Nittany Lions have three going to championships
BLOOMINGTON, Ind — As of this morning, the Penn State wrestling team sits in second place at the Big Ten Championships being held at Indiana University after their performances on Saturday.
Coach Cael Sanderson’s squad has three wrestlers in today’s finals, and eight more are alive in the consolation round as Penn State looks to win its second straight and sixth overall Big Ten Championship.
Penn State is in second place in the team race. Ohio State is in first at 117.0, followed by Penn State with 98.5 and Iowa in third with 95.0.
Senior Jimmy Gulibon, the No. 2 seed at 141, took on Michigan’s Sal Profaci in the second round of consolations, kicking off Penn State’s session. Gulibon gave up a reversal to start the second period and fell behind 2-0, but the Lion senior roared back to post a strong 7-3 decision with 1:43 in riding time to move into the consolation quarters. Gulibon lost to Mary-land’s Ryan Diehl in consy quarters.
Junior Zain Retherford, the No. 1 seed at 149, was the first of seven Penn State semifinalists. Retherford pinned Maryland’s Alfred Bannister. Retherford took Bannister down midway through the first period and two turns later led 10-0 after one period. He led 12-0 after two periods and, after Bannister chose down to start the third period, turned him for the pin at the 6:01 mark.
Sophomore Jason Nolf, the No. 1 seed at 157, took on No. 9 Jake Short of Minnesota in the semis. Nolf led 5-4 after one, giving up a first period takedown. The Lion then blew the bout open to lead 13-6 after two, including a dazzling late cradle on the edge of the mat to open up the big lead. After two third-period takedowns, Nolf wrapped up another cradle and this time finished off the move by getting a pin at the 6:09 mark.
Redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph, the No. 4 seed at 165, took on top-seed and top-ranked Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in the semifinals. Martinez had two takedowns to lead 4-2 after the opening period. He staved off a late Joseph rally, including a late reversal, to post the 8-5 win.
True freshman Mark Hall, the No. 2 seed at 174, battled No. 11 Zach Brunson of Illinois in the semifinals. Hall used a first-period takedown and strong defense to post a hard-fought 4-2 win. .
Sophomore Bo Nickal, the No. 1 seed at 184, faced No. 8 Myles Martin of Ohio State in the semifinals. Nickal gave up a first- and third-period takedown and was upset, 6-4, by the Buckeye, suffering his first loss of the season. Nickal, who went 1-1 today, will continue action in consolation semis tomorrow, looking to finish as high as third.
Junior Matt McCutcheon, the No. 4 seed at 197, took on top-seed and No. 2 Brett Pfarr of Minnesota in the semifinals. McCutcheon opened up an early lead with a first-period takedown and led 2-1 after one period. But Pfarr used a takedown and four near fall points on a scramble in the second to open up a lead and went on to post the 11-3 major over McCutcheon. McCutcheon, 1-1 on the day, will wrestle in consolation semifinal action tomorrow, looking to finish as high as third.
Sophomore Nick Nevills, the No. 3 seed at 285, met No. 2 Connor Medbery of Wisconsin in the semifinals. Nevills led 1-0 early in the second before Medbery notched the bout’s only takedown.
The senior Badger rode that takedown to a 3-2 win over Nevills. Nevills, who needs one more win to clinch a spot in NCAAs, now moves into the consolation semifinals, looking to place as high as third.
True freshman Nick Suriano, the No. 2 seed at 125, ended his tournament with an early injury default Saturday morning. Suriano, 0-1 at the tourney, will be in the pool for an at-large bid at 125 when the NCAA announces the full field on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Redshirt freshman Triston Law went 0-2 in session one and bowed out of the tournament at 133.
Seven Nittany Lions — Gulibon, Retherford, Nolf, Joseph, Hall, Nickal and McCutcheon — have earned spots at the NCAA Wrestling Championships two weeks from now in St. Louis’ Scottrade Center on March 16-18. With the Big Ten getting only five automatic spots at 285, Nevills needs one more win today to secure his spot.
Penn State posted a 4-5 overall record in session two and is 13-10 overall. Penn State picked up 18 bonus point off nine pins after day one of the event.
Wrestling starts back up today at noon with consolation action and seventh-place bouts. The finals, and placing bouts, will air live on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m.