dean should win his opening match over Matthew Waddell (Chattanooga) or Will Feldkamp (Clarion) but waiting in the second round will be Virginia’s #17 Jay Aiello (13-3) or Arizona State’s #16 Kordell Norfleet (14-3). Then he’d likely face Binghamton’s #8 Lou Deprez (26-3) or Michigan State’s #9 Cameron Caffey (26-7).

Caffey dealt Dean his lone loss on the season during a dual on January 23 but the Penn State standout rebounded for a 5-2 win at the B10 Championships. 

Dean won 10-1 over Norfleet and 6-4 over Brucki earlier in the season so his body of work proves he can reach the finals regardless of who he faces. The former Cornell All-American defeated Nebraska’s #3 Eric Schultz in the B1G finals and Iowa’s #6 Jacob Warner in the dual. He has faced most of the top competition — and won. His top game could play a factor down the stretch when he’s looking to score points for Penn State. 

285 pounds: #4 Greg Kerkvliet (18-2) — 12.5 projected points 

NCAA tournament history
2021 (Penn State): 7th (4-2), 11 team points

This weight class is ridiculously deep, but Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson of Minnesota is the overwhelming favorite to bag his second title. Kerkvliet is on the same side of the bracket as Steveson, but they won’t face off until the semifinals. 

Besides that, the Penn State freshman received a favorable draw. Kerkvliet’s toughest test would be against Wyatt Hendrickson (24-0) of Air Force in the quarterfinals. Hendrickson is undefeated on the season but, unlike Kerkvliet, he hasn’t faced any of the top wrestlers in the bracket.

The bottom half has several landmines, including Iowa’s #2 Anthony Cassioppi, Arizona State’s #3 Cohlton Schultz, Lehigh’s #6 Jordan Wood, and Michigan’s #7 Mason Parris. Kerkvliet lost twice to Cassioppi during the season but defeated Parris twice. 

Assuming Kerkliet loses to Steveson in the semifinals, he’ll probably face one of the above-mentioned wrestlers in the consolation semifinals. Placing third will be a tall task but the Nittany Lion heavyweight has shown he is up to the challenge all season. A consolation finals match against Cassioppi probably won’t decide the team race but it will decide the pecking order of the deepest heavyweight bracket in college wrestling history.