Some teams come out to win individual titles. Some come out looking to eke wins for their team total.
Others, like Penn State, come to the NCAA Tournament looking to dominate.
Before the fifth session on Saturday morning, which saw the consolation semifinals followed by the 3rd, 5th and 7th place matches, Penn State had already racked up 114 points--well ahead of any other team. Only Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech had the mathematical possibility of catching up to PSU's point total, and it would have taken a minor miracle--nearly every wrestler on either of those two squads would have had to pin every opponent, and all of Penn State's wrestlers would have had to lose all seven of their remaining bouts.
The former did not happen for the Pokes and Hokies, and Penn State clinched the team title after the consolation semifinals were over.
Redshirt senior Jordan Conaway, Penn State's sole wrestler who took the mat in the morning session, finished sixth in his weight class after being seeded fifth, getting ridden out and being turned in the third after going into that period up 4-2. Conaway will finish his PSU career a two-time All American, and part of an NCAA title team that won so many bonus points that its bonus points alone would have finished in the top half of the team scores.
During the night session, the focus turned to individual titles--and while only two Nittany Lions were able to pull out wins, all of the matches were close. It was a good night for the blue and white singlet as a whole, and for the next few years.
Penn State Wrestlers in the Finals
125: #4 Thomas Gilman - Iowa vs. #3 Nico Megaludis
Final score: Nico 6, Gilman 3
Nico finished his career undefeated against Gilman, and he started the final session off with a bang for the Nittany Lions, with a quick pair of takedowns. An escape and a riding time point got him to his six, and two escapes coupled with a stall point against Nico were all Gilman managed against Megaludis. The refs' quick stall calls in this match set the tone for how all matches (save, perhaps, 157) were to be called all night--but really, the call against Nico was basically warranted as he stopped doing much shooting near the end in an effort to secure his victory.
149: #1 Zain Retherford vs. #2 Brandon Sorensen - Iowa
Final score: Zain 10, Sorensen 1
The only bonus point win of the night, this might have been the match that got Zain the most dominant wrestler award after going tech, pin, pin, pin the rest of the tournament. Much like their previous meetings, Sorensen never even had a chance against ZPain, who kept looking for the turn but wasn't able to get it. Sorensen did learn, though, from the last time he and Zain met; this time, when he had the choice in the third, he picked neutral. It didn't help him much, as this time Retherford bonused him--last time, the Hawkeye only won 4-0.
157: #1 Isaiah Martinez - Illinois vs. #3 Jason Nolf
Final score: IMar 6, Jason 5
The most anticipated match aside from heavyweight, this one didn't disappoint. It was a much more exciting bout than the Big Ten tourney final, with action coming on both sides; Martinez got a quick takedown to start the match, and Jason reciprocated near the end of the first. Aside from a pair of escapes, there was no more scoring until very late in the third--when the returning national champ was able to get a takedown of the Nittany Lion, who got out quickly for the escape but it was too late to get a go ahead TD of his own.
Nolf left the mat incredibly upset for the second time in two weeks. But he also left with things to work on in his sophomore season.
174: #1 Bo Nickal vs. #11 Myles Martin - Ohio State
Final score: Martin 11, Bo 9
Bo was facing a low ranked opponent whom he had beaten soundly twice on the year, including a pin the last time they met. It didn't go well. Martin caught him unaware, and turned Bo for back points--many, including Jeff Byers, thought he may have been pinned--and that was the difference in this match. Bo took Martin down later on, and still had the riding time point, but even with two more stall points tacked on near the end when Martin kept dancing away, the nearfall made all the difference.
For this and Jason's result above, I have one thing to say: it will be okay, young freshmen. Tonight, and tomorrow, it may suck. But even David Taylor wasn't a four-time National Champion--and he got pinned as a freshman.
No one in their right mind would say the Magic Man's PSU career wasn't a success.
197: #1 Morgan McIntosh vs. #2 J'Den Cox - Missouri
Final score: Cox 4, Morgan 2
I have to say, this one stings the most. Penn State Wrestling may not have won the team title this year, and sure as shit wouldn't have been as dominant, had it not been for the leadership of one Morgan McIntosh. J'Den Cox, of course, is an excellent wrestler, and would have been undefeated and the likely #1 seed instead of Morgan had he not had to injury default out of only one match earlier in the season; but no matter, this match was close, and hard fought, from the get go. Cox came out swinging, looking to score immediately, but McIntosh fought him off for all of the first period, which went by scoreless. He was unable to ride Cox out at all, and the Tiger escaped quickly; the second ended with no further score, and J'Den rode Morgan for almost a full minute before he reciprocated to tie things up. Near the end of the third, though, with the bout tied and riding time not yet a factor, Cox took Morgan down, and that was the end of it. Morgan escaped, but it was too late for him to get a shot in. His individual title hopes as a Lion dashed, McIntosh leaves Penn State with a legacy as a true leader on and off the mat, and as an integral part of this team--and one of the reasons why these young wrestlers will be so good for years to come.
Final Team Scores
- Penn State: 123.0
- Oklahoma State: 97.5
- Ohio State: 86.0
- Virginia Tech: 82.0
- Iowa: 81.0
- Missouri: 74.5