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Three Nittany Lion Wrestlers Win Titles, Penn State Finishes Second at Big Ten Championships

by on March 04, 2018 6:17 PM

Penn State wrestling kept up with Ohio State for as long as it could during day two of the Big Ten Championships, before the Buckeyes pulled away during the last bouts of the finals. The Nittany Lions crowned three individual champions and ended with eight medalists, including seven top-three finishes.

In the team race, Penn State finished in second place with 148.0 points, trailing only Big Ten champion Ohio State’s 164.5 points. Michigan came in third with 118.0 points, and Iowa was fourth with 90.0 points.

Zain Retherford, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal all claimed individual titles. Nine Nittany Lion wrestlers have qualified to compete in the NCAA Championships, March 15-17 in Cleveland.

Championship Bracket

Every title bout featured a wrestler from either Penn State or Ohio State. The Nittany Lions entered the conference finals trailing the Buckeyes 145.0 to 133.0, in need of a big performance and some luck to launch a comeback.

At 125 pounds, Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello fell behind Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak 5-2 but roared back by outscoring the Golden Gopher 8-2 to close out the bout and win his fourth consecutive conference title with a 10-7 decision.

The Buckeyes had their second finalist at 133, when Luke Pletcher met Michigan’s Stevan Micic. Pletcher trailed 5-2 in the third period, before a reversal brought him within one point of a championship. Micic escaped and scored a riding time point to hold off the late comeback attempt en route to the Big Ten title.

At 141, Ohio State had its third consecutive finalist when Joey McKenna met Illinois’ Michael Carr. McKenna scored four near fall points two different times in the first period to post a 10-0 lead. After the fast start, the two-time Pac-12 champion scored just one more takedown and recorded a riding time point to beat Carr 13-0, making the Big Ten the second conference he has now won an individual title in.

The 149-pound final was the first of five championship bouts featuring a Nittany Lion, when Zain Retherford and Brandon Sorensen, the weight class’s top two seeds, met for the sixth time in the last three seasons. The match was scoreless through the first two periods before Retherford escaped 24 seconds into the third period. He and Sorensen finished the match on their feet, as Retherford won his third Big Ten title with a 2-0 decision.

A second period rideout earned Retherford a riding time point that made the final score 2-0. In two meetings, Sorensen remains the only wrestler not to allow bonus points to Retherford this season.

Another Ohio State/Michigan final set the stage for the title bout at 157. After second-seeded Penn State's Jason Nolf medically forfeited out of the tournament Saturday night, and Micah Jordan of Ohio State pinned first-seeded Michael Kemerer of Iowa, fourth-seeded Jordan faced third-seeded Alec Pantaleo of Michigan.

Pantaleo scored three points in the second period to go up 3-0 on Jordan. He held on for the 3-1 win in the third period and notch the Wolverines’ second individual title of the afternoon.

In a rematch of last season’s 165-pound NCAA final, Isaiah Martinez of Illinois and Penn State's Vincenzo Joseph treated fans to a chess match for the 2018 conference title. After a scoreless first period, Joseph escaped midway through the second period to take a 1-0 lead. Martinez evened the score by escaping quickly to begin the third period. With a riding time advantage, the escape gave Martinez the upper hand throughout the remainder of the bout.

Joseph nearly took down Martinez with the clock winding down, but a roll-through by Martinez resulted in a stalemate that put the wrestlers back on their feet. Martinez scored the only takedown of the bout with two-points at the buzzer as he captured his fourth Big Ten title, the second wrestler to do so Sunday afternoon.

The 174-pound title bout brought another tight decision. After a scoreless first period, Mark Hall jumped out ahead of Michigan’s Myles Amine with an escape in the second period. Amine then reversed Hall in the third period to take a 2-1 lead. Hall answered by quickly escaping and taking down Amine to go up 4-2. Amine escaped one more time to cut the deficit to 4-3, but Hall held on for the decision win.

After losing in sudden victory to Ohio State’s Bo Jordan in last year’s 174-pound championship bout, Hall won his first conference title.

The 184-pound championship bout brought the first of two consecutive matchups between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. In the eighth meeting between Bo Nickal and Myles Martin, Nickal used two takedowns, two escapes, and 1:42 of riding time to beat Martin, 7-4.

The two teams met again at 197 when top seeds Kollin Moore and Shakur Rasheed wrestled in the finals. Moore took down Rasheed four times and was in control throughout the bout, winning 8-4, seemingly executing a strategy that minimized how long he rode Rasheed.

Moore’s win officially clinched the team title for the Buckeyes.

The finals concluded with Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder wrestling Michigan’s Adam Coon. Coon previously beat Snyder in the teams’ dual meet.

After the pair of heavyweights ended regulation tied 1-1, they entered overtime. After ending the first two overtime periods tied 2-2, Snyder and Coon finished the first sudden victory period still tied. Snyder however prevailed with a takedown in the fourth period of free wrestling, resulting in the Buckeyes’ fourth individual title of the afternoon.

Consolation Bracket

Nick Lee finished in third place after going 2-0 Sunday. He began his day by beating Iowa’s Vince Turk 8-3 before majoring Nate Limmex of Purdue in a strong 15-5 win to clinch his bronze medal.

After falling to Kyle Snyder in the semifinals, Nick Nevills entered the consolation bracket in pursuit of a third-place finish. He used a 6-1 decision over Maryland’s Youssef Hemida to advance to the third-place match, which he won by beating Iowa’s Sam Stoll, 5-2.

Corey Keener won his only match on Sunday, an 11-3 major decision over Purdue’s Ben Thornton, to place seventh and clinch his fourth trip to the NCAA Championships after qualifying three times at Central Michigan.

Mini Tournament

Day Two began with a tough loss at 125 lbs. for Carson Kuhn. He led Michigan’s Drew Mattin 2-1 after two periods despite the Wolverine riding him out for the entirety of the second period. Martin reversed Kuhn to take the lead and eventually win 6-4. The loss cost Kuhn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, forcing him to wrestle for eleventh place.

Kuhn pinned Wisconsin’s Johnny Jimenez in the first period of the bout for eleventh place to finish the weekend 3-3. After entering the weekend seeded last at 125 lbs., Kuhn finished one spot away from an automatic NCAA berth but still in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.


Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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