NCAA Wrestling finals: Penn State’s Cassar, Nolf, Nickal, Franklin Regional’s Lee win titles
After clinching the team championship earlier in the day, Penn State wrestlers won three national titles Saturday night during the final round of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena.
Heavyweight Anthony Cassar and Kittanning’s Jason Nolf at 157 pounds won titles while teammates Vincenzo Joseph (165) and Mark Hall (174) lost their championship bouts and had to settle for second place.
Overall, the Big Ten won six of the 10 championships, with Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee of Iowa, Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers and Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal and Anthony Cassar of Penn State stepping to the top of the podium.
Penn State ran away with the team title, accumulating 137 1/2 points while winning its fourth consecutive title and eighth in nine years. Ohio State was second (96 1/2), followed by Oklahoma State (84) and Iowa (76).
NCAA officials announced a crowd of 18,950 for a total of 109,405 for the six sessions that began Thursday morning.
Cassar was the first winner when he defeated Oklahoma State’s Derek White, 10-1, in the 285-pound final. Cassar, a first-time NCAA Tournament participant, scored six quick points in the second period when he performed an escape and near fall to erase White’s 1-0 lead.
Cassar closes out his season 30-1.White falls to 32-2.
The match was officiated by former Mt. Lebanon wrestling coach John Hnath.
Lee, a Franklin Regional graduate, defended his championship at 125 pounds with a 5-0 victory against previously undefeated Jack Mueller (21-1) of Virginia.
Lee (23-3) recorded takedowns in the first and third periods and added a point in the second when Mueller was called for stalling. Virginia’s coaches protested, but the call was upheld.
Rutgers’ Nick Suriano escaped in the final moments of the first overtime period and then won it in the third with a takedown to defeat Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, 4-2. It was the first wrestling championship in Rutgers history, but Suriano’s teammate, Anthony Ashnault, made it two about a half-hour later at 149 pounds.
Fix, who had eliminated Latrobe’s Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the semifinals, lost only his second bout in 36 tries. Suriano finished his season at 29.3.
Unbeaten Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell (29-0) defended his championship with two takedowns within seconds of each other to defeat Ohio State’s Joey McKenna, 6-4, in overtime.
Diakomihalis’ first takedown erased McKenna’s 3-2 lead with three seconds left in the third period, but McKenna quickly escaped to force overtime. The escape wasn’t immediately recognized by officials, but Ohio State’s coaches protested and won.
Diakomihalis’ second takedown decided the match.
McKenna dropped to 24-3.
Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault completed a perfect 32-0 season with a dominant 8-3 victory against Micah Jordan of Ohio State. Jordan finished his season at 29-3.
Penn State’s Jason Nolf of Kittanning has made a habit of convincing victories in the NCAA finals, and this match was more of the same. Nolf (31-0) defeated Tyler Berger (28-4) of Nebraska, 10-2, to become a three-time champion. In his previous two victories in 2017 and 2018, Nolf beat Missouri’s Joey Lavallee, 14-6, and N.C. State’s Hayden Hidlay, 6-2.
Nolf’s career record at Penn State is 117-3.
Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis came all the way from the No. 8 seeding position to dethrone Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, a two-time defending champion, 7-1. Lewis was in charge of the match from start to finish and improved to 28-2. It was Virginia Tech’s first wrestling championship.
Joseph, a Central Catholic graduate, finished 27-2.
After finishing as the runner-up last year, Penn State’s Mark Hall could only match that feat when he lost to defending champion Zahib Valencia of Arizona State, 4-3. It was the first loss of the season after 31 bouts for Hall, a champion in 2017. Valencia finished 31-2.
Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster, the No. 6 seed, scored a two-point takedown with 25 seconds left to defeat Cornell’s Maxwell Dean, 5-4. Foster fnished the season 28-5. Dean (25-6) beat Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi in the quarterfinals.
Bo Nickal became a three-time champion when he defeated Kollin Moore (23-3) of Ohio State, 5-1. Nickal finished his career with a record of 120-3.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .