Penn State coasts to early lead in NCAA wrestling tournament
Penn State’a Mark Hall, right, lifts North Carolina’s Devin Kane in their 174 lbs. match in the first round of the NCAA college wrestling championship, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
(Pittsburgh) — Penn State rolled through the first two sessions of the NCAA Wrestling Championships on Thursday and is poised to capture its eighth team championship in nine seasons.
Like they’ve done in past years, the Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead in the opening round and extended it with impressive performances in the second.
Nick Lee (141 pounds), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), Bo Nickal (197) and Anthony Cassar (285) each went 2-0 to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals and help Penn State take a 32 1/2-25 1/2 lead over second place Ohio State.
Nolf and Joseph, two-time defending champions at their weight classes, combined for two pins and a technical fall, and Nickal, a two-time champion at 184 pounds, added two pins. Combined, Penn State wrestlers picked up 11 bonus-point wins in the first two sessions.
The Nittany Lions had gone 9-0 in the opening round before Roman Bravo-Young (133), Brady Berge (149) and Shakur Rasheed (197) lost in Round 2. They fell into consolation matches but can still finish as high as third.
“Our guys wrestled OK,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We’ve got to pick it up and wrestle a little bit better (Friday), with more fire I think.”
Ohio State, the only team to win a title during Penn State’s current run, entered as the lone school with 10 qualifiers. By Thursday evening, the Buckeyes’ contingent had been cut to five wrestlers still alive for individual championships.
Led by former 174-pound champion Myles Martin (184) who advanced to the quarters with a pin and major decision, the Buckeyes sent Luke Pletcher (133), Joey McKenna (141), Micah Jordan (149) and Kollin Moore (197) into the quarters.
Iowa, looking to win its first team title since 2010, matched Penn State in the opening round and is a point and a half behind Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes’ followed their 9-0 effort in Round 1 with a 7-2 showing in the second that vaulted defending 125-pound champion Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto (133), Max Murin (141), Pat Lugo (149), Kaleb Young (157), Alex Marinelli (165) and Sam Stoll (285) into their respective quarterfinals.
Minnesota and Oklahoma State are tied for fourth with 20 team points. Wrestling continues through Friday with the finals set for Saturday evening.