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Penn State Sends 5 Wrestlers To Big Ten Championships Finals

by on March 03, 2018 11:48 PM

After an impressive performance on Saturday morning during the first session of the Big Ten Championships, in which the eight Nittany Lion wrestlers from 141 through 285 pounds qualified for the conference semifinals, Penn State saw a few setbacks during the second session but qualified five wrestlers for the finals.

In the team race, Penn State has 124.0 points, sitting a bit behind Ohio State, which has totaled 137.5 points. The next closest team is Michigan with an even 100.0 points.

The Buckeyes send seven wrestlers to the finals, compared to the Nittany Lions’ five finalists. The two teams will compete head to head for individual conference titles at 184 and 197 pounds. Twelve of the 20 finalists, or 60 percent, come from the nation’s top two programs.

Shortly after the session began, Penn State announced that No. 2 seed Jason Nolf, who had a pin and major earlier in the day, would injury forfeit his way out of the tournament in an apparent cautionary measure. Nolf’s withdrawal sent Michigan’s Alex Pantaleo to the finals to wrestle Ohio State's Micah Jordan. After suffering a leg injury during a January dual, Nolf was back in action for the first time and has qualified for the NCAA Championships. 

In semifinals action, Nick Lee, the No. 2 seed at 141,  took his first loss of the day, a 10-6 upset by No. 3-seeded Michael Carr of Illinois. After Lee scored the first points of the bout with an early takedown, Carr answered by outscoring the true freshman 10-4. The loss sent Lee to the consolation bracket. He is guaranteed a top-six finish and trip to the NCAA Championships, but he’ll need two wins to place third.

Zain Retherford, the top seed at 149, secured his fourth trip to the conference finals by shutting out Ke-shawn Hayes of Ohio State for a major decision, the weekend’s second meeting between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes.

After Nolf’s injury forfeit at 157, Penn State locked up four consecutive finals berths. Semifinal action resumed at 165, when Vincenzo Joseph beat Michigan’s Logan Massa for the third time in a row with a close 5-4 decision. Joseph led 4-2 before a reviewed takedown granted in Massa’s favor tied the bout at 4-4. Joseph escaped decisively to win the bout and set up Sunday’s much-anticipated fourth showdown between him and Isaiah Martinez of Illinois, who Joseph pinned in the national title bout last year.

Mark Hall earned his second straight finals berth with a 4-1 decision win over Northwestern’s Johnny Sebastian off of a takedown, escape, and penalty point. He will face No. 3 seed Myles Amine of Michigan in the championship match.

Bo Nickal followed suit with his own decision, a 5-2 win over Illinois’ Emery Park. His win secured another long-awaited matchup and NCAA finals rematch. Sunday afternoon will write the next chapter in the thrilling, yet confusing rivalry between Nickal and Ohio State’s Myles Martin.

Nickal leads the series 5-2, but Martin is 2-1 against him in the postseason and has won their last two March meetings.

Another Penn State-Ohio State finals matchup is set for 197 when top seeds Kollin Moore and Shakur Rasheed meet with the conference title on the line. Rasheed took an early 8-1 lead before securing a 10-2 major decision over Purdue’s Christian Brunner and a finals berth.

Moore memorably lost to Anthony Cassar last month during the teams’ dual. In the time since, Rasheed has earned the outright starting job, which Cassar had won in the preseason.

After Penn State won five straight quarterfinals bouts, the Nittany Lions' hot streak came to an end at 285. Nick Nevills fell to Olympic champion Kyle Snyder of Ohio State in a 14-5 major decision. Nevills will wrestle in the consolation bracket tomorrow afternoon.

In the consolation bracket, 125-pounder Carson Kuhn was bounced from the team tournament after a 13-3 loss to Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern. Despite being eliminated from the team tournament, Kuhn was entered into a mini six-team tournament to decide the Big Ten’s last three bids to the NCAA Championships. Kuhn moved within one win of the NCAA Championships after beating Nebraska’s Mitch Maginnis for the second time on the day, this time via a 7-2 decision.

Corey Keener is in a similar situation at 133. He will wrestle for seventh place after pinning Wisconsin’s Jens Lantz in his first bout of the session and losing 12-0 to Dylan Duncan of Illinois.

Wrestling resumes at noon on Sunday in the consolation bracket, beginning at 125 pounds with Kuhn.


Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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