Listen to Jeff Byers' Call of Vincenzo Joseph's Thrilling Comeback Win
Penn State wrestling was in first place Friday afternoon after three rounds of the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, and saw five of its eight competing wrestlers advance to Friday night's semifinals.
One of those semifinalists is redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph, the No. 3 seed at 165, who earned All-America status and advanced in thrilling fashion.
Taking on No. 6 seed Daniel Lewis of Missouri in the quarterfinal, Joseph fell behind early as Lewis countered a shot and took Joseph down for a 3-0 lead then built up more than two minutes of riding time. An escape in the second period gave Joseph a 3-0 lead, but Joseph came back with a takedown and trailed 4-2 heading into the third period.
Joseph took neutral and got a takedown, then brought Lewis' riding time advantage under a minute. Lewis escaped to take a 5-4 lead as the clock ticked down.
We'll let the voice of Penn State wrestling, Jeff Byers, take it from here. (Audio via ESPN Radio 1450/WRSC 1390)
With just eight seconds left, Joseph got the takedown and rode Lewis out for the final seconds to claim a 6-5 decision. He will face Michigan's No. 2 seed Logan Massa in the semifinals.
Junior Zain Retherford, the No. 1 seed at 149, secured All-America status for the third time and moved on to the semifinals with an 18-2 tech fall of South Dakota State's Alex Kocer. Retherford has scored tech falls in each of his three bouts in the tournament and will face No. 5 seed Brandon Sorensen of Iowa in Friday night's semis.
Retherford has had a successful history in big matchups with Sorenson. Last year Retherford defeated Sorensen for the Big Ten championship, 4-0, and the NCAA championship, 10-1. In a January dual meet, things were closer, with Retherford taking a 9-8 win after going to the second tiebreaker.
Sophomore Jason Nolf, the top seed at 157, earned more big bonus points for the Nittany Lions, turning Rider's B.J. Clagon for a second period pin. In his other two bouts in the tourney, Nolf won by tech falls. He'll meet Nebraska's No. 4 seed Tyler Berger in the semifinals.
Freshman Mark Hall continued his strong first-year campaign. The No. 5 seed at 174, Hall dominated early on against No. 4 seed Zach Epperly, opening up an 8-0 first period lead and building a riding time advantage he would not relinquish. The Nittany Lion freshman won a 10-2 major decision, earning more bonus points for Penn State and advancing to face No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia from Arizona State in the semifinals. Hall has picked up bonus points in two of his three tournament wins.
Sophomore Bo Nickal, the No. 2 seed at 184, continued to roll through the competition, opening a 6-2 lead before pinning Nebraska's No. 7 seed T.J. Dudley in the second period of their quarterfinal bout. Nickal, who has two pins and a tech fall in the tournament, takes on Iowa's No. 3 seed Sammy Brooks in the semis.
Three more Penn State wrestlers are still alive to place and earn All-America status.
The Nittany Lions' lone unseeded wrestler, Jimmy Gulibon earned a pair of victories in the 141 pound consolation rounds Friday afternoon. He got a 14-5 major decision over Northern Colorado's Timmy Box, then defeated Ohio State's No. 12 seed Luke Pletcher, 11-5. Gulibon is one win away from All-America honors and will meet NC State's Kevin Jack to open the fourth session.
Junior Matt McCutcheon, the No. 5 seed at 197, lost a tough 7-3 decision to No. 4 seed Jared Haught of Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals. McCutcheon will face Nebraska's Aaron Studebaker, the seventh seed, to start wrestlebacks on Friday night.
Sophomore Nick Nevills, No. 5 at 285, couldn't break through for a takedown in a close bout with Duke's No. 4 seed Jacob Kasper, and the Blue Devil came away with a 3-1 win. Nevills faces Pitt's 15th-seeded Ryan Solomon to open the All America round on Friday night.
In the team race Penn State leads after three sessions with 74 points. Ohio State is second with 59, and Iowa is close behind the Buckeyes with 58.
Session 4 begins at 8 p.m. EDT and will air live on ESPN and ESPN3. Byers' call of all the Nittany Lion action on the Penn State Wrestling Network is being streamed free throughout the weekend at www.gopsusports.com/collegesportslive/.