“This is what I live for. I train every day so I can come out here and be an NCAA champion and we can win team titles at Penn State. That’s what we do,” junior Bo Nickal told reporters.
Once again, Penn State battled through this year’s NCAA tournament for its seventh team title in the past eight years and its eighth team title overall.
Three days and six sessions of top-notch wrestling and a final matchup that had Penn State and Ohio State fans close to emotional breakdowns. The team title came down to the final Penn State wrestler on the national stage Saturday night, and Bo didn’t disappoint.
Nickal’s 184-pound finals match was close to déjà vu. Nickal faced Ohio State’s No. 2 Myles Martin. The same wrestler who beat Nickal his freshman year on the NCAA stage, except this time, it wasn’t just Nickal’s individual title on the line.
The two worked on their feet for most of the first period. Nickal defended off an early shot from Martin. Then, as the first period came to a close, Martin decided to go big with a throw. Nickal made him pay for it as he rolled through and put the Buckeye to his back, sending the Penn State bench into a frenzy. Coach Sanderson came running to the mat and lifted Bo up as he raised his arms to the crowd. A legendary snapshot that will hopefully be getting added to the hallways of Rec Hall.
Although Bo’s big finish stole the spotlight, leading up to his match were Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Vincenzo Joseph wins. Nolf made a huge, but not surprising, comeback from a late-season injury and Joseph shocked wrestling fans nationwide once again as he took down the famous IMAR for the second year in a row.
True freshman Nick Lee didn’t have the tournament run he was hoping for at 141 when he got pinned in the opening round, but he fought back through the consolation matches to place fifth. No. 2 Mark Hall lost a tight match in the finals but got the team some key bonus-point wins throughout the tournament. Shakur Rasheed and Nick Nevills also earned All-American honors and both placed 7th.
The Zain Train made his final stop in Cleveland, Ohio. Retherford ended his senior season with a perfect 31-0 record, a 94-match win streak, 4-time All American and 3-time National Champion. He was also named The Most Dominant Wrestler of the Year for the third season in a row. There are some big shoes to fill at 149 next year.
Well, time to update your National Championship t-shirts, Penn State fans… only 233 days until next season.
Final Team Scores:
1: Penn State – 141.5
2: Ohio State – 134.5
3: Iowa – 97.0
4T: Michigan – 80.0
4T: North Carolina State – 80.0
Penn State Final Standings:
133: Corey Keener, Sr. – DNP
141: No. 8 Nick Lee, Fr. – All-American, 5th Place
149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, Sr. – 4X All-American, CHAMPION
157: No. 3 Jason Nolf, Jr. – 3X All-American, CHAMPION
165: No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph, So. – 2X All-American, CHAMPION
174: No. 2 Mark Hall, So. – 2X All-American, Runner-Up
184: No. 1 Bo Nickal, Jr. – 3X All-American, CHAMPION
197: No. 5 Shakur Rasheed, Jr. – All-American, 7th Place
285: No. 3 Nick Nevills, Jr. – All-American, 7th Place