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Penn State Wrestling Crowns Four National Champions, Clinches Title

It took until the third-to-last bout, but Penn State wrestling earned its third straight national title and seventh in eight years Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions finished with four national champions and one runner-up, after qualifying five wrestlers for the finals.

At 149 lbs., Zain Retherford faced Lock Haven’s Ronnie Moore in an all Central Pennsylvania championship bout. Retherford took Moore down twice in the first period to open up a 4-1 lead. An escape by Retherford to begin the second period put him up 5-1, and that was all he needed to win.

After earning a riding time point, Retherford closed his well-accomplished career on a 94-match winning streak and as one of only two three-time national champions in program history, along with Ed Ruth.

Jason Nolf had a similarly strong first period to open a commanding 4-1 lead over NC State’s Hayden Hidlay, the top seed at 157 lbs., after the first period. Nolf escaped to begin the second period and held on for the 6-2 decision win and his second national title at 157 lbs.

Vincenzo Joseph also pulled out a win for the Nittany Lions against the top seed, Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez, who Joseph had previously beaten in last year’s NCAA Finals.

Joseph struck first with a takedown and two near-fall points to end what had been a quiet, methodical first period. The inside trip that Joseph used to take the lead was reminiscent of his takedown and fall he had pinned Martinez with a year ago.

Joseph extended his lead to 5-1 after Martinez was called for unnecessary roughness for headbutting Joseph in the chin after a stalemate was called. Like Nolf and Retherford, that early lead was all Joseph needed to defend his title. He won by 6-1 decision.

Penn State’s hot run in the finals ended at 174 lbs. when second-seeded Mark Hall fell to top-seeded Zahid Valencia of Arizona State in an 8-2 decision.

Valencia and Hall, two of the most athletic and scoring-happy wrestlers in the nation, put on a show of scrambles for seven minutes. Valencia however held the upper hand throughout the bout. After Hall escaped to tie the score 2-2 to begin the second period, Valencia pulled away with six straight points to earn his first national title and avenge last season’s semifinal loss.

The final bout of the season came at 184 lbs. where Bo Nickal met nemesis Myles Martin of Ohio State in another matchup between top-two seeds and one with major implications for the still undecided team race. Nickal needed a win to clinch the title for Penn State, while a win by Martin would’ve put the outcome in the team race in the hands of Ohio State’s Olympic champion Kyle Snyder.

After a scoreless first minute, Martin took down Nickal and had the Nittany Lion on his back. Nickal, however, somehow epically avoided the fall by reversing Martin and throwing him to his back for the first-period fall and his second-straight national title at 184 lbs.

Wrestling resumes this November.

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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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