NCAA wrestling session 3 recap: Top seed falls at 165 pounds
The NCAA wrestling tournament finally saw a top seed lose.
Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, No. 1 at 165 pounds after winning a Big Ten championship last week, saw his bid for a national title come to a stunning end with a 3-1 loss to Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis in their quarterfinal match Friday morning at PPG Paints Arena.
Marinelli was the only top-ranked wrestler who didn’t advance to Friday night’s semifinal round.
A look at some of the biggest highlights from Friday’s first session:
Biggest upset: It’s hard to top a No. 1 wrestler losing. Marinelli and Lewis traded escapes in their quarterfinal bout and remained deadlocked deep into the third period, before Lewis got the winning takedown with six seconds remaining.
Best match: The 165-pound bracket had a pair of down-to-the-wire quarterfinals. In addition to Marinelli/Lewis, the matchup between Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph (Central Catholic), the No. 2 seed and a two-time defending NCAA champion, and No. 7 Isaiah White of Nebraska went to sudden victory overtime, where Joseph scored a takedown to earn a 3-1 victory.
Best local match: The Joseph/White battle is tough to top, but so is a pair of former WPIAL wrestlers squaring off in a tournament of this magnitude. Former practice partners Luke Pletcher, an Ohio State junior and Latrobe graduate, and Micky Phillippi, a Pitt redshirt freshman and Derry graduate, met in the 133-pound quarterfinals. A first-period takedown proved the difference as Pletcher, an All-American last season, emerged with a 3-1 victory.
Penn State perfection: Three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State couldn’t ask for a much better quarterfinal round. All six of the Nittany Lions’ competitors in the round earned victories to move on to the semifinals. In addition to Joseph, two more two-time national champions moved on to the semifinals — Jason Nolf (Kittanning) at 157 pounds and Bo Nickal at 197. The Nittany Lions’ other semifinalists are Mark Hall, a 2017 national champ and the top seed at 174 pounds; 141-pounder Nick Lee; and heavyweight Anthony Cassar. Penn State leads the team standings with 80 points as it seeks its eighth title in nine years, ahead of Ohio State (66.5) and Oklahoma State (56).
Champion Chip?: North Carolina’s Chip Ness might just live for the NCAA tournament. After upsetting three top-10 wrestlers to earn an All-American distinction last season, then upsetting No. 2 seed Shakur Rasheed of Penn State on Thursday night, Ness moved on to the 184-pound semifinals by — what else? — beating a top-10 wrestler. Ness, seeded 15th, beat No. 10 Samuel Colbray of Iowa State in the quarterfinals with a takedown in sudden-victory overtime.
Punxsutawney thrill: It wasn’t the greatest session for Iowa, which saw five of its seven quarterfinalists lose. But the Hawkeyes were boosted by a pair of Pennsylvania natives: 125-pounder Spencer Lee (Franklin Regional) continued the defense of his 125-pound national title by pinning Minnesota’s Sean Russell, while Punxsutawney graduate Kaleb Young advanced to the 157-pound semifinals with a 7-5 decision over Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, email@example.com or via Twitter .