PSU news by
Penn State's student blog



Bo Nickal Off To Perhaps The Best Start In Program History

“Bo Knows” — the legendary Nike ad campaign for two-sport star Bo Jackson — could also be applied to sophomore Nittany Lion Bo Nickal. He simply knows how to get it done on the mat.

After an otherwise dominant redshirt freshman campaign, Nickal ended the 2016 season on a low note. Wrestling at 174, Nickal went 34-2 and placed second at the NCAA Championships. One of his only two losses came in the first place bout at Madison Square Garden. Despite beating Ohio State’s Myles Martin three times last year, including a pin in the Big Ten Tournament, the top-seeded Nickal was upset by the No. 11 seed Buckeye, 11-9.

Since the disappointing finish, Nickal has done more than just rebound; he’s put in arguably the best individual start to a season in this program’s illustrious history. Through six matches, Nickal is 6-0 with six pins.

Because of the typically-easy early schedule filled with duals and matches in open tournaments against weaker opponents, 6-0 starts are nothing novel for the upper echelon of college wrestling. Three weeks into the season, there are six other Penn Staters with undefeated records. However, after research of some of the winningest seasons in school history, we believe that Nickal’s start to 2016 is something that no other Nittany Lion has done although quite a few notable grapplers have come close.

David Taylor began his undefeated 2012 season with five pins and a technical fall. That year, “The Magic Man” didn’t even wrestle in the third period until his eighth match of the season. In their first six matches of the 2014 season, Ed Ruth had two pins and four technical falls and Matt Brown picked up four pins and two major decisions. The closest anyone from the pre-Sanderson era who we found came was Cary Kolat who logged four falls in his first six matches of the 1994 season.

Two of Nickal’s current teammates have turned in nearly identical starts to their campaigns, although Nickal remains the lone wrestler with six falls. Redshirt sophomore Jason Nolf paced Nickal through his first five matches, pinning each of his opponents before advancing to the Keystone Classic final via a 19-4 tech fall win over Pittsburgh’s Jake Wentzel. Similarly, redshirt junior Zain Retherford has started both of his last two seasons with five pins and a tech fall.

Nickal has commanded nearly every second of the 22:56 (out of a possible 42 minutes) that he has spent on the mat this season, having wrestled in the third period only twice. While the lone ranked opponent who Nickal has faced is No. 20 Mitch Sliga of Northwestern, his start takes on added importance because he’s done all of this while adjusting to a higher weight class.

One of the main challenges that came with moving up to 184 was entering an already-loaded weight class that is anchored by defending two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean of Cornell and the reigning champ at 174 in Martin, who also made the jump to 184. In the latest rankings, Nickal remains ranked third in the nation for 184-pounders behind Dean and Martin, who have combined for a 13-0 record with seven falls this season.

Because Cornell does not fall on Penn State’s dual schedule and won’t be at the Reno Tournament of Champions, Nickal won’t get a shot at Dean until the NCAA Championships in March. Nickal will meet Martin on Feb. 3 in the Ohio State dual, though, and potentially again in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Championships.

Although he has yet to be truly tested this year, Nickal’s start to this season ranks among the best in program history. With four of his next six dual opponents ranked by, it’s unlikely that Nickal’s pinning ways will continue through 2017.

Nevertheless, Dean and Martin remain the ultimate challenges for Nickal, not only to sustain his early success but to end the season as an NCAA Champion, a goal he finished just short of attaining last year.

About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci is Onward State’s Social Media Manager, a preferred walk-on honors student, and a junior majoring in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. Feel free to follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter and email him at [email protected] to hear the story or if you’re bored and want to chat.


More by Anthony

Christian Hackenberg Signs With Eagles

Christian Hackenberg’s football career blossomed in Pennsylvania. Now he’s returning to the Keystone State in hopes of reviving it.

Ki-Jana Carter, Mike The Mailman Headline Local Celebrity Softball Game

Brailyn Franklin No Longer With Penn State


Incoming Penn State Track & Field Athlete Kristian Marche Shot To Death In Philadelphia

The incident surrounding Marche’s death is “under investigation,” according to the Philadelphia police department.

Former Women’s Gymnastics Coach Files Lawsuit Against Penn State Over Handling Of Abuse Allegations

Men’s Soccer Trio, Reading United Win PDL Eastern Conference Title, Fall Short Of National Championship

Penn State Hockey’s Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie Participate In World Junior Summer Showcase

Ally McHugh Wins 400 Medley National Championship

Student Life

Nike Releases New Penn State Sneakers

This year’s sneaker is available to purchase online for $109.99.

Penn State Parking Office Runs Into Student Permit Purchase Issues

Girirajan Lab Seeks To Bridge The Gap Between Fly And Human Genomes

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Onward State is hiring for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

Fall Move-In Traffic & Construction Changes

When 40,000 students need to move back to State College over the course of four days or so, things are bound to get crazy.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Assessing Penn State’s Front Seven Following Tuesday’s Medical Retirements

Penn State’s defensive line rotation will be shaken up following Ryan Buchholz’s medical retirement from football, while the coaching staff is letting the linebackers duel it out during camp.

Send this to a friend