Penn State started the day with six quarterfinalists and a 3.5 point lead in the team race.
After the third session ended on Friday, the Nittany Lions have five semifinalists and a 14.5 point lead in the second day of the NCAA Tournament. They lead Ohio State, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Missouri.
Penn State’s “Big dogs” as coach Cael Sanderson calls them, Nico Megaludis (125), Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) all advanced to the semifinals slated to start at 8 p.m. tonight. The semifinal matches air live on ESPN.
Retherford, Nolf, Nickal and McIntosh all earned bonus-point victories in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,899.
For Retherford, it didn’t take him long to earn his win. Retherford took Central Michigan’s Justin Oliver down and threw in the legs. Retherford put in the half nelson and began working on Oliver. He turned him over and earned the pin in 2:12. Retherford next faces Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo, who Retherford has pinned twice already this year.
Nolf got a rematch with Oklahoma State’s Jo Jo Smith. The pair tangled in the Southern Scuffle finals in January with Nolf coming out on top. The result was the same, but Nolf had an 11-3 major decision instead of just a decision. Rider’s Chad Walsh meets Nolf in the semifinals. Nolf dispatched Walsh earlier this year 18-7.
Nickal didn’t have a problem with the Cowboys’ Chandler Rogers. Nickal controlled the entire match leading 6-0 after the first period. Leading 6-1 to open the third, Nickal tacked on eight more points and added a riding point time for the 15-4 win. Nickal faces Indiana’s Nate Jackson in the semifinals. Jackson handed Nickal his only loss this year.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way these guys are wrestling,” McIntosh said of Nickal and Nolf. “Just how mature they are, coming into a big tournament like this and not taking no for an answer and just stepping out there and wrestling like they’re seniors. They’re ready for a grind and they’re good enough to win this whole thing.”
McIntosh came out firing against Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker. He tallied 13 points in the first period. He controlled the match the rest of the way and won 16-4. Iowa’s Nathan Burak advanced to the semifinals to setup a rematch of the Big Ten finals.
“A lot of fun. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be than this right now today,” McIntosh said. “It’s a lot of fun, and a great crowd up there, great atmosphere, tough opponents making for good matches, so it’s a ton of fun. I’m really grateful to be here.”
Megaludis fought his way to the semifinals. He earned a 4-0 win over a scrappy Connor Youtsey, of Michigan. With the win, Megaludis became Penn State’s 9th four-time All-American. He will face American’s David Terao, who is the No. 15 seed. Terao edged Virgina Tech’s Joey Dance — the No. 2 seed 5-3 and then pinned Stanford’s Connor Schram to make the semifinals.
Jordan Conaway dropped into the consolations after suffering a tough 8-4 loss to defending 133-pound NCAA champion Cody Brewer, of Oklahoma. Conaway led for parts of the match. He looked as if he would pull off the upset, but Brewer came out on top of a couple of scrambles.
Jimmy Gulibon (141) remained alive in the consolations with a 4-2 win over Cal State Bakersfield’s Ian Nickell. It only lasted another round as Gulibon fell 10-6 to South Dakota State’s Seth Gross. Gulibon led much of the match, but Gross earned a takedown in a scramble and turned in four near-fall points to earn the win.
Geno Morelli (165) had the same fate as Gulibon. He earned a 5-2 win over Duke’s Jake Faust in his consolation opener. In his second match with Virginia Tech’s David McFadden, he took the opening lead but that would be all. McFadden caught Morelli in two roll outs for eight near-fall points and used a strong ride to eliminate the Nittany Lion 14-3.
“We’re doing great and it’s fun to see all those guys wrestling well and achieving their goals,” McIntosh said. “So we’re all excited. Guys are wrestling well and we’ve got some good momentum going into the semis, so tonight is going to be an exciting session. Our team is just having a lot of fun and we’re ready for it.”