Coming off a national championship season that saw five Nittany Lions win individual titles, Penn State heads into its first dual of the season with four wrestlers — the most by any team in the country — sitting atop their respective weight classes.
Senior Zain Retherford (149), junior Jason Nolf (157), sophomore Vincenzo Joseph (165), and junior Bo Nickal (184) were each ranked No. 1 Tuesday by the latest Intermat NCAA Division I poll.
Penn State’s reigning national champ at 174, sophomore Mark Hall, dropped down to No. 2 after losing 3-2 to Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia in the NWCA All Star Classic at Princeton on Sunday. The two last met in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament in March, where the No. 3-seed Hall knocked off the No. 1-seed and undefeated Valencia, after a controversial penalty point late in the match.
Other ranked Nittany Lions include senior transfer Corey Keener, ranked 15th at 133 pounds; Matt McCutcheon, fourth at 197, and Nick Nevills, ranked third at heavyweight.
Penn State has the most wrestlers ranked No. 1, followed by Ohio State with three in Nathan Tomasello (125), Kollin Moore (197) and Kyle Snyder (heavyweight). South Dakota State’s Seth Gross sits atop 133, and Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil tops 141.
The Nittany Lions begin their quest for a third straight national title Thursday with a home dual against Army West Point, and another against Bucknell on Sunday. Army West Point has one ranked wrestler in Ben Harvey, who Intermat has at No. 19 at 174. A win over Harvey would likely not affect Hall’s ranking, unless Valencia were also to lose.
On Sunday, the Nittany Lions take on Bucknell at Rec Hall. Bucknell’s No. 10-ranked Tyler Smith is projected to take on Penn State junior Jered Cortez at 141 pounds. An upset win over Smith could be enough to get Cortez on the board. Cortez, who was injured for most of last season, moved up a weight class from 133, to fill the 141 spot vacated by Jimmy Gulibon, who graduated after last season. McCutcheon will also face a ranked wrestler Sunday in No. 14 Tom Sleigh.
Penn State also sits atop the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association team rankings poll, which was last updated Oct. 31. They are followed by Ohio State at No. 2, Oklahoma State, Michigan and Missouri, to round out the top 5.