Mark Hall was one of the most pursued recruits in recent history, and Penn State got to see one of the best ever in program history for four seasons.
Despite Mark Hall not getting an opportunity to bookend his career with a second NCAA title, he lived up to the hype he had coming into Penn State out of Apple Valley, Minnesota. He was the most sought-after recruit in the country and was destined for greatness when he showed up in Happy Valley. Before Hall even enrolled at Penn State, he had already:
- Won a cadet world championship in 2014
- Won a junior world championship in 2016
- Reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympic Team Trials as a high school senior
- Become a 6-time state champion
It would have been nearly impossible to meet expectations based on those accomplishments, but Hall managed to do it anyway. By the time his career finished up, he was:
- Three-time Southern Scuffle champion
- Four-time Big Ten finalist, three-time Big Ten champion
- Three-time NCAA finalist, one-time NCAA champion
- Three-time NCAA team champion
If Hall would have made his fourth NCAA final, he would have been seventh on the all-time wins list ahead of Zain Retherford (122). Hall already had the seventh-most pins in school history (41), and was eighth in all-time bonus-point wins (74). He's going to leave a big legacy behind as a Penn State wrestler, and one that will be remembered for years to come. Let's relive some of the best moments in his career, that was unfairly cut short before his final NCAA Tournament.
2016-17 Season - NCAA Champion
Going into the Southern Scuffle, Hall was already having an excellent redshirt campaign, as he was 13-1 with seven falls. Hall's first Scuffle did not get off to the best start though, as he forgot his singlet in State College. North Forsyth High School gave him some much-needed help though:
At the Scuffle, Hall wrestled so well that Cael Sanderson pulled his redshirt. In the semifinals, Hall was trailing by two late against Ryan Preisch (Lehigh) before landing a huge cement mixer to win. He then went on to defeat Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State) in the final with a comfortable decision 10-3.
In Hall's first NCAA Tournament, he defeated Zahid Valencia and Bo Jordan (Ohio State) to win the NCAA championship. This takedown in the final against Jordan allowed Hall to win a 5-2 decision, and also showed off his freaky defense:
2017-18 Season - First Big Ten Title
Mark Hall entered the 2017-18 season as the favorite to win the NCAA title, but everyone knew that it was not going to be easy sledding for him with Zahid Valencia, Bo Jordan, Myles Amine and Daniel Lewis at the weight. Even still, Hall showed why he was an elite competitor at 174 pounds.
Hall picked up a crucial win against Jordan in Penn State's spectacular 19-18 dual win over Ohio State. Then, he picked up his first Big Ten title against Amine.
Hall was an NCAA finalist, where he dropped a decision to Valencia. However, Hall reaching the final that season helped Penn State massively in the team race, where they beat Ohio State with that famous Bo Nickal pin.
2018-19 Season - Second Big Ten Title, Third NCAA Team Championship
Following his loss in the NCAA final as a sophomore, Hall went into the 2018-19 season with a rematch in Rec Hall against Valencia. Hall made sure to avenge his loss at NCAAs the prior season. Hall beat Valencia 4-0 thanks to a late second-period takedown and third-period rideout.
Hall would go undefeated the rest of the way in the regular season. He defeated Amine once again for another Big Ten crown. He entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 overall seed, and was once again a finalist. Penn State won another team championship in that NCAA Tournament.
2019-20 Season - Third Big Ten Title, No. 1 overall seed for NCAAs
Mark Hall entered the season as the No. 1 overall wrestler and he had another terrific season. Hall had 12 falls during the season and was on track to finish his career with another NCAA title. He avenged a loss to No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) at the Big Ten Tournament.
Hall was the No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament and was both a favorite to make his fourth final and to win it. It would have been quite the accomplishment – the list of four-time NCAA finalists is not lengthy. It goes deeper than that though, as Hall was set to finish his NCAA career in Minnesota, where he ended his high school career.
In a post he wrote for Onward State, Hall reflected on his time at Penn State:
If my college career couldn’t end with another NCAA title, I am proud to finish it on the next best note: with a Big Ten title. This is a thank you to our supporters, our fans around the globe, and to Penn State for helping me find a new home for my heart to settle in. There is no place like Pennsylvania State University.
And there never will be.
Mark Hall was not only a great wrestler, but he was also an excellent ambassador for Penn State. And perhaps best of all, he did it while being himself. Whether it was through his Fortnite obsession, his entertaining Instagram, or even playing imaginary instruments after wins, Hall embodied the dominant, but still fun-loving nature of the Penn State wrestling program. It was a pleasure to watch him on the mat and to follow him off of it. I look forward to following his international freestyle career, and his coaching aspirations in the future.
One thing is for certain, there will never be another Mark Hall. Thanks for everything.