What's next for Levi Haines after winning Big Ten wrestling title for Penn State

The Biglerville graduate captured the league title at 157 pounds Sunday and moved up to No. 2 nationally in his class.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

Levi Haines’ freshman season with the Penn State wrestling team had already blown most people’s expectations out of the water. Now the Biglerville graduate has multiple trophies to show for it.

Haines captured the Big Ten individual championship in the 157-pound weight class on Sunday night, putting an exclamation point on a brilliant rookie campaign. He secured the title with a 3-1 overtime victory over Nebraska’s Peyton Robb, who entered the weekend undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. 

Penn State's Levi Haines, top, wrestles Iowa's Cobe Siebrecht in a bout at 157 pounds in a college wrestling dual Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in State College, Pa. The Biglerville graduate captured the Big Ten individual championship in his weight class Sunday and moved to No. 2 in the national rankings.

Haines was one of four Nittany Lions to win individual titles, and top-ranked Penn State won the conference championship as a team for the first time since 2019, a puzzling drought considering the program has won nine of the last 11 national titles.

The run to the conference title improved Haines’ record to 22-1 this season and rocketed him from No. 7 to No. 2 in InterMat’s national rankings at 157 pounds, a spot ahead of Robb and behind only North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor. Just like that, the rookie is squarely in the national championship picture.

The NCAA Championships begin March 16 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Each weight class will have a 33-man, double-elimination bracket. Haines — who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after the conference tournament Sunday — needs a top-eight finish to officially earn All-American honors.

Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, known to rarely lean on freshmen in his starting lineup, didn’t even burn Haines’ redshirt until picking him to start a pivotal Jan. 27 match against Iowa. Haines began the season as a backup but impressed in five early-season appearances to earn his spot. The rest has already been history.

Haines went 100-5 in three seasons at Biglerville, where his father Ken is the head coach. He capped a 30-0 junior campaign with PIAA state championship at 145 pounds, then opted to compete in open college tournaments rather than compete for the Canners as a senior. Now he’s a contender for the biggest prize in all of college wrestling.


Haines isn’t the only former York-Adams League standout chasing an individual national title. Florida gymnast Trinity Thomas captured the NCAA all-around championship — as well as titles for floor exercise and uneven bars — just last year, and she returned for her super-senior season to chase a team title and add to her decorated career. 

All those goals are still in play. Thomas has been brilliant throughout her fifth year, posting the nation’s second-highest all-around average (39.742) and leading the No. 3-ranked Gators to their fifth consecutive SEC regular-season championship. They’ve won the league in all five of Thomas’ seasons.

Florida's Trinity Thomas competes on the floor exercise during the NCAA college women's gymnastics championships, Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Florida wrapped up the outright SEC title with a win over Kentucky on Feb. 24, then narrowly lost to No. 1 Oklahoma (197.95-197.70) last Friday in what was a 1 vs. 2 matchup at the time. The Gators close their regular season with a quad meet at Texas Woman's University this Sunday, with NC State and Washington rounding out the field.

The SEC Championships are slated for March 18, with NCAA Regionals running from March 29-April 2 and Nationals following from April 13-15 in Fort Worth, Texas.


While many of the former local standouts playing college basketball have already wrapped up their 2022-23 seasons, a select few are still part of the postseason. 

The headliner, of course, is Houston’s Jarace Walker, a York County native who played at IMG Academy in high school and has been a freshman phenom for the No. 1-ranked Cougars. Houston is a projected top seed in the NCAA Tournament and Walker is a potential NBA lottery pick averaging 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. The team begins its conference tournament Friday.

Davante Dennis (Red Lion) — the only former York-Adams League star to appear in a men’s D-I game this winter — appears to have completed his redshirt freshman season at Incarnate Word, as the Cardinals did not qualify for the eight-team Southland Conference tournament that started over the weekend. Dennis, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 28 games (19 starts) for UIW, which will finish 12-19 (6-12) barring a postseason invitation.

On the women’s side, D’Shantae Edwards (Dallastown) and Bethune-Cookman will take the floor in the SWAC tournament quarterfinals Thursday. Edwards has averaged 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds as a rookie for the No. 6-seed Wildcats, who enter the postseason 11-17 (10-8). They’ll need three wins this weekend to make the big dance.

In Division II, two former YAIAA standouts will face off in the women’s first round Friday in Glenville, W.V. Rajah Fink (Dover) is a senior leader for California (Pa.), the PSAC champion and one of the bracket’s eight No. 6 seeds. The Vulcans will face No. 3-seed West Chester, for whom Alianna Hopta (West York) has seen reserve action as a freshman.

The D-III brackets are down to 16 teams. Morgan Adams (New Oxford) and MAC Commonwealth women’s champion Messiah saw their season come to an end in the second round Saturday against NYU. It was the same story for Elizabethtown and freshman Makenna Mummert (Delone Catholic), who fell to undefeated Christopher Newport.

Penn State York men’s basketball did not receive an at-large bid to the USCAA Division II tournament, ending the Lions’ season. The team went 25-4 on the floor but was forced to forfeit all but one of its victories due to having a player with a bachelor’s degree on the roster. Stay tuned for continued reporting on this story from The York Dispatch.