After the dust settled Saturday night inside Michigan State’s Breslin Center, Penn State trailed in the team race and in the finalists count to Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions advanced five of their eight semifinalists to sit 13.5 points behind the Buckeyes’ 137.5 points. Ohio State has seven finalists.
Zain Retherford (149 pounds), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), Bo Nickal (184) and Shakur Rasheed (197) all are one win away from becoming Big Ten champions. Carson Kuhn (125), Corey Keener (133), Nick Lee (141), Jason Nolf (157) and Nick Nevills all remained alive in the consolation brackets.
“I’ll have to go back and take some time but I think the guys wrestled fine,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “They had a couple of matches they’d like to have another chance at, but they have to come back strong tomorrow.”
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Retherford reached his third straight Big Ten final in his last collegiate season. He came up two points shy of a technical fall over the Golden Gophers’ Steve Bleise in a 14-1 quarterfinals win. Retherford followed by blanking the Buckeyes’ Ke-Shawn Hayes 10-0 to reach the finals, where he will take on Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen.
“It’s here so just living in it,” Retherford said. “I’m pretty excited. I’m not thinking about it as my last one even though it is. It’s just another opportunity that I’m grateful for.”
Joseph got a NCAA semifinals rematch with Michigan’s Logan Massa in the Big Ten semifinals — the result was the same. Joseph won with an identical 5-4 score.
Prior to making the semifinals, Joseph pinned Northwestern’s Mike Sepke in 3:39, and fought off his back twice in an 18-10 major decision over Minnesota’s Nick Wanzek. He’ll take on Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez for the Big Ten crown.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure he is, too,” Joseph said of the rematch of last year’s NCAA finals. “We’re both really tough guys. We both wrestle hard. Tomorrow’s going to be fun no matter what happens.”
Hall cruised to the semifinals sticking Michigan State’s Logan Ritchie in 5:33 and Wisconsin’s Ryan Christensen in 47 seconds. His 4-1 semifinals win over Northwestern’s Johnny Sebastian was different, and he admitted it’s because he was looking for bonus points.
“You have to. It’s a tight team race,” Hall said. “I have to do what I can for the team and that’s winning or it’s pinning.”
Nickal made it to the semifinals with a pin of Minnesota’s Brandon Krone in 1:25. He used two first-period takedowns to top Illinois’ Emery Parker 5-2 to take on Ohio State’s Myles Martin.
Rasheed said that Saturday was a tough day and it showed. He struggled in his opener with Indiana’s Jake Kleimola, who was 0-12. He ended up beating Kleimola 8-4, and tacked on an 11-8 win over Northwestern’s Zack Chakonis in the quarterfinals.
He opened the semifinals with an eight-point first period and that’s all he needed for a 10-2 win over Purdue’s Christian Brunner.
“You got to move on. I was pretty down on myself after the first match,” Rasheed said. “You just got to keep pushing. When things are getting a little salty, you got to keep it sweet.”
Lee, Nolf and Nevills all dropped to the consolations with semifinal losses.
Lee suffered a 10-6 loss to Illinois’ Michael Carr. Nolf, who wrestled for the first time since suffering a knee injury against Rutgers, medical forfeited out of the tournament after winning two matches earlier in the day.
Nevills took on the Buckeyes’ Kyle Snyder and dropped a 14-5 major decision loss.
Kuhn and Keener dropped into the consolations immediately.
Kuhn suffered a technical fall from Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello 21-6. He rebounded by getting his first Big Ten win with a 12-3 major decision over Nebraska’s Mitch Maginnis.
Kuhn then fell into the six-man mini bracket for ninth and 10th place with a loss to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera. He then beat Maginnis again 7-2 to stay alive. He needs one win Sunday afternoon to clinch a spot in the NCAA Championships.
Keener opened the day with a 9-4 loss to Minnesota’s Mitch McKee. He pinned Wisconsin’s Jens Lantz in 3:42 before falling to the seventh-place match with a 12-0 loss to Illinois’ Dylan Duncan. Keener takes on Purdue’s Ben Thornton Sunday and must beat him to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships.
With those four guys in the consolations, Retherford knows it’s going to take a team effort to overtake the Buckeyes.
“We just got to do as best we can to keep scoring points and looking for the pin,” the senior said. “The guys in the wrestlebacks need to do their job and keep scoring. I think it’s all the way up through the lineup.”