The morning session was pretty kind to the Lions, and the evening session less so. Six PSUers are through to the quarterfinals--in terms of teams, that's second only to Oklahoma State in the number of wrestlers still in the National Title hunt--and in terms of overall wrestlers still competing (eight), Penn State is one of a few teams second only to Nebraska with eight of their nine qualifiers still alive (Nebraska has five wrestlers still in the championship bracket, and five still alive in the consolation bracket).
After wins in the first round, both underdogs Jimmy Gulibon and Geno Morelli lost their second round matchups in the second session; perhaps the biggest disappointment was 16th seeded Matt McCutcheon, who lost both matches of the day and whose year is done. It's a shorter season than we expected from the sophomore, who hasn't wrestled the same since he injury defaulted out of the Illinois dual meet in January--headed into that dual, he looked like he could take on anyone. Since then, he looked like he could beat Kenny Courts and that's about it--and Kenny Courts also lost twice yesterday.
At least we have that, and Jake Ryan losing twice and being out of the bracket, going for us.
Ohio State was winning by .5 after the first round on the strength of a few bonus point victories; after the second round, despite Penn State losing three bouts, the Lions are again ahead, by 3.5 with 27.5 points. Ohio State has 24 points, and Oklahoma State is in third with 23.5. Perhaps the biggest shocker of the day is OK State's Eddie Klimara, who went 0-2 (also shocking is Cornell's Brian Realbuto, who too did not score a win on the day--but after looking at his injury, it's not too surprising. Klimara didn't look injured, but rumor has it he's ill).
The Lions are poised to have a good Friday after leaving what felt like bonus points on the table in the 125 and 174 matches, and here's how we got to first after Thursday:
How'd We Get Here
125 - Nico Megaludis
The mood for the night was set early when Nico gave up an early takedown in his bout--one of many Lions to unexpectedly do so, but still garner the victory. Nico didn't get bonus in his win over North Dakota State's Josh Rodriguez, but with how tough he rode him (and the amount of blood that he was gushing) it felt like Megaludis was in control of the bout the entire time. It was a 4-2 decision that, once Nico got his takedown to go up 3-2, felt like it was never in doubt.
133 - Jordan Conaway
Conaway wrestled Wisconsin's Ryan Taylor for the third time in three weeks on Thursday night, and finally got the better of him. In the third place bout in Iowa City, he lost to Taylor in a close one--one point, where Jordan's known third period tank almost got him the victory--and in NYC, it was that tank that got him the win. The two wrestlers were tied at four in the third, but Jordan being Jordan was able to build up his offense and shoot for the go-ahead takedown of the Badger, getting a 6-4 lead that he wouldn't give up. Taylor was able to escape, but with riding time a non-factor in this bout, Jordan secured his own one point victory to head to the quarters. Despite being the higher seed in this round, it felt as though Conaway was the underdog--and Taylor was definitely underseeded at this tournament. He'll next face fourth seeded Cody Brewer of Oklahoma.
141 - Jimmy Gulibon
Jimmy's night match wasn't as much fun as the early Thursday match, as he was quickly taken down by twelfth seeded Chris Mecate of ODU and turned for four nearfall--and that was the decider. Mecate rode him well, but that wasn't the issue--Jimmy himself rode Mecate out later on in the match, removing all of the riding time that had accumulated early on; it was simply the takedown and back points that was the difference in this one. Jimmy couldn't get his offense going, and the early back points eroded all confidence that Gulibon had from his first round tech fall, and if he can get the confidence back and be the early round (and Big Ten tournament) Jimmy, he'll go far in the consolation bracket.
149 - Zain Retherford
Edinboro's Patricio Lugo took Zain down at the very beginning of their matchup.
Welp. Poor Lugo.
Lugo tried to stay off his back to no avail. One does not simply take down Zain Retherford with no repercussions.— Cari @ BSD (@NotCarlotta) March 17, 2016
After the takedown, Zain quickly escaped and wrestled like one who's been watching him would expect--a man on fire. He took him down, let him up, worked for position and the cradle and the pain. Lugo was warned and dinged for stalling multiple times, and eventually just looked like he wanted to simply be done with the entire sport of wrestling. When you mess with bull, you get horns.
157 - Jason Nolf
Nolf's path to the finals to face IMar for the third time this season got easier after Thursday:
Chad Walsh of @RiderWrestling tops Tommy Gantt (NCST), 11-8! #WrestleNYC— NCAA Wrestling (@ncaawrestling) March 18, 2016
Nolf, if you remember, had an 18-7 major decision over Walsh in the Rider dual earlier this year; Gantt was the 2nd seed in this weight, to Jason's third. This is very, very good for Nolf, who cruised through his second round matchup against Penn's May Bethea, getting the very early takedown and just generally doing Jason Nolf things en route to a traditional (for him) 25-10 tech fall with 25 seconds to go in the third.
165 - Geno Morelli
Geno's second round opponent, Steven Rodrigues of Illinois, won 3rd place at the Big Ten tournament. Geno didn't place there, and had to settle for an at-large bid to come to MSG. On Thursday night, he showed the committee why they gave him that bid, taking Rodrigues to sudden victory #2 and coming very, very close to an upset of the sixth seeded wrestler in the weight class, after upsetting the eleventh seed earlier in the day. He easily rode out Rodrigues in TB1, and was nearly out of the Illini's grasp a few times in TB2, but to no avail--it went to sudden victory two, and Rodrigues got the takedown. With how Geno's shown up in New York, he should be able to win a few more to get points for the Lions.
174 - Bo Nickal
After Realbuto's early exit, and all of the losses in this bracket, this one is Nickal's for the taking (as if it wasn't already). He started off slow in his night match, once again allowing his opponent to score the first takedown--but unlike his first round match, Bo wasn't able to turn this around into bonus. Nickal faced 16th seeded Micah Barnes of Nebraska, and the Husker gave him a good match. Bo quickly escaped after the early takedown, and didn't give up another TD--or point. He finished the bout 7-2 and rode out the entire third period to secure his quarterfinal bid.
184 - Matt McCutcheon
Mouse couldn't log a takedown in his consolation bout against Old Dominion's Dechow, giving up a TD early on and getting ridden out of the first. Matt's only scoring in the eventual 6-1 decision was an escape, which was fairly easy for him to do; the second takedown by Dechow was off a counter, but Matt couldn't get his offense going. What looked like, in December, a sure podium run for McCutcheon ended on Thursday, fairly surprisingly--he's the only PSUer to not get a victory after a high seed at the Big Ten tournament and a disappointing finish there, and a fall to the 16th seed here.
197 - Morgan McIntosh
Morgan wrestled Kent State's Kyle Conel, and the Golden Flash wrestler came out shooting immediately, scoring a takedown and letting McIntosh up for a quick 2-1 lead. After a long back and forth and some scrambling, Conel was awarded a questionable takedown off the side of the mat to go up 4-1--one that Cael understandably challenged--but the call was upheld. Morgan escaped to end the first, and went into the second period down 4-2--and then Morgan got really mad.
You wouldn't like Morgan when he's mad. And what fans of other programs were hoping would turn into the biggest upset turned into...well, not that:
@NotCarlotta This isn't as funny as it was a few minutes ago.— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) March 18, 2016
In the space of seemingly mere-moments, Morgan went from down 4-2 to getting back points (up 11-5) to pinning Conel. He woke up, and realized he is MORGAN FREAKING MCINTOSH. And he secured the lead for Penn State.
For a full video recap of Thursday's action, head over to gopsusports.