Champions Again: Penn State Claims Another NCAA Wrestling Title

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Penn State Nittany Lions (14-0, 9-0 B1G) rode a superb performance in the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships national finals to claim yet another NCAA title. Head coach Cael Sanderson’s team was nearly perfect in the finals and clinched its seventh NCAA title in the last eight years on a pin from junior Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas).

(Photo courtest of Penn State Wrestling)

The Nittany Lions went 4-1 in the finals, coming back from a six-point deficit heading into the final round to clinch the title on Nickal’s pin in Penn State’s final match of the night. Penn State won the team title with 141.5 points while Ohio State was in second with 134.5. Iowa took third with 97.0. Sanderson now has 22 national champions as a head coach, 20 here at Penn State, and seven NCAA team titles.

Senior Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa.), the No. 1 seed at 149, took on No. 15 Ronnie Perry of Lock Haven in the first of five straight Penn State finals bouts. Retherford took Perry down a minute into the bout and then controlled the action for :48 before Perry escaped to a 2-1 score. He picked up a second takedown with :30 on the clock and then rode the Bald Eagle out to carry that lead into the second period. Retherford chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 5-1 lead. He carried that lead into the third period. Perry chose down to start the third period and Retherford built up 1:45 in riding time before Perry escaped to a 5-2 score. The Lion senior controlled the rest of the match from neutral and, with 1:45 in riding time, posted the decisive 6-2 win to earn this third straight national title.

Retherford ends his season with a 31-0 mark and a 126-3 career record. He finishes his Penn State career riding a 94 match win streak dating back to his true freshman year. His 19 career NCAA tournament wins is alone in second on Penn State’s all-time list (Ed Ruth had 21). He is a four-time All-American and Penn State’s second three-time NCAA Champion (joining Ruth).

Junior Jason Nolf (Yatesboro, Pa.), the No. 3 seed at 157, met No. 1 Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State in the finals at 157. Nolf fought off an early Hidlay shot and then took a 2-0 lead with a takedown at the 1:21 mark. Hidlay escaped to a 2-1 score and action resumed neutral in the middle of the mat. Nolf added a second takedown and led 4-1 with :55 in riding time after a rideout. Nolf chose down to start the second and quickly escaped to a 5-1 lead. The Lion junior carried that lead and :49 riding time into the third period. Hidlay chose down to start the third period and Nolf controlled the action long enough to build his riding time up over 1:00. Hidlay escaped to a 5-2 score with 1:15 left in the bout and Nolf cruised through the last minute. Nolf, with 1:31 in riding time, rolled to a 6-2 win for his second straight NCAA title

Nolf ends his season with a 26-1 mark and has an 86-3 career record heading into next season. His only loss this year was an injury default decision on Jan. 28 in a bout he was winning at the time. He is a three-time All-American, a two-time NCAA Champion and a three-time finalist.

Sophomore Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh, Pa.), the No. 3 seed at 165, took on No. 1 Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in a rematch of last year’s NCAA final at 165 (won in thrilling fashion by Joseph with a pin in St. Louis). The duo battled through the opening minutes wrestling from neutral in the middle. Joseph found an opening with :15 left and threw Martinez to the mat for a takedown. On the reset, Joseph turned the Illini for two back points and led 4-0 after one. Martinez chose down to start the second period and escaped to a 4-1 score. Joseph picked up another point on a Martinez unnecessary roughness call and action resumed with 1:00 on the clock. Leading 5-2, Joseph chose down to start the third period. Joseph escaped to a 6-1 lead with 1:39 on the clock. Joseph was strong on his feet for the rest of the bout and roared to a 6-1 victory to become a two-time national champion.

Joseph ends his season with a 25-2 mark and heads into next year with a 47-6 career record. He is a two-time All-American and a two-time National Champion.

Sophomore Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Utah), the No. 2 seed at 174, met No. 1 Zahid Valencia of Arizona State in the 174-pound title tilt. The duo battled through a scoreless opening minute before Valencia connected on a takedown with 1:22 on the clock. Hall nearly connected on a reversal but settled for an escape and trailed by one after the opening period. Hall chose down to start the second stanza and escaped to a 2-2 tie but Valencia had 1:05 in riding time. The Sun Devil added one more takedown and led 4-2 with 1:30 in riding time after two periods. Valencia escaped to start the third period and led 5-2 and added a last-second counter takedown on a Hall throw attempt. A riding time point gave the Sun Devil a hard-fought 8-2 win, Hall’s first loss of the year. Hall ends his sophomore year as national runner-up.

Hall ends his season with a 32-1 mark and heads into next year with a 63-4 career record. He is a two-time All-American, winning the title last year, and a two-time finalist.

Junior Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas), the No. 1 seed at 184, met No. 2 Myles Martin in Penn State’s final championship bout of the night. Nickal fought off an early Martin burst and settled in at the center of the mat :30 into the bout. The duo worked on their feet as the period wound down and Martin attempted a throw. Nickal made him pay for the decision, rolling through the effort, locking Martin’s shoulders tight and flat to the mat and getting the fall at the 2:29 mark. Nickal’s pin not only won him his second straight NCAA title, but it clinched the team title for Penn State.

Nickal ends his season with a 31-0 record and heads into next year with a 90-3 career record. He is a three-time All-American, a two-time National Champion and a three-time finalist.

True freshman Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), the No. 8 seed at 141, went 1-1 earlier today and took fifth place as the eighth seed. Lee posted a 6-2 mark here in Cleveland in his first NCAA tournament with a major and became a freshman All-American. He went 32-7 overall this season. Junior Shakur Rasheed (Coram, N.Y.) took seventh in his first trip to NCAAs, becoming an All-American for the first time. Rasheed went 4-2 overall, with three of those wins coming via major for big bonus points. He closes out his season with a 24-5 record. Junior Nick Nevills (Clovis, Calif.) became a two-time All-American with a seventh-place finish at 285. Nevills went 4-2 with a pin and closes out his season with a 30-7 record. . Senior Corey Keener (Schuylkill Haven, Pa.), unseeded at 133, bowed out of the tournament during session three with a 1-2 record, ending his Penn State season with a 17-10 record and as a four-time NCAA qualifier.

Penn State went 4-1 in the finals, grabbing two final bonus points off Nickal’s clinching pin. The Nittany Lions went 39-9 overall with 26.5 bonus points off eight majors, five techs and four pins. Retherford is the school’s 10th four-time All-American. Nolf and Nickal became Penn State’s 27th and 28th three-time All-Americans on Friday. Nevills became a two-time All-American Friday and both Lee and Rasheed earned their first All-America honors. Penn State’s haul of eight total All-Americans (tying a school record for All-Americans in a year) moves the school’s all-time All-American total to 214, 51 in Sanderson’s eight years.

Retherford was honored as the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler of the Year for the third straight season, Nickal was named 2018 NCAA Championship Tournament Outstanding Wrestler and Sanderson was named NWCA Tournament Coach of the Year.

A total of 29 different Nittany Lions have won 41 total individual titles. Retherford becomes only the second three-time NCAA Champion in Penn State, joining former Lion great Ed Ruth. Nolf and Nickal join a club of nine two-time champions in school history (which includes Retherford).

The Nittany Lions 141.5 points is the second highest in school history behind last year’s 146.5. Penn State has now won seven team national titles in the last eight years and eight overall. The Nittany Lions eight total titles is tied for third all-time in NCAA history with Iowa State. The crown is Sanderson’s seventh as a head coach in his nine years as Penn State’s mentor.

Penn State heads into next year returning seven of its school-record tying eight All-Americans this year, including a combined seven national championships between Nolf, Joseph, Hall and Nickal. The Nittany Lions have won 45 straight dual meets dating back to the 2014-15 season.

Copyright © 2022 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.

Comments are temporarily closed. A new and improved comments section will be added soon.