ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Penn State’s No. 7 Levi Haines upset No. 1 Peyton Robb on Sunday to capture the 157-pound Big Ten title.
Haines took the nation’s top wrestler, Robb, at 157 to sudden victory, where he won the bout 3-1 with a takedown.
Haines, a true freshman, started the 2022-23 season behind then-starter Terrell Barraclough and wouldn't get his first dual start until Dec. 19 against Central Michigan’s then-No. 31 Corbyn Munson. His first moment in front of the Nittany Lion faithful was a fall at 1:38 in Rec Hall.
After that moment, it became more and more apparent that Haines needed to fill a bigger role for Penn State.
In Penn State’s next three duals against Iowa State, Wisconsin and Michigan, Haines made the start at 157 each time. He earned victories over then-No. 16 Garrett Model from Wisconsin and then-No. 10 Will Lewan from Michigan.
His quick burst onto the national stage would force the coaching staff to burn the young grappler’s redshirt against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
In front of a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center, Haines faced Iowa’s then-No.15 Cobe Siebrecht and would come out of the battle on top with a 3-2 decision. The victory gave the young star his third straight victory over a ranked opponent.
Haines held a near-perfect 20-1 record heading into the Big Ten Championships, with the one loss coming back on Nov. 13 in the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open.
Haines picked up two more wins over No. 24 Derek Gilcher from Indiana and No. 6 Kendall Coleman from Purdue, which was an upset by InterMat’s rankings but not by Big Ten seeding, ahead of his matchup with Robb.
In the championship bout, Robb and Haines were equally matched in the first until the very end of the period.
With just one second on the clock in the first, Robb bounded at Haines out of bounds for a possible takedown, but the officials didn’t award the Cornhusker for his efforts. Nebraska threw the challenge brick and the move was reviewed.
The challenge, however, proved fruitless as the period ended in a scoreless tie.
Starting down in the second, Robb earned a quick escape to open the scoring and take a 1-0 lead over Haines. Robb’s lead held until the end of the period as neither wrestler could bring the other down.
At the start of the third period, Haines escaped and tied the bout at 1-1. He wouldn’t trail again.
Haines and Robb headed to sudden victory to decide the bout after the third ended in a 1-1 tie. There, Haines finally found his mark against the Cornhusker and completed the upset 3-1.
By winning the 157 Big Ten Title, Haines became the first Nittany Lion to accomplish the feat since Jason Nolf in 2019.
Cael Sanderson said that Haines “looked great” and possessed “great poise” in the tournament. He added, “He’s special.”
The Big Ten certainly took notice as well, selecting Haines as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. In doing so, he became the first Nittany Lion to earn the award since Carter Starocci in 2021.
Haines was also selected to the 2023 All-Big Ten team for his performance on the season and at the conference championship, joining three of his teammates.
With a victory over the current No. 1 wrestler in his weight class, Haines is poised for moving up in InterMat’s rankings and will be strongly considered for the top 157 seeds at nationals later this month.
Haines will likely be considered for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Championships along with North Carolina’s No. 2 Austin O’Connor. O’Connor holds an 18-0 record on the season and also has a strong case for the top seed.
This upcoming week’s InterMat rankings could be a strong indicator on which direction the NCAA will go with its seeding.
MORE WRESTLING COVERAGE