Penn State strong on first day; 8 former WPIAL wrestlers advance to NCAA quarters | TribLIVE.com
Other Local

Penn State strong on first day; 8 former WPIAL wrestlers advance to NCAA quarters

Doug Gulasy
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA114-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Virginia Tech’s Zach Zavatsky, a Latrobe grad, beats Cal-Bakersfield’s Dom Ducharme during a first-round match at 184 pounds.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA105-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Jason Nolf pins Duke’s Ben Anderson during a first-round match.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA113-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Anthony Cassar pins Franklin and Marshall’s Antonio Pelusi Thursday, March 21, 2019 during first round 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle6-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Iowa’s Spencer Lee, a Franklin Regional graduate, is one of eight WPIAL wrestlers who advanced to the quarterfinals.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle19-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Pitt’s Demetrius Thomas high-fives a fan after walking off the mat in the 285-pound second round bout against Carnegie Mellon’s Matt Stencel during the NCAA wrestling championships on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA121-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Jason Nolf beats Rutgers’ John Van Brill Thursday, March 21, 2019 during second round 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA120-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Iowa’s Austin DeSanto beats Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young on Thursday, March 21, 2019, during second-round NCAA Division I championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA124-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Virginia Tech’s Zachary Zavatsky beats Michagan State’s Cameron Caffey on Thursday, March 21, 2019 during second-round NCAA championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle18-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Anthony Cassar waits to hit the mat against Tate Orndorff of Utah Valley in the 285-pound second-round bout during the NCAA championships on Thursday, March 21, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle17-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Bo Nickal wrestles Fresno State’s Josh Hokit in the 197-pound second-round bout during the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle12-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Arizona State’s Josh Shields wrestles Rider’s Jesse Dellavecchia in the 164-pound second-round bout against during the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle11-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Ohio State’s Te’Shan Campbell wrestles Lock Haven’s Chance Marsteller in the 165-pound second-round bout during the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle10-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Virginia Tech’s Ryan Blees wrestles Iowa’s Pat Lugo in the 149-pound second-round bout during the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle9-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
West Virginia’s Matthew Schmitt wrestles against Daton Fix of Oklahoma State in the second round of the 133-pound bout during the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_PTR-NCAAwrestle8-032219
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young is brought down by Iowa’s Austin DeSanto in the second round of the 133-pound bouts during the NCAA championships on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA118-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt’s Micky Phillippi beats Iowa State’s Austin Gomez on Thursday, March 21, 2019 during second-round action at the NCAA championships Thursday, March 21, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA116-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Iowa’s Spencer Lee beats NC State’s Sean Fausz Thursday, March 21, 2019 during second round 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA117-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ohio State’s Luke Plectcher beats Wyoming’s Montorie BridgesThursday, March 21, 2019 during second round 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA119-032219
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penn State’s Nick Lee beats Old Dominion’s Sa’Derian Perry Thursday, March 21, 2019 during second round 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship action at PPG Paints Arena.
915307_web1_GTR-NCAA122-032219

The first day of the NCAA wrestling championships saw its usual share of dominant wins and eyebrow-raising upsets. And, as is also custom at this time of the year, Penn State ended the night in strong position to win another national title.

Although they weren’t immune to the upset bug themselves, the Nittany Lions still ended the first night of the three-day event Thursday at PPG Paints Arena atop the team standings as they seek an eighth championship in nine seasons.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. Each match is a new day,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “So if we wrestled great, just keep it up, but we’ve got to make that decision. Each individual has to make that decision (Friday).

“I like where we’re at. I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys, but more than that, it’s just about them. This is their opportunity. As a team, it’s their opportunity. It’s the national championship, so we’ll see what they do (Friday).”

Penn State came through the first two rounds with six wrestlers in the national quarterfinals, including three — 157-pounder Jason Nolf (Kittanning), 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph (Central Catholic) and 197-pounder Bo Nickal — who are seeking their third NCAA titles. Mark Hall, a former national champion and the top seed at 174 pounds, also advanced to the quarterfinals, along with 141-pounder Nick Lee and heavyweight Anthony Cassar.

The Nittany Lions lead the team standings with 32.5 points, ahead of second-place Ohio State (25.5) and third-place Iowa (24).

But the Nittany Lions also saw Shakur Rasheed, the No. 2 seed at 184 pounds, drop a second-round match to North Carolina’s Chip Ness. Rasheed was the highest-ranked wrestler to lose Thursday.

“Not much we can do about the past right now,” Sanderson said. “We’ve just got to move forward and get ready to roll (Friday) morning.”

Although all 10 No. 1 seeds and all six defending champions advanced to the quarterfinals, a handful of upsets shook up the brackets. Four top-five seeds lost, and the 184- and 197-pound weight classes saw half of their top eight seeds lose.

Pitt redshirt freshman Nino Bonaccorsi pulled off one of those upsets when he knocked off fourth-seeded Emery Parker of Illinois, 9-7, in the second round at 184 pounds. Parker finished third in the country last season.

“It was definitely awesome,” said Bonaccorsi, a Bethel Park graduate. “This whole experience has been awesome, wrestling in my backyard pretty much. I was really happy to get that win there in front of the home crowd.”

Fellow Pitt redshirt freshman Micky Phillippi, a Derry graduate, advanced to the quarterfinals at 133 pounds. He will face a familiar face from his past in Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher, a Latrobe graduate.

Eight former WPIAL wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals, with Iowa 125-pounder Spencer Lee (Franklin Regional), Arizona State 165-pounder Josh Shields (Franklin Regional) and Virginia Tech 184-pounder Zack Zavatsky (Latrobe) joining Phillippi, Pletcher, Nolf, Joseph and Bonaccorsi.

After getting his school-record 60th pin in the first round, Nolf advanced to the quarterfinals with a second-round technical fall over Rutgers’ John Van Brill. Penn State teammate Joseph beat Missouri’s Connor Flynn by decision.

Lee, a defending NCAA champion, beat N.C. State’s Sean Fausz by major decision in the second round. Former Franklin Regional teammate Shields also won by major decision, beating Rider’s Jesse Dellavecchia. And Zavatsky capped a strong second round by ex-WPIAL wrestlers with a 9-7 decision over Michigan State’s Cameron Caffey.

“I feel like it was a good start to my weekend,” Zavatsky said. “My first match or two is usually getting my body feeling good, getting all the weight cut just through my body. So I felt pretty good. It was a little battle there with that (second-round) match, but he’s a tough freshman, slick kid, and I just kept battling, understanding that the farther you go in these rounds, the more of a war it’s going to be.”

Iowa heavyweight Sam Stoll, ranked 29th but a former All-American, beat the No. 5 and 12 seeds in his class to get to the quarterfinals. He is the lowest seed remaining. Lock Haven’s Kyle Shoop knocked off fourth-seeded Josh Alber of Northern Iowa in the second round at 141. Thomas Lane of Cal Poly beat fifth seed Jacob Warner in the second round at 197.

The tournament resumes at 11 a.m. Friday, with quarterfinals on the docket. The semifinals will take place at 8 p.m.

“Personally, I just think (you have to) just wrestle how you’ve been wrestling the whole year,” Bonaccorsi said. “Don’t change anything up now. I don’t really want to make it bigger than it is. I’ve been in a lot of big tournaments in my life, so this is really no different and I’m treating it just like any other.”

Categories: Sports | Other Local
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.