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Penn State Wrestling Rattles Off Another Royal Flush In NCAA Semifinals, Takes Team Lead

After entering Friday night’s session of the NCAA Championships trailing Ohio State by 13.5 points, Penn State wrestling needed a little bit of luck and a big showing Friday night to steal the team race lead.

The Nittany Lions rattled off five consecutive wins in the semifinals, scoring bonus points in two of them, and benefitted from a 2-4 performance by the Buckeyes to take a 120.5-109.5 lead in a two-horse team race after two days.

Penn State’s three wrestlers in the consolation bracket also managed to stay alive, surviving the blood round and earning All-American status.

After Ohio State lost in its first three semifinal matches at 125, 133, and 141 lbs., Zain Retherford got the train rolling (heh, see what I did there?) with a 10-4 win over UNC’s Troy Heilmann, his first decision of the weekend after pinning and tech falling his way to the semifinals.

Retherford will wrestle Lock Haven’s Ronnie Perry, the biggest Cinderella story of the weekend, on Saturday night to close out his college career with what he hopes to be his 94th consecutive win.

Jason Nolf eliminated any doubts about his right knee with one of the most dominant performances you will ever see in a wrestling match, let alone in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships. Nolf needed only two takedowns against Ohio State’s Micah Jordan to win by technical fall, 16-0.

Jordan’s loss was the fourth of the round by the Buckeyes, whose double-digit lead turned into a double-digit deficit in favor of the Nittany Lions.

Vincenzo Joseph held off Virginia Tech’s David McFadden to win 3-1 and set up his fifth and final meeting with two-time national champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois, who he famously pinned in last year’s NCAA Finals at 165 lbs.

Mark Hall opened up a 6-2 lead over Missouri’s Daniel Lewis before turning a shot attempt by Louis into a takedown and fall that resulted in a smug stare by the Nittany Lions star sophomore and defending national champion. He’ll wrestle Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia Saturday night in a one-versus-two matchup.

Bo Nickal finished off the royal flush with a 6-3 win over Domenic Abounader of Michigan. He will wrestle Ohio State’s Myles Martin in Saturday night’s final, a rematch of the 2016 174 lb. final and the ninth meeting between the two. Martin versus Nickal is the only finals pairing between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions and could decide the outcome of the team race.

In the consolation bracket, Nick Lee can place as high as third place and as low as sixth after beating Bucknell’s Tyler Smith 13-6 and Sa’derian Perry of Eastern Michigan 12-4. Despite being upset and pinned in the first round, Lee will need to win twice Saturday morning to place third as a true freshman.

Shakur Rasheed and Nick Nevills each won their first bouts of session four to survive the blood round but lost narrow decisions late Friday night, sending them to Saturday morning’s seventh place bout.

Rasheed met top-seeded Kollin Moore but couldn’t get much going; he lost 7-4. Nevills trailed Iowa’s Sam Stoll, who he had beaten twice earlier this season, 1-0 entering the third period. An escape by Nevills forced sudden victory, which Stoll won in with a clutch takedown to keep his third-place hopes alive.

Wrestling resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday morning with the medal round.


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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored 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. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected] All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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