NCAA Tournament Session 4 Recap: Penn State Nearly Clinches Team Title

By Rob Dougherty on March 23, 2019 at 10:41 am
Bo Nickal
Douglas DeFelice USA Today Sports

Session 4 of the 2019 NCAA Wrestling champions was an interesting one for the Nittany Lion faithful. Penn State won a lot of matches, but many of them were close, making them bad for everyone's blood pressure. After a successful semifinal, hough, Cael Sanderson's team sends five wrestlers into the NCAA finals for Session 6 on Saturday. The Nittany Lions also essentially clinched the team title race. 

Before Session 5, Ohio State is the only team that can mathematically catch Penn State. However, Ohio State's maximum point total is 123.5, which means they essentially have to pin their way to first and third place finishes. This will, barring something catastrophic, be Penn State's fourth straight NCAA championship under Cael Sanderson. 

Penn State wrestled a ton of close matches in the semifinals. Four of Penn State's five wins were by one point, but the Nittany Lions were 4-1 overall in one takedown matches. 

The biggest win for Penn State was Anthony Cassar beating Gable Steveson for the second time this season. Cassar won 4-3 and scored the only takedown in the match. There was some aggressive officiating in this one, and they managed to call stalling on Cassar as he sprawled a double leg attempt from Steveson off the mat. However, Cassar got a takedown and a couple of strong rides on the true freshman to secure his place in the finals. 

Jason Nolf nearly lost to No. 5 Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State). It looked like Nolf gave up a takedown at the end of the first period, but the refs did not rule the action a takedown for some reason. Nolf got a takedown in the second period to take the lead, bu, a late third period effort from Hidlay nearly caused a disaster for Penn State. Still, Nolf was able to defend the shot from Hidlay and win 3-2. 

Nolf will face Tyler Berger in the final. Berger, after his match, counted to four on his fingers and pointed toward Nolf, which is a reference to the number of scalps he has claimed before he says he will claim Nolf's. We'll see what happens in the final.

Vincenzo Joseph beat No. 3 Josh Shields (Arizona State) 3-2 in a pretty comfortable decision. Shields never threatened Joseph for a takedown, and Joseph did not have to sweat this one out much. Joseph will face No. 8 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), who has become the underdog darling of the tournament. Lewis is wrestling at the top of his game, and will give Joseph all he can handle tomorrow. 

Mark Hall needed to go to overtime to win 2-1 over No. 4 Myles Amine (Michigan). This is Hall's fifth straight one-point win over Amine. He will face a familiar foe and friend in No. 3 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) on Saturday night. Valencia has wrestled an awesome tournament and looks like a man on a mission. Expect major fireworks at this weight. 

Bo Nickal was able to provide some relief to Penn State fans with a second period pin over No. 4 Patrick Brucki (Princeton). The match was not close and Nickal dominated. Given Nolf's close match against Hidlay, Nickal likely clinched the Hodge with his third pin of the NCAA Tournament ... provided he beats No. 2 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) in the final. 

Nick Lee suffered Penn State's only loss of the quarterfinals against Joey McKenna. This was another tightly contested match, but McKenna had a little bit more mat savvy and experience. McKenna was able to buy some additional riding time and get a well timed stall call with five seconds left off the edge of the mat. Lee pushed hard and really did all he could to win, but McKenna executed better on the night and deserved the win. Lee will face No. 9 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) in the consolation semifinals on Saturday morning. 

Roman Bravo-Young had an excellent second day of the NCAA Tournament. He beat three top-15 wrestlers on his way to earning All-American status. His win in the bloodround over No. 4 Mickey Phillipi (Pittsburgh) earned him no worse than an eighth place finish. He will face No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) in Saturday's seventh place match. 

Session 5 Matches

  • 133 pounds - 7th place match - No. 10 Roman Bravo-Young vs. No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)
  • 141 pounds - No. 3 Nick Lee vs. No. 9 Dom Demas (Oklahoma)

Penn State Wrestlers in NCAA Finals

  • 157 pounds - No. 1 Jason Nolf vs. No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska)
  • 165 pounds - No. 2 Vincenzo Joseph vs. No. 8 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech)
  • 174 pounds - No. 1 Mark Hall vs. No. 3 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)
  • 197 pounds - No. 1 Bo Nickal vs. No. 2 Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
  • 285 pounds - No. 2 Anthony Cassar vs. No. 1 Derek White (Oklahoma State)