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Returning champ O’Connor defeated, several top-eight seeds go down in first round of NCAA Championships

by Taylor Miller-Gregorio, USA Wrestling

Photo: Dazjon Casto of the Citadel defeated returning national champion Austin O’Connor in the first round at 157 pounds. Photo by Sam Janicki.

DETROIT, Mich. – The NCAA Championships are already off to an exciting start after just one round of action at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Of note, returning NCAA champion Austin O’Connor from North Carolina dropped his opening bout at 157 pounds.

O’Connor, who won the NCAA title at 149 pounds in 2021, entered the tournament as the No. 11 seed and faced No. 22 Dazjon Casto of The Citadel in the first round. The match was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation. In sudden victory, Casto took down O’Connor near the edge and added four nearfall points for an 8-2 decision.

There are eight other returning NCAA champions still in the mix for the crown, including Nick Suriano (125, Michigan), Roman Bravo-Young (133, Penn State), Nick Lee (141, Penn State), David Carr (157, Iowa State), Shane Griffith (165, Stanford), Carter Starocci (174, Penn State), Aaron Brooks (184, Penn State) and Gable Steveson (285, Minnesota). All eight athletes scored bonus points in their opening matches.

Among the numerous upsets on Thursday morning, several top-eight seeds went down in the first round including:

  • 125 – No. 8 Patrick McKee (Minnesota) loss to No. 25 Caleb Smith (Appalachian State)
  • 133 – No. 7 Lucas Byrd (Illinois) loss to No. 26 Matt Ramos (Purdue)
  • 133 – No. 8 RayVon Foley (Michigan State) loss to No. 25 Brian Courtney (Virginia)
  • 141 – No. 7 Clay Carlson (South Dakota State) loss to No. 26 Frankie Tal Shahar (Northwestern)
  • 174 – No. 7 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) loss to No. 26 Tyler Eischens (Stanford)
  • 174 – No. 8 Mike O’Malley (Drexel) loss to No. 25 Garrett Nijenhuis (Purdue)

In the team race, Penn State holds the early lead with 15.5 points, followed by Big Ten counterparts Iowa with 14.5 and Michigan with 12.5. Rounding out the top-five is Arizona State in fourth place and North Carolina State and Northern Iowa tied for fifth.

The next session begins at 7 p.m. ET with the Round of 16. Watch all the action live on ESPN3 with brackets available on TrackWrestling.

Team standings
1. Penn State – 15.5
2. Iowa – 14.5
3. Michigan – 12.5
4. Arizona State – 11.5
T5. North Carolina State – 11
T5. Northern Iowa – 11
7. Nebraska – 10
8. Oregon State – 9
T9. Oklahoma State – 8
T9. Virginia Tech – 8

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