Penn State Wrestling Goes 15-2 In First Session Of Big Ten Championships
A strong showing during the first session of the Big Ten Championships advanced all ten Nittany Lions to the next session and earned Penn State eight semifinal berths. After two rounds, Penn State sits in second place with 81.5 points, just behind first-place Ohio State’s 85.5 points.
Eight Penn State wrestlers have already punched their tickets to Cleveland.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) March 3, 2018
Penn State went 6-1 in the first round of the NCAA Championships, thanks to three falls and two major decisions.
The weekend got off to a shaky start for Penn State, when Carson Kuhn, the No. 14 seed at 125 lbs., took a 21-6 technical fall beating from third-seeded Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, which gave the Buckeyes an early advantage.
Nick Lee made his postseason debut by giving the Nittany Lions their first points of the day with a 12-2 major decision over Rutgers’ Michael Van Brill, who he had previously beaten by decision in the teams’ dual meet.
Jason Nolf made his long awaited and uncertain return at 157 lbs., wearing a long, clunky knee brace on his injured right leg.
After wrestling gingerly through the opening minutes of the bout, Nolf recorded a fall over Michigan State’s Jake Tucker. The fall was his sixteenth of the season, which tied teammate Zain Retherford for the most pins in the conference this season.
While Nolf was launching his comeback tour on mat four, Vincenzo Joseph was keeping pace with him on mat one. He jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first period before pinning Northwestern’s Mike Sepke 37 seconds into the second period.
Mark Hall gave Penn State its third consecutive fall when he put Michigan State’s Logan Ritchie to his back late in the second period.
In a surprisingly tough match, second-seeded Shakur Rasheed ground out an 8-4 decision over unseeded Jake Kleimola of Indiana. The bout was tied 4-4 after the first period, during which Kleimola even led at one point, before Rasheed took control to go up 7-4 and eventually hang on for the close win.
Nick Nevills rounded out the first round with an 11-3 major over Illinois’ Duece Rachal. Nevills scored a riding point that gave himself the team’s second major decision of the morning.
Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal, the top seeds at 149 and 184 lbs., respectively, as well as Corey Keener, the No. 6 seed at 133 lbs., had first round byes.
Penn State was 8-1 in the quarterfinals and advanced eight wrestlers
Keener kept it close through the first four minutes of his bout with third-seeded Mitch McKee, trailing only 2-1, before McKee blew open the bout with a six-point move in the second period. After allowing the takedown and four near fall points, Keener battled through the third period to prevent the match from getting any further out of hand, falling 9-4.
Lee followed Keener against Indiana’s Cole Weaver and once again gave Penn State its first win of the round. He took a 4-1 lead into the second period but mushroomed his lead to 10-2 entering the third period off of a penalty point, escape, and two takedowns. He beat Weaver by an eventual final score of 13-3.
At 149 lbs., Retherford made his first appearance of the weekend and did so as dominant as ever. He didn’t record a fall, but the senior rolled to a 14-1 major decision. Retherford wracked up four minutes and 28 seconds of riding time, or 64% of the seven-minute match.
Nolf notched his own major decision by beating Minnesota’s Jake Short 15-2. After a scoreless first period, Nolf opened up an 8-2 lead in the second period and finished off the major with another big period in the third.
After Joseph jumped out to an early 8-1 lead in the first period, Minnesota’s Nick Wanzek kept pace with him to keep the deficit at six. He trailed 15-9 at the end of the second period. In the third period, Joseph stretched the lead to 18-10 to pick up the Nittany Lion’s fourth consecutive major decision
Hall and Nickal both used wild moves to add a pair of back-to-back, first-period falls on mat one.
Back to back like I'm Penn State '74, '84 pic.twitter.com/KG5S5ociuC
— Onward State (@OnwardState) March 3, 2018
At 197 lbs., Rasheed ran into another surprisingly tight bout. Although he had more than four minutes of riding time and led 8-1 one point, Rasheed pulled out a narrow 11-8 win over Northwestern’s Zack Chakonis.
Nevills added another impressive win with a 5-0 decision over Northwestern’s Conan Jennings to close out the quarterfinals.
Consolation Round One
As the only wrestler competing in the consolation bracket, Kuhn picked up his first true win as a Nittany Lion, after winning by forfeit against Buffalo. Kuhn majored Mitch Maginnis 12-3 with nearly three minutes of riding time.
All ten Penn State wrestlers are still alive after session one, and eight are still in contention for first place. Ohio State also has ten wrestlers still competing as well as nine still in the championship bracket.