| Zach Epperly (Virginia Tech) clawed back for third place at 174 pounds
after falling in first round. Photo: Austin Bernard, Tech-Fall.com.
NEW YORK – The Penn State Nittany Lions clinched the program’s fifth NCAA title in six years on Saturday morning at the 2016 NCAA Championships in Madison Square Garden.
The only wrestler in history to go undefeated throughout NCAA Division I wrestling, Cael Sanderson has now transformed the Penn State program into a formidable dynasty winning five national championships in just seven seasons as head coach. Penn State now claims six NCAA team championships, fifth most all-time.
“We’re happy. I’m proud of them. Still got some work to do,” Sanderson said. “You always want to score as many points as you possibly can I think. Regardless, we’re doing the same thing whether we’re fighting for a team title or not. We’re trying to win every match and score as many points as we possibly can.”
Penn State secured six All-Americans on the tournament, with five wrestlers making the championship finals set for tonight at 8 p.m. (ET). They had one wrestler, Jordan Conaway, compete in the medal rounds today. Conaway entered the NCAA’s as the No. 5 seed at 133 pounds and finished in sixth-place, giving the Nittany Lion his second All-American honor.
The medal matches opened with a thrilling third-place bout between last year’s NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello and No. 15 seed David Terao of American. Tomasello emerged with the 5-3 win, but it was Terao that stole the hearts of the New York crowd with his electrifying effort.
Terao barely made it to the NCAA Championships through the wild card process, but he was able to greatly outplace his seed, take fourth place at 125 pounds and finally break through to become an NCAA All-American. He received multiple standing ovations from the sellout crown at The Garden for his efforts.
“I definitely imagined being here and wrestling the match and preparing myself mentally for it, but it’s almost impossible to prepare for this sort of reception. Never in my life, it’s absolutely amazing. I’m almost lost for words,” said Terao.
Virginia Tech’s Zach Epperly achieved one of the toughest feats in college wrestling after losing in the first round and climbing all the way back for third-place. No. 8 Epperly lost to unseeded Casey Kent of Penn, 3-2, in his first match of the tournament. He then won seven-straight matches, six by bonus points, and avenged his loss to Kent, 8-4, for third.
“Losing that first one, I didn’t want to go out like that. No one ever wants to go 0 and 2. It’s a horrible way to go and I think that just says a lot about my character,” Epperly said. “My ability to fight back that tough and win all those matches in a row, and then to face the same kid that beat me in the first round, go out there and beat him 9-4, so that says a lot about myself and I definitely can live with that.”
The Hokies finsish the tournament with six All-Americans and a newly accomplished three-time All-American in Nick Brascetta at 157 pounds. Now in third place, Virginia Tech is closing in on its first ever podium finish at the NCAA Championships.
Oklahoma State attempted to make a run at Penn State early on in the morning session, but ultimately fell well short of the mark. In addition to the two men wrestling for first place tonight, four Cowboys, Collica (4th), Smith (7th), Boyd (4th) and Marsden (6th), earned All-American honors.
The Cowboys appear likely to hold on to the No. 2 spot in the team standings and earn a top-two finish for the second time in the past four season.
NCAA champion Cody Brewer bounced back from a tough semifinal loss against Nahshon Garrett to finish his Oklahoma career with a third place finish and four total All-American honors. Brewer took out No. 3 Zane Richards of Illinois, 9-4, in the 133-pound third-place match to cap it his career. He became the first four-time All-American for the Sooners since Sam Hazewinkel in 2007.
“I just tried to wrestle to the best of my ability the whole time and I knew once I did that I had a good shot,” Brewer said. “You go out there and get caught the way I did, I looked on ESPN this morning and I made the top ten, but it was tough. You pray about it and I can’t thank God enough that I am here. To finish like I did today it felt good to end on top.”
Also at 133 pounds, Jade Rauser of Utah Valley became the second wrestler to achieve All-American status in school history by finishing in eighth place. Ben Kjar was the first Wolverine to do so, placing fourth at 125 pounds in 2011.
In a battle of traditional academic powers at 197 pounds, Conner Hartmann of Duke defeated Brett Harner of Princeton, 11-2, in the seventh-place match. Hartmann became the first three-time All-American in Duke history while Harner became Princeton’s ninth all-time All-American and the first to do so since Greg Parker in 2003.
Big 12 power Iowa State finished with three All-Americans, two of which entered the tournament unseeded. Pat Downey, a 2015 NJCAA champion, brought home fifth place at 197 pounds and Lelund Weatherspoon, 2016 Big 12 champion, earned sixth at 174 pounds as unseeded Cyclones. Senior Earl Hall earned All-American honor No. 2, taking seventh at 133 pounds for Iowa State.
Although forfeiting to sixth place at 157 pounds after losing in the semifinals to No. 1 Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in overtime, Ian Miller became just the second Kent State wrestler to earn All-American status three times.
The Iowa Hawkeyes dropped to fourth place after the morning session and are in jeopardy of missing out on a podium finish for the first time since 2007, the first year of the Brands era.
With Penn State already clinching the team title, the race for the remaining three team trophies is mathematically down to four squads: Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Iowa and Ohio State.
Oklahoma State is in control of the No. 2 spot with 89.5 points and two No. 1 seeded wrestlers in the finals. Virginia Tech, currently in third with 82 points, has no wrestlers left to wrestle and must play the waiting game. Iowa has accumulated 81 points and sits in fourth place with three wrestlers competing in tonight finals. Ohio State rounds out the top five with 78 points and two finalists. However, all five Hawkeyes and Buckeyes will compete as lower seeded wrestlers in the NCAA finals.
With a win in the finals a wrestler can earn four team plus an additional .5, 1 or 2 bonus points depending on the manner of victory.
The final session of the NCAA Championships will begin at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday night with the 10 championship matches. The action will begin at 125 pounds and end with the climactic heavy weight showdown. The finals can be viewed live on ESPN and WatchESPN.
2016 NCAA DIVISION I WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
March 17-19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y.
1. Penn State 114.0
2. Oklahoma State 89.5
3. Virginia Tech 82.0
4. Iowa 81
5. Ohio State 78.0
6. Missouri 70.5
7. Cornell 59.0
8. Nebraska 58.0
9. Michigan 50.5
10. North Carolina State 49.0
125 lbs. – No. 4 Thomas Gillman (Iowa) vs. No. 3. Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
133 lbs. – No. 1 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Cory Clark (Iowa)
141 lbs. – No. 1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 14 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)
149 lbs. – No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)
157 lbs. – No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) vs. No. 3 Jason Nolf (Penn State)
165 lbs. – No. 1 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 2 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)
174 lbs. – No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) vs. No. 11 Myles Martin (Ohio State)
184 lbs. – No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) vs. No. 7 Timothy Dudley (Nebraska)
197 lbs. – No. 1 Morgan McIntosh (Penn State) vs. No. 2 J’den Cox (Missouri)
285 lbs. – No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State) vs. No. 2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)
3rd: No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) dec. No. 15 David Terao (American), 5-3
5th: Conor Youtsey (Michigan) Med. For. No. 9 Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa)
7th: No. 5 Ryan Millhof (Oklahoma) dec. No. 10 Connor Schram (Stanford), 1-0
3rd: No. 4 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma) dec. No. 3 Zane Richards (Illinois), 9-4
5th: No. 7 Eric Montoya (Nebraska) dec. No. 5 Jordan Conaway (Penn State), 7-4
7th: No. 8 Earl Hall (Iowa State) tech. fall Jade Rauser (Utah Valley), 17-1
3rd: No. 2 Joey McKenna (Stanford) dec. No. 4 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers), 7-6
5th: No. 12 Chris Mecate (Old Dominion) dec. No. 7 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech), 5-3
7th: No. 8 Joseph Ward (North Carolina) dec. No. 16 Randy Cruz (Lehigh), 3-1 SV1
3rd: No. 3 Lavion Mayes (Missouri) dec. No. 11 Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State), 3-2
5th: No. 10 Mike DePalma (Kent State) fall No. 5 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), 3:30
7th: No. 9 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan) dec. No. 12 Geo Martinez (Boise State), 5-1
3rd: No. 8 Nick Brascetta (Virginia Tech) dec. No. 5 Dylan Palacio (Cornell), 4-1
5th: No. 15 Chad Walsh (Rider) Med. For. Ian Miller (Kent State)
7th: No. 6 Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 2 Tommy Gantt (North Carolina State), 6-3
3rd: No. 3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State) dec. No. 4 Daniel Lewis (Missouri), 9-7
5th: No. 6 Steven Rodrigues (Illinois) vs. No. 14 David McFadden (Virginia Tech), 8-5
7th: No. 10 Austin Wilson (Nebraska) dec. No. 7 Anthony Perrotti (Rutgers), 4-2
3rd: No. 8 Zach Epperly (Virginia Tech) dec. Casey Kent (Penn), 8-4
5th: No. 12 Nathan Jackson (Indiana) dec. Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State), 5-2
7th: No. 7 Cody Walters (Ohio) dec. No. 13 Alex Meyer (Iowa), 4-3
3rd: No. 13 Pete Renda (North Carolina State) tech. fall No. 8 Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State), 18-3
5th: No. 9 Matthew Miller (Navy) dec. No. 14 Willie Miklus (Missouri), 4-2
7th: No. 10 Nate Brown (Lehigh) dec. No. 2 Sammy Brooks (Iowa)
3rd: No. 3 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) dec. No. 4 Nathan Burak (Iowa), 2-1
5th: Pat Downey (Iowa State) fall No. 6 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), 3:48
7th: No. 5 Conner Hartmann (Duke) maj. dec. No. 7 Brett Harner (Princeton), 11-2
3rd: No. 5 Adam Coon (Michigan) fall No. 3 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech), 7:57 SV1
5th: No. 7 Amarveer Dhesi (Oregon State) fall No. 4 Austin Marsden (Oklahoma State), 1:29
7th: No. 9 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) dec. No. 8 Max Wessell (Lehigh), 5-2