NCAA Wrestling: Penn State Extends Team Lead, Goes 5-2 in Quarters

psu-wrestlingST. LOUIS – The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team, winner of five of the last six NCAA Championships, extended its lead in the team race at the midway point of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis. Penn State was strong in session three and will have five wrestlers into tonight’s national semifinals, airing live on ESPN. All eight Penn State wrestlers are still alive in the tournament.

The Nittany Lions went 5-2 in the quarterfinals and 7-2 overall. Penn State leads the team race with 74.0 points at mid-afternoon Friday. Iowa and Ohio State are in second place with 57.5 points each while Cornell and Oklahoma State are in fourth with 47.0. The Lions are looking for their second straight NCAA title and their sixth in the last seven years. Penn State has won a total of six NCAA team titles (1953, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016) and is seeking its seventh overall. Penn State’s five semifinalists have all secured All-America status, including two freshmen picking up the laurels for the first time.

Junior Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa.), the No. 1 seed at 149, met Alex Kocer of South Dakota State in Penn State’s first quarterfinal. Retherford opened up an early 4-1 lead with two first period takedowns. After reversing Kocer to begin the second stanza, the Lion senior worked his ride to a technical fall. Retherford turned Kocer twice for four-point near falls, nearly picking up a pin on the second as the period ended. The second period domination gave Retherford a 16-2 lead heading into the third. Kocer chose neutral to start the third period and Retherford ended the bout with a fast double leg takedown to post the 18-2 tech fall at the 5:13 mark. Retherford is now a three time All-American. He is 3-0 with three tech falls so far in this year’s tournament and will meet No. 5 Brandon Sorensen of Iowa in tonight’s national semifinals.

Sophomore Jason Nolf (Yatesboro, Pa.), the No. 1 seed at 157, took on B.J. Clagon of Rider in the quarterfinals. Nolf took an early 2-0 lead with a takedown with just over 1:00 left in the period and then built up a 1:00 riding time edge before Clagon escaped. Nolf picked up a takedown with just seconds left and the Lion led 4-1 after one. Nolf chose down to start the second period and summarily ended the match. He reversed Clagon for a quick two and two near fall, then reset himself on top, turned the Bronc to his back and picked up the pin at the 4:06 mark. Nolf is now a two-time All-American. He is 3-0 with two techs and a pin at the tournament’s midway point and will take on No. 4 Tyler Berger of Nebraska in the national semifinals.

Red-shirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh, Pa.), the No. 3 seed at 165, met No. 6 Daniel Lewis of Missouri in his quarterfinal match-up. Joseph looked to score early with a solid shot, but Lewis countered, controlled the Lion freshman’s shoulders and took him down for an early 2-0 lead. Lewis then rode Joseph for the remainder of the period and led 2-0 with 2:22 in riding time after one period. Joseph was undeterred and his conditioning paid off. Lewis chose down to start the second and Joseph controlled action for a bit before he escaped to a 3-0 lead. From that point, Joseph took over. He notched one takedown in the second and trailed 4-2. Choosing neutral in the third, Joseph picked up a quick takedown and worked Lewis’ riding time down below 1:00 before the Tiger escaped to a 5-4 lead. With just :08 left, Joseph took Lewis down and rode him out to post the thrilling 6-5 win. The victory makes Joseph an All-American. He is 3-0 with a major so far in St. Louis and will take on No. 2 Logan Massa of Michigan in the national semifinals.
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True freshman Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.), the No. 5 seed at 174, took on No. 4 Zach Epperly of Virginia Tech in the quarters. Hall took command of the bout early, taking Epperly down at the 2:08 mark and then turning him for two back points to lead 4-0. The Lion continued his strong ride, controlling Epperly, turning him for four more near fall points and leading 8-0 after one period. Taking down to start the second, Hall escaped to a 9-0 lead, but gave up a takedown and led 9-2 at :44. Hall chose down after an Epperly injury time but could not escape the Hokie ride. Still, the freshman led 9-2 after two periods. Epperly chose down to start the final stanza. Hall maintained control of Epperly long enough to push his riding time back over 1:00. Hall’s strong work on top broke Epperly to the mat and the Nittany Lion freshman finished the period on top. The ride out gave him 2:23 in riding time and a 10-2 major. Hall became an All-American with the win. He is 3-0 with a tech and a major and will meet No. 1 Zahid Valencia of Arizona State in the semifinals tonight.

Sophomore Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas), the No. 2 seed at 184, met No. 7 TJ Dudley of Nebraska in his quarterfinal bout. Nickal took an early 2-0 lead with a takedown at the 1:50 mark. Nebraska challenged the call but it stood. After a Dudley escape, Nickal took Dudley down once more to up his lead to 4-2. The Lion sophomore carried that lead into the second period. He took down to start the second and deftly reversed Dudley to up his lead to 6-2. Dudley picked up two points to briefly cut into Nickal’s lead but the Lions sophomore wrapped his hands around Dudley’s head, moved his hold to lock up a cradle and pinned the Husker at the 4:33 mark. Nickal is now a two-time All-American. He is 3-0 with two pins and a tech and will take on No. 3 Sammy Brooks of Iowa in tonight’s semifinals.

Junior Matt McCutcheon (Apollo, Pa.), the No. 5 seed at 197, met No. 4 Jared Haught of Virginia Tech in the quarters. Haught drew first blood with a solid single leg for a takedown. McCutcheon escaped quickly and trailed 2-1 at the 1:10 mark. Haught took McCutcheon down as the period ended and the Lion trailed 4-1 after the opening stanza. McCutcheon escaped to start the second period but Haught tacked on a third takedown and led 6-3 with :40 left in the middle period. Haught escaped to start the third period and then McCutcheon got in on a low single to force a scramble at the 1:00 mark. Haught forced a stalemate and action resumed neutral. The Hokie fought off McCutcheon’s latter shots and posted a 7-3 win. McCutcheon’s loss sends him to the All-American round tonight to begin session four.

Sophomore Nick Nevills (Clovis, Calif.), the No. 5 seed at 285, took on No. 4 Jacob Kasper of Duke in Penn State’s final quarterfinal bout. Nevills fought off an early Kasper shot and kept the match neutral. As the clock wound down below :30, Kasper worked his way in on a single that resulted in a scramble on the edge of the mat where each man nearly scoring. The clock hit 0:00 and action moved to the second scoreless. Kasper chose down to start the second period and escaped to a 1-0 lead after :43. Kasper mounted a late charge with a solid shot and notched a takedown at the buzzer to lead 3-0 after two periods. Nevills chose down to start the third and quickly escaped to a 3-1 score. Nevills was unable to break through Kasper’s strong defense and the Blue Devil notched the 3-1 decision. Nevills’ loss sends him to the All-American round tonight to begin session four.

Senior Jimmy Gulibon (Latrobe, Pa.), unseeded at 141, took on Timmy Box of Northern Colorado in consolation round two. Gulibon, who went 1-1 with a tech fall yesterday, once again proved his mettle, not just winning but picking up bonus points with a major. Gulibon opened up a fast 9-3 lead that he turned into 14-5 major with a late takedown in the third period. Gulibon’s win kept him alive in this morning’s consolation action where he took on No. 12 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State. The duo battled through a scoreless opening minute with action taking place in the center circle. Gulibon hit on a head outside single and took a 2-1 lead as the clock moved below 1:00. Leading 2-1, Gulibon broke it open in the second period. He escaped to start the stanza and then quickly took Pletcher down to up his lead to 5-1. The Lion senior finished the period on top and led 5-1 with 1:27 in riding time after two. He tacked on two takedowns, an escape and 2:05 in riding time to roll to an 11-5 win and move one more win closer to becoming a two-time All-American. Gulibon will now wrestle in tonight’s conso round four, looking for another victory.

Penn State went 7-2 in session three and picked up 7.5 bonus points off two majors, a tech and two pins. Penn State is 22-3 after three sessions, grabbing 23.0 bonus points off three majors, eight tech falls and four pins. All eight Lions are still alive as the Nittany Lions look to win their second straight NCAA title, sixth in the last seven years, and seventh overall.

Semifinalists Retherford, Nolf, Joseph, Hall and Nickal are now All-Americans. McCutcheon, Nevills and Gulibon will wrestle in tonight’s consolation round four, needing one more win to secure All-America status and keep pushing Penn State towards a team title. The Nittany Lions, with five All-Americans at this point of the tournament, now have 205 all-time All-Americans, 42 of those have come under Sanderson’s tutelage. Retherford now has 12 career NCAA wins, one shy of 21st all-time at Penn State. Nolf is now 15th on Penn State’s all-time pins list with 29 for his career while Nickal moves into a tie for 20th all-time with 24.

The 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships continue tonight with the national semifinals and consolation action. Session four begins at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central and airs live on ESPN. The three day event continues through Saturday night’s NCAA Championship Finals. Saturday’s session five starts at 11 a.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Central and airs live on ESPNU; and Saturday’s session six, the championship finals, begins at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central and airs live on ESPN.

2017 NCAA Championships – Team Standings (top five) after Session 3:
(NOTE: as of 2:40 p.m. Eastern press time w/ consolation round still in action)
March 17, 2017 – Scottrade Center – St. Louis, Mo.

1: PENN STATE – 74.0
2: Iowa – 57.5
2: Ohio State – 57.5
4: Cornell – 47.0
4: Oklahoma State – 47.0

Weight-by-weight agate (rankings listed are official tournament seed)

141: Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. –

Rd. 1: vs. #13 Javier Gasca, Michigan State – W, 18-3 (TF; 7:00)
Rd. 2: vs. #4 Matt Kolodzik, Princeton – L, 3-6 dec.
Con 2: vs. Timmy Box, Northern Colorado – W, 14-5 maj. dec.
Con 3: vs. #12 Luke Pletcher, Ohio State – W, 11-4 dec.
Con 4: tonight

149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. – 3X All-American —

Rd. 1: vs. Joshua Maruca, Arizona State – W, 18-2 (TF; 4:55)
Rd. 2: vs. No. 16 Jordan Laster, Princeton – W, 16-0 (TF; 5:43)
Qtrs: vs. Alex Kocer, South Dakota State – W, 18-2 (TF; 5:13)
Semis: Tonight vs. #5 Brandon Sorensen, Iowa – tonight

157: #1 Jason Nolf, So. – 2X All-American —

Rd. 1: vs. Thomas Bullard, North Carolina St. – W, 22-7 (TF; 7:00)
Rd. 2: vs. #16 Victor Lopez, Bucknell – W, 24-9 (TF; 7:00)
Qtrs: vs. B.J. Clagon, Rider – WBF (4:06)
Semis: vs. #4 Tyler Berger, Nebraska — tonight

165: #3 Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. – All-American —

Rd. 1: vs. Keaton Subjeck, Stanford – W, 5-1 dec.
Rd. 2: vs. #14 Branson Ashworth, Wyoming – W, 12-4 maj. dec.
Qtrs: vs. #6 Daniel Lewis, Missouri – W, 6-5 dec.
Semis: vs. #2 Logan Massa, Michigan – tonight

174: #5 Mark Hall, Fr. – All-American —

Rd. 1: vs. David Kocer, South Dakota State – W, 8-2 dec.
Rd. 2: vs. Jadaen Bernstein, Navy – W, 16-0 (TF; 2:20)
Qtrs: vs. #4 Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech – W, 10-2 maj. dec.
Semis: vs. #1 Zahid Valencia, Arizona State – tonight

184: #2 Bo Nickal, So. —

Rd. 1: vs. Mitch Sliga, Northwestern – W, 15-0 (TF; 3:20)
Rd. 2: vs. #15 Steven Schneider, Binghamton – WBF (5:33)
Qtrs: vs. #7 TJ Dudley, Nebraska – WBF (4:33)
Semis: vs. #3 Sammy Brooks, Iowa – tonight

197: #5 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. –

Rd. 1: vs. Christian Brunner, Purdue – WBF (1:53)
Rd. 2: vs. #12 Frank Mattiace, Penn – W, 6-3 dec.
Qtrs: vs. #4 Jared Haught, Virginia Tech – L, 3-7 dec.
Con 4: tonight

285: #5 Nick Nevills, So. – 3rd seed —

Rd. 1: vs. Doug Vollaro, Lehigh – W, 4-2 dec.
Rd. 2: vs. #12 William Miller, Edinboro – W, 6-2 dec.
Qtrs: #4 Jacob Kasper, Duke – L, 1-3 dec.
Con 4: tonight