Penn State had just one wrestler competing Saturday morning on the final day of the NCAA championships — but that’s all it needed to clinch yet another national championship.
No matter what happens during Saturday night’s finals matches, the Nittany Lions have already clinched their sixth NCAA title in seven years. So one check mark is already in the goal column.
Another goal? Seeing more individual national champs, and Penn State has five in the finals: Zain Retherford (149 pounds), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184).
Much like last season, Penn State wrapped up the team race before its finalists even hit the mat thanks in part to Iowa wrestlers.
The day began as a three team race with Oklahoma State and Ohio State joining the Nittany Lions. The Cowboys chances were eliminated when Nick Piccininni fell to Iowa’s Thomas Gilman in the 125-pound bronze-medal match.
The Buckeyes’ shot was ended when Micah Jordan fell to the Hawkeyes’ Brandon Sorenson 149-pound bronze-medal match.
Penn State had 122 points, Ohio State was second with 106 and Oklahoma State was third with 99 after the session was over.
Nickal’s match with Cornell’s Gabe Dean will be the final one of the night as college wrestling fans voted it the marquee matchup. The Nittany Lions will got five straight matches in succession with Retherford kicking things off. He will be in the first of two Penn State-Missouri matchups when he takes on Lavion Mayes. Nolf follows against the Tigers’ Joey LaValle.
Joseph gets a third shot at Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez. Hall gets a rematch with Ohio State’s Bo Jordan.
Nick Nevills wrestled back to finish fifth with a 4-3 sudden-victory win over Duke’s Jacob Kasper at 285 pounds. Kasper knocked Nevills into the consolation bracket with a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals on Friday morning. Nevills dropped into the fifth-place match with a 5-3 loss to Virginia Tech’s Ty Walz on Saturday morning.
“It’s a pretty good feeling, a relief, something that I wanted to get and achieve,” Nevills said about becoming an All-American. “I would (have) liked to have won that quarters match. I don’t think I wrestled very well but that happens sometimes. I had to wrestle back.”
The championship matches will begin at 197 pounds with Missouri getting to see one of its’ own in J’Den Cox against Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr. At 285 pounds, Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder looks for his second straight NCAA title against Wisconsin’s Connor Medbery.
Lehigh’s Darian Cruz, who upset Gilman in the semifinals, takes on the Golden Gohpers’ Ethan Lizak in a matchup of two Pennsylvania wrestlers from District 11. At 133 pounds, Iowa’s Cory Clark gets South Dakota State’s Seth Gross, who became the first NCAA finalist for the Jackrabbits.
The final match not featuring a Penn State wrestler will be at 141 pounds with Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil taking on Virginia’s George DiCamillo.