Lions already in lead after first day of action

PITTSBURGH — Penn State led the team race at the end of the first day of competition Thursday at the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena, but the Nittany Lions suffered a few chinks in their armor.

The Nittany Lions held a 7.5-point lead over second-place Ohio State, 32.5-25, and third-place Iowa had 24 points as the first-round consolation bouts finished up.

The Nittany Lions had pushed six wrestlers into this morning’s quarterfinals, one fewer than Iowa and one more than Ohio State. They included Nick Lee (141), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), Bo Nickal (197) and Anthony Cassar (285).

Penn State’s other three entrants — Roman Bravo-Young (133), Brady Berge (149) and Shakur Rasheed (184) — fell in Round of 16 matches Friday evening.

“It’s the national tournament. There’s a lot of tough kids here. I think our guys wrestled OK. We’ve got to pick it up and wrestle a little bit better tomorrow with a little bit more fire, I think,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “There’s not much we can do about the past now. We have to look forward and get ready to roll tomorrow morning.”

Lee looked especially sharp, scoring two falls in 3:38 and 3:42. He earned a quarterfinal match-up with Iowa No. 22 seed Max Murin. Lee dominated Murin, 8-1, in the Big Ten tournament.

Murin, the Central Cambria grad, posted consecutive upsets of No. 11 seed Tristan Moran of Wisconsin, 3-2, and then 4-3 over No. 6 seed Michael Carr of Illinois.

Nolf started with a fall in 43 seconds before destroying Rutgers’ John Van Brill, against whom he injured his knee last season, with a 19-4 technical fall in 6:47. He takes on Arizona State’s Christian Pagdilao this morning.

Joseph followed up a first-round fall in 2:58 with a controlling 7-4 win. He earned a rematch with Nebraska’s Isaiah White, who Joseph beat, 4-2 in sudden victory, in last year’s quarterfinals.

Hall wasn’t dominant, but he wasn’t challenged either in 10-2 and 8-2 wins. He’ll meet Northern Iowa’s Taylor Lujan this morning. Hall beat Lujan, 6-2, in last year’s quarterfinals.

Nickal does what he usually does — dominate. He scored a pair of first-period falls in 2:35 and 2:26. He meets Stanford’s Nathan Traxler.

Cassar, in his first NCAA tournament, looked like he belonged. He started with a fall in 4:20 and followed that up with a 10-2 major decision. He earned a quarterfinal pairing with Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger.

Bravo-Young, Berge and Rasheed, who was upset in the Round of 16, are still alive in the consolations and could wrestle back for third-place finishes.

“Our guys who lost we need them to battle back and our guys who won, regardless, you’ve got to bring a good attitude and go out there and score points,” Sanderson said.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. Each match is a new day. If you wrestled great, just keep it up. We’ve got to make that decision, each individual has to make that decision tomorrow. I like where we’re at. I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys. More than that, it’s just about them. This is their opportunity. As a team, this is their opportunity, it’s the national championship. Let’s see what they do tomorrow.”

Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver, a 174-pounder for Edinboro who was seeded 28th, had a tough first-round draw in Lehigh No. 5 seed Jordan Kutler. The Mountain Hawk handed Oliver a 10-2 major decision loss. In a first-round consolation bout, Oliver met Iowa State’s Marcus Coleman and dropped a 9-4 decision. Oliver was eliminated from further competition.

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