Cael Sanderson and his Penn State wrestling team had five wrestlers alive in the semifinals heading into tonight’s session.
Four hours later, the Nittany Lions have five wrestlers heading to the finals and look well on their way to rolling to yet another team title.
The semifinals started for Penn State at 149 pounds when Zain Retherford put on quite the show, pinning Iowa’s Brandon Sorenson in 2:37. Retherford had previously been pushed to TB2 against Sorenson, but things were far different Friday night as Retherford quickly finished a single and used a power half to take the Hawkeye over.
At 157 Jason Nolf toyed with Nebraska’s Tyler Berger for the second time this season, picking up a 13-5 major decision and continuing the Penn State momentum.
Vincenzo Joseph squared off with Michigan’s Logan Massa in the first matchup of the season between the two redshirt freshman representing the Big Ten at 165. Joseph outmaneuvered Massa, using a late takedown to seal the deal on a 5-4 victory to grab a spot in the finals.
The most controversial momentum of the session came at 174 pounds, when Mark Hall appeared to concede a takedown to top-seeded, undefeated Zahid Valencia of Arizona State to go down 3-1 late in the match. However, Penn State coaches immediately challenged that Valencia had used a grab of Hall’s headgear to secure the takedown. The replay confirmed the coaches’ suspicions and not only was the takedown waved off, but Hall took a 2-1 lead on the technical violation.
With 30 seconds left and one stall call against him, Hall had to be care defending his lead. In the final seconds, Hall used an inside trip to take a 4-1 lead before giving up an escape and stall call to finish the match 4-3.
“You could see his head get jerked around,” Penn State assistant coach Casey Cunningham said of the incident. “He was getting ready to defend and then his head got jerked, so you know he had to grab ahold of something.”
Bo Nickal rounded out the semifinals for Penn State in style, throwing Sammy Brooks of Iowa to his back early in the first period and securing the fall at 1:02.
Penn State’s work wasn’t complete however, as they also had a couple of matches in the bloodround to determine who else would join the quintet as All-Americans.
At 141, Jimmy Gulibon lost a tight match to North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack by a 6-4 scoreline.
Up at 197, Matt McCutcheon took an early lead before getting taken to his back by Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker and dropping a 12-4 decision.
Nick Nevills wrestled a pair of matches on the night, first topping Pitt’s Ryan Solomon 2-0 to become an AA, then ousting Minnesota’s Michael Kroells 6-4 to secure at least a top-six finish.
Wrestler of the Session: What more can be said of Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal? The pair have been dominant throughout the season and were yet again tonight, earning big falls to bookend the front side of the sessions.