The powerhouse Penn State wrestling team captured its second straight national dual-meet championship on Sunday.
The Nittany Lions (14-0, 9-0 Big Ten) dominated home-standing Oklahoma State (14-1, 6-0 Big 12) in the title match-up of the 2017 National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series. Head coach Cael Sanderson’s squad posted a 27-13 victory.
In a dual featuring 18 ranked wrestlers, Penn State’s young line-up, with seven underclassmen, came up big. Penn State’s win came in front of an Oklahoma State wrestling all-time record crowd of 14,059 in sold-out Gallagher-Iba Arena. The win is the 31st straight dual-meet victory for Penn State. The Nittany Lions, who suffered a nine-point swing with an injury default loss in the dual’s first bout, reeled off seven straight wins after dropping the first three matches to roll to the lopsided victory.
Struggling start: The dual began at 125. True freshman Nick Suriano, ranked No. 2 at 125, was leading 3-1 over No. 11 Nick Piccininni in the second period when an injury forced the Lion freshman into an injury default loss. Oklahoma State took a 10-0 lead when No. 3 Kaid Brock posted a 17-6 major over sophomore George Carpenter at 133. Senior Jimmy Gulibon, ranked No. 10 at 141, took No. 1 Dean Heil to the limit, appearing to have him pinned once in the second period and once in the third. But the call never came and Heil posted a 3-2 win to give the Cowboys a 13-0 lead after three matches.
Junior Zain Retherford, ranked No. 1 at 149, downed No. 2 Anthony Collica 2-1, using 1:51 in riding time to post the winning point. Sophomore Jason Nolf, ranked No. 1 at 157, dominated No. 6 Joe Smith, rolling up 11 takedowns on his way to a 24-9 technical fall with 1:49 in riding time. Nolf’s tech fall cut the Cowboy lead to 13-8 at intermission, marking the first time all year Penn State trailed at a dual’s midway point.
Red-shirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph, ranked No. 4 at 165, rolled over No. 8 Chandler Rogers to start the second half, posting a 12-4 major with 1:39 in riding time. Joseph’s win cut the Cowboy lead to 13-12. True freshman Mark Hall, ranked No. 7 at 174, used a third-period takedown to beat No. 9 Kyle Crutchmer for the second time this year, this time with a 3-2 decision. Hall’s win gave Penn State the lead for the first time in the dual, 15-13
Sophomore Bo Nickal, ranked No. 2 at 184, added cushion to the Lion margin, locking up a cradle early and decking No. 4 Nolan Boyd at the 0:38 mark. It was Nickal’s 13th pin of the year. Junior Matt McCutcheon, ranked No. 9 at 197, clinched the dual victory with an impressive 4-3 win over No. 8 Preston Weigel, using two third-period takedowns to grab the victory. Sophomore Nick Nevills, ranked No. 3 at 285, capped the dual meet off with a solid 10-5 win over Cowboy Derek White, giving the Nittany Lions the 27-13 victory.
PSU unbeatens: Retherford is 19-0 with 13 pins, a forfeit, two techs and a major. Nolf is 19-0 with 11 pins, a major and six techs. Nickal is 18-0 with 13 pins and three majors this season.
The Lions will prep for the 2017 Big Ten Wrestling Championships on March 4-5. The two-day event, which serves as the NCAA qualifier for the conference, takes place at Indiana University in Bloomington. Penn State is the defending Big Ten champion and has won five of the last six Big Ten crowns. PSU has also won five of the last six NCAA titles at the individual championships.