Seedings and bracket-wise, overall the wrestling gods were not unkind to Penn State this NCAA tournament, as bscaff detailed in his preview a few days ago. The action kicked off at Madison Square Garden today, and despite one hiccup (not entirely unexpected), it was a first session to be proud of.
The Nittany Lions are poised to break out in the second session, headed into Thursday evening in 2nd place (behind Ohio State by a half point). The PSU wrestlers went 8-1 on the day, having been favored in 7 of their 9 matches--and one of those favoreds lost. Another half point off a pin (or a tech instead of a major) would have tied the Lions with the Buckeyes headed into the Thursday evening session--but no matter, it's still early, and the good guys are still poised to do well going forward.
How'd We Get Here
125 - Nico Megaludis
Nico had to wait a little bit for his first match of the day, as he faced the winner of a pigtail bout. He was actually the third Penn State wrestler to square off on the day, and Zain went on at the same time he was wrestling, making it very difficult for this humble blogger to decide which mat to focus on:
Two mats. Two PSU guys on top. pic.twitter.com/EeujtUOn9V— Cari @ BSD (@NotCarlotta) March 17, 2016
Nico faced Chasen Tolbert of Utah Valley, and walked away with the major, 18-5, very close to a tech. It started off slow for the redshirt senior, who's looking for his first national title; he turned it on later, and the outcome was never really in doubt.
133 - Jordan Conaway
Due to the pigtail bout in 125, Conaway was the first Nittany Lion to take the mat on the day. He's facing arguably the toughest draw (with Mouse) of any PSU wrestler, and his first round opponent--Central Michigan's Corey Keener--was no pushover for the senior. Conaway, as he had done many times on the year, was slow to start, and a late escape saved the match for him as he won 6-5. He'll next face Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin--whom he lost to twice at the Big Ten tournament, though the second time (in the 3rd place bout, by one point) was very, very close. This will be tough going, though if he loses tonight he can do a lot of damage in the wrestlebacks.
141 - Jimmy Gulibon
Jimmy Gulibon. Jimmy Gulibon. Jimmy Gulibon.
What bscaff said: "3rd or 33rd - they're all in play for Jimmy Gulibon." And Jimmy goes out and tech falls the #5 seeded wrestler in the bracket (Missou's Matt Manley)--granted, he's the one that likely had an inflated seeding, but still. Gulibon dominated from start to finish, and the score wasn't as close as the final 17-2 indicated.
You read that right--it wasn't as close as 17-2 indicated. Jimmy was just that dominant, with the only points he gave up being a violation and a forced escape because he was looking for the tech. It was pure and utter domination. It was glorious.
149 - Zain Retherford
JP asked Zain about his online nickname yesterday, and the redshirt sophomore did his best to live up to it on the mat today--despite his opponent's unwillingness to, you know, actually wrestle. CSU Bakersfield's Coleman Hammond, whom Zain had pinned in a little over a minute at the dual meet in CA earlier this season, wanted no part of Retherford today, and he was dinged for stalling multiple times over the course of the six minute match--and that's what ended the pain for him, as it was a stall point that gave Zain his tech fall, 21-6.
157 - Jason Nolf
Asking a Penn State wrestling fan to bet on the one wrestler to get a pin in the first round of the NCAAs is a tall task. This day, it was redshirt freshman Nolf, still smarting from his rare low-scoring loss in the Big Ten finals to IMar. After four takedowns and almost a minute of riding time in the first period, Jason notched an escape and a quick takedown to start the second--then got the fall at 3:34.
Ho, hum. Just another day in the office.
165 - Geno Morelli
Technically, Morelli was an underdog in his opening bout. But he came out and shot, like all Nittany Lions do, and was on top quickly with back points, up 4-0. He finished 5-3, able to stave off a late attempt to come back by UNC's Staudenmayer, and he'll next face Illinois' Steven Rodrigues, who finished third in the Big Tens. He's already on schedule to wrestle above seed (as bscaff said, worst case was zero wins and he's exceeded that), and even if he falls tonight, like Jordan, he'll be a force in the wrestlebacks.
174 - Bo Nickal
How about this for a first round in a weight class?
Upset Alert: The No. 2, 3, 4 and 8 seeds at 174-pounds were all defeated in round one. #WrestleNYC— NCAA Wrestling (@ncaawrestling) March 17, 2016
This bodes even better for Bo, as he's already 10-0 against current top ten wrestlers this season. No one else at 174 comes close. And then his opponent today, Josef Johnson of Harvard, takes him down immediately to start the day? That's not something Bo will just let slide, and he didn't. Nickal responded, and Johnson didn't have a chance the rest of the match. Nickal ended the match with a 10-2 major, with Johnson's only points being those first two off of the takedown--one doesn't simply take down Bo Nickal and get away with it.
184 - Matt McCutcheon
Penn State's lone loss of the session, Mouse was up 3-0 early but couldn't hold onto the lead. He got gassed and ridden out, and couldn't hold onto Bucknell's Tom Sleigh long enough to get him under a minute riding time--and that was the difference. McCutcheon lost 4-3 on that RT point and will fall to the wrestlebacks tonight, where he likely would have ended up after session two anyway as Sleigh's opponent in session two is returning national champ (and number one seed) Gabe Dean.
197 - Morgan McIntosh
Another PSUer whose final score didn't indicate how one-sided the bout really was, Morgan was in control of Rider's Ryan Wolfe from the opening whistle. He tried to lock up the fall a number of times, but was unable to fully turn his opponent and settled for the major decision, winning 11-3 and securing only a few bonus for the good guys.