Penn State Wrestling

8 Nittany Lions alive for NCAA title

Penn State’s Zain Retherford, bottom, looks for back points on Cal State-Bakersfield’s Coleman Hammond in their 149-pound match at the NCAA Championship in New York on Thursday.
Penn State’s Zain Retherford, bottom, looks for back points on Cal State-Bakersfield’s Coleman Hammond in their 149-pound match at the NCAA Championship in New York on Thursday. The Associated Press

Penn State left off where it was in the Big Ten Championships with several wrestlers in the hunt for a crown.

The Nittany Lions advanced eight of their nine wrestlers in the championship brackets. After the first session of the NCAA Championships were over, Penn State trailed Ohio State in the team race by a slim margin. The Buckeyes took the lead after the heavyweights were finished with Kyle Snyder’s pin — his first of his career. Ohio State has 16.5 points.

Thanks to six bonus point victories, the Nittany Lions racked up 16 team points in front of a crowd of 17,761.

Unseeded wrestlers Jimmy Gulibon (141) and Geno Morelli (165) each earned wins over ranked wrestlers. Gulibon dominated No. 5 Matt Manley, of Missouri, in a 17-2 technical fall. His night won’t get any easier with No. 12 Chris Mecate, of Old Dominion. Wrestling is set to resume at 7 p.m. tonight.

Morelli used a bear hug to score a takedown and two near-fall points early in his match with No. 11 John Staudenmayer, of North Carolina. He gave up an escape to Staudenmayer in the second to remain in 4-2 lead to open the third. Staudenmayer gave Morelli an escape and attempted for the takedown. Morelli held him off and gave up a stall point but won 5-3.

“It feels good,” Morelli said. “I’m really relaxed out there. I don’t feel any pressure. I kind of played it safe at the end. If I’m in that position again, I’ll look to score more points.”

Morelli next faces No. 6 Steven Rodrigues, of Illinois.

Penn State’s day started with Jordan Conaway in the 133-pound bracket. If Nittany Lion fans weren’t awake for the noon start, Conaway woke them up. He fought off an upset-minded Corey Keener, of Central Michigan, for a 6-5 win. He will now face Wisconsin’s Ryan Taylor, who beat Conaway twice in the Big Ten Tournament.

Zain Retherford (149) earned one of those bonus point victories with a 21-6 technical fall of Cal State Bakersfield’s Cole Hammond. Retherford gets Edinboro’s Patricio Lugo.

Nico Megaludis (125) then got his final NCAA Tournament underway with an 18-5 dismantling of Utah Valley’s Chasen Tolbert. Tolbert had to wrestle a preliminary match, which caused Megaludis’ tournament to start late. Megaludis will take on North Dakota State’s Joshua Rodriguez next.

Freshmen Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (174) debuted in the NCAA Tournament in style. Nolf earned a pin of Chattanooga’s Kamaal Shakur in 3:34. Nolf now faces Penn’s May Bethea, who upset No. 14 Austin Matthews, of Edinboro.

Nickal took the entire match, but he earned a 10-2 major decision of Harvard’s Josef Johnson. Nickal takes on Nebraska’s Micah Barnes in the second round.

Nickal’s road to the title might have gotten a little easier after the session was over. The No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds all lost their opening matches.

Cornell’s Brian Realbuto, who was the No. 2 seed, fell to Iowa State’s Lelund Weatherspoon 7-4. Nickal beat Realbuto in the Southern Scuffle in January. No. 3 Blaise Butler, of Missouri, got handled by Oklahoma’s Matt Reed 16-9. No. 4 Ethan Ramos of North Carolina suffered a 13-8 defeat to Navy’s Jadaen Bernstein.

Morgan McIntosh (197) dispatched Rider’s Ryan Wolfe 11-3 for the bonus-point victory. McIntosh now gets Kent State’s Kyle Conel, who topped the nation’s leading pinner in Navy’s Michael Woulfe.

Matt McCutcheon suffered the lone loss for the Nittany Lions. He led the entire match until the end in the 4-3 setback to Bucknell’s Thomas Sleigh, who is a DuBois native.

Nate Cobler: 814-231-4609, @ncoblercdt