NCAA wrestling tournament Session 1 recap: Penn State dominant in opening round
More than 300 wrestlers took the mats Thursday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena for the preliminary and first rounds of the NCAA wrestling championships.
Penn State, which won seven of the past eight championships, held the team lead after the end of the first session with 21 points, ahead of Ohio State (15.5) and Oklahoma State (14.5). All nine of the Nittany Lions’ competitors won their first-round duals, including five pins and two major decisions. Two-time national champions Jason Nolf (Kittanning), Vincenzo Joseph (Central Catholic) and Bo Nickal all had pins for Penn State.
Other notables from Thursday afternoon’s session:
Biggest upset: By seed, this would go to Iowa’s Sam Stoll (No. 29) over Michigan’s Mason Parris (No. 5) by 8-5 decision at heavyweight. However, Stoll, a returning All-American, began the season ranked No. 1 before dealing with injury. A big upset came at 149, where Virginia Tech’s 26th-seeded Ryan Blees beat seventh-seeded Kaden Gfeller of Oklahoma State, 3-1. Blees, who came into the tournament 16-14 on the season, began his career at Oklahoma State before transferring.
Best match: Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the first round: Seeded 33rd at 165 pounds, he gave No. 1 seed Alex Marinelli everything he could handle before Marinelli prevailed, 7-4. Smith, a two-time All-American who wrestled most of the season at 174 pounds, held a 4-1 lead after two first-period takedowns, but Marinelli recovered, taking the lead for good on a third-period takedown.
Best local match: Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley, a North Allegheny graduate, went as far as he could go in his 197-pound first-round match against Appalachian State’s Randall Diabe. Each wrestler used three escapes to score three points through three regulation and six overtime periods, and Woodley earned the 4-3 victory thanks to a four-second edge in riding time. “I knew that was going to be a tough match, but that was huge,” said Woodley, who lost, 5-3, to Diabe earlier this season.
Don’t blink: Jason Nolf holds Penn State’s career pins record, and he showed why in the first round. The Kittanning graduate took down Duke’s Ben Anderson in the first 30 seconds of their 157-pound bout, and he secured the fall at the 42-second mark. It was the 60th pin of Nolf’s illustrious career.
Elite 11: Of the 21 former WPIAL wrestlers who qualified for the NCAA tournament in their hometown, 11 advanced to the second round: Iowa’s Spencer Lee (Franklin Regional) at 125 pounds; Pitt’s Micky Phillippi (Derry) and Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher (Latrobe) at 133; Illinois’ Mike Carr (South Fayette) at 141; Nolf at 157; Joseph, Arizona State’s Josh Shields (Franklin Regional) and Ohio State’s Te’Shan Campbell (Penn Hills) at 174; Virginia Tech’s Zack Zavatsky (Latrobe) and Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi (Bethel Park) at 184; and Woodley at 197.