The Nittany Lions walked into the final session of the Big Ten Championships comfortably in the lead Sunday evening. Shortly after the start of the finals, Penn State clinched the title and soared to a 30-point spread ahead of second place, Ohio State.
Nine wrestlers placed in the top six of their weight classes, all nine securing bids to the National Championships on March 21-23. The team crowned four individual champions and set themselves apart from the Big Ten competition with bonus point wins.
To no one’s surprise, senior No. 1 Jason Nolf was the first individual champion at 157. Nolf went to work right away against No. 2 Tyler Berger of Nebraska and notched a takedown in just four seconds from the start. He then took his usual approach of cutting Berger and relentlessly going after takedowns. Berger could not compete with Nolf’s flawless technique and steady endurance. The bout ended 12-4 in Nolf’s favor and he became a two-time Big Ten champ.
Next up in the finals was junior No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph. Like years past, Joseph faltered in his Big Ten finals matchup. No. 2 Alex Marinelli outwrestled Joseph and made him pay for his mistakes. Marinelli went after Joseph and the Lion’s strong defense carried him through the first, but Marinelli didn’t let up. Joseph got called for stalling after three minutes. Marinelli caught Joseph going for his signature inside trip and countered him into a throw for six points – takedown, plus four back points. Joseph escaped but another scramble ended with a Marinelli takedown and Joseph was handed his first loss of the season.
Penn State competitor three out of six in the finals was junior No. 1 Mark Hall. He faced No. 2 Myles Amine of Michigan. Hall got the first takedown in the first and Amine was able to escape. Amine chose down to start the second and escaped again. With the bout tied 2-2, Hall chose down to start the third and quickly escaped, holding off Amine’s attempts and secured his 3-2 victory. Although a rather boring match, Hall entertained the crowd with a short song on his recorder during his post-match interview. It started as a joke with FloWrestling that Hall turned into a $400 donation from the company to Penn State’s THON. It was a great way to spread THON’s message and made for a memorable interview.
Senior No. 2 Shakur Rasheed took a medical forfeit in the 184 finals and handed Ohio State’s No. 1 Myles Martin the title.
At 197 came the anticipated rematch of senior No. 1 Bo Nickal and Ohio State’s No. 2 Kollin Moore. Earlier in the season, Nickal pinned Moore at Ohio State. Moore seemed cautious, trying to avoid mistakes and Nickal capitalized with a takedown in the first. Nickal escaped to start the second and Moore connected on a shot, but Nickal countered it into a scramble and took at 5-0 lead. Moore looked defeated and Nickal rode the positive momentum out to the end. His 10-3 victory made him a three-time Big Ten Champion.
Senior No. 3 Anthony Cassar met with Minnesota’s No. 1 Gable Steveson in front of an amped Minnesota crowd. The two battled evenly for the first period and Steveson escaped early in the second to take the 1-0 lead. Again, neither wrestler could connect for a takedown in the second and it ended 1-0. Cassar escaped to start the third and tie things up, then he got hit with a stalling call at 1:25. Steveson then locked in on the first takedown of the match making it 3-2 after Cassar quickly escaped. Cassar went in on a double leg shot. Steveson was able to pull one leg out but Cassar held steady on the one leg and took Steveson to the mat for a takedown and the lead with 19 seconds left. Cassar held on to the 4-3 lead and took home the Big Ten crown. This was the first time Steveson gave up a takedown this season.
Coach Cael Sanderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fifth time in ten years as head coach. Nickal and Nolf were named Co-Big Ten Wrestlers of the Year. Nolf also was honored as 2019 Big Ten Championship Co-Outstanding Wrestler, sharing the achievement with Alex Marinelli.
Now the Lions get ready for the showdown of the year in Pittsburgh, Pa. The 2019 NCAA Championships begin March 21 at 12 p.m. and the final session starts Saturday, March 23 at 7 p.m. Penn State has won seven of the last eight NCAA team titles and their chances are looking good to tack on another victory.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM SCORES:
1: PENN STATE – 157.5
2: Ohio State – 122.5
3: Iowa – 107.5
4: Minnesota – 101.5
5: Nebraska – 96.5
125: Devin Schnupp, So. (14th seed) — DNP
Rd. 1: No. 12 Travis Piotrowski, Illinois – L, 17-0
Cn. 1: Shane Metzler, Rutgers – L, 6-1
Cn. S1: Shane Metzler, Rutgers – L, 6-4
133: No. 12 Roman Bravo-Young, Fr. (4th seed) – 5th place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: Jevon Parrish, Nebraska – W, 18-5
Qtrs: No. 7 Luke Pletcher, Ohio State – L, 8-5
Cn. 2: Jens Lantz, Wisconsin – W, 14-5
Cn. Q: Dylan Duncan, Illinois – W, 3-2
Cn. S: No. 3 Austin DeSanto, Iowa – L, 12-8
5th: Medical Forfeit – W, Med. Frf.
141: #2 Nick Lee, So. (2nd seed) – 3rd place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: No. 16 Max Murin, Iowa – W, 8-3
Semis: No. 3 Joey McKenna, Ohio State – L, 5-4
Cn. S: No. 8 Tristan Moran, Wisconsin – W, 11-3
3rd: No. 9 Mitch McKee, Minnesota – W, 12-4
149: No. 13 Brady Berge, Fr. (6th seed) – 6th Place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: Parker Filius, Purdue – W, 12-3
Qtrs: No. 9 Pat Lugo, Iowa – W, 4-2 (sv2)
Semis: No. 2 Micah Jordan, Ohio State – L, 13-4
Did not compete in 5th place match, medical forfeit, not a loss
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, Sr. (1st seed) – 1st place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: No. 12 Eric Barone, Illinois – WBF (2:13)
Semis: No. 5 Alex Pantaleo, Michigan – W, 7-1
Finals: No. 2 Tyler Berger, Nebraska – W, 12-4
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, Jr. (1st seed) – 2nd place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: Joey Gunther, Illinois – W, 21-6
Semis: No. 7 Logan Massa, Michigan – WBF (6:41)
Finals: No. 2 Alex Marinelli, Iowa – L, 9-3
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, Jr. (1st seed) – 1st place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: Drew Hughes, Michigan State – WBF (2:38)
Semis: No. 12 Devin Skatzka, Minnesota – W, 4-2
Finals: No. 4 Myles Amine, Michigan – W, 3-2
184: No. 2 Shakur Rasheed, Sr. (2nd seed) – 2nd place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: No. 20 Cameron Caffey, Michigan State – WBF (5:17)
Semis: No. 6 Taylor Venz, Nebraska – W, 6-5 dec.
Did not compete in finals, medical forfeit, not a loss
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal, Sr. (1st seed) – 1st place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: bye
Qtrs: Brad Wilton, Michigan State – W, 19-4
Semis: No. 13 Eric Schultz, Nebraska – W, 10-2
Finals: No. 2 Kollin Moore, Ohio State – W, 10-3
285: No. 3 Anthony Cassar, Sr. (2nd seed) – 1st place – NCAA Qualifier
Rd. 1: Jacob Aven, Purdue – W, 12-4
Qtrs: No. 13 David Jensen, Nebraska – W, 8-4
Semis: No. 14 Conan Jennings, Northwestern – W, 10-2
Finals: No. 1 Gable Steveson, Minnesota – W, 4-3