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Fueled by bonus points, Penn State grabs early lead at NCAA Division I Championships

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | March 16, 2017, 4:59 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Penn State freshman and No. 5 seed at 174 pounds Mark Hall during his opening round win over South Dakota State’s David Kocer. Photo by Justin Hoch, JHoch.com.

Video: NCAA Championships Athlete and Coach Interviews

ST LOUIS, Mo. – A packed house of 18,157 fans filled the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday morning to witness 330 student-athletes begin the quest for college wrestling glory at the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships.

The expected team title contenders coming into the competition have quickly risen to the top of the standings with all 10 weight classes now narrowed to 16 athletes apiece on the championship side.

Coming off a surprise runner-up performance at the Big Ten Championships, defending NCAA champion Penn State sits in first place after session one with 16 points on the board and eight of its nine qualifiers moving into the second round.

The Nittany Lions racked up a litany of bonus points with NCAA champion Zain Retherford, NCAA finalists Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal, and All-American Jimmy Gulibon scoring technical falls. 197-pounder Matt McCutcheon added on a fall to round out Penn State’s bonus-point barrage.

Gulibon turned around a post-season loss to Big Ten runner-up Javier Gasca III of Michigan State at 141 pounds to get the Nittany Lions rolling. Also reversing past misfortune was No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph who topped Keaton Subjeck of Stanford 5-1 at 165 pounds.

The only Penn State qualifier not on the championship side of the bracket is No. 3 seed Nick Suriano who defaulted out of the tournament for medical reasons. Therefore, the Nittany Lions are currently undefeated in contested matches thus far.

Coming in one point behind Penn State in the team race are the Big 12 champions Oklahoma State. The Cowboys went 9-1 in the opening round with Nick Piccininni and Chandler Rogers leading the way with pins.

Reigning NCAA champion Dean Heil narrowly escaped a game Brock Zacherl of Clarion, 6-5, at 141 pounds to launch his title defense.

The lone loss for the Cowboys was also the biggest upset of the morning as No. 7 seed Kyle Crutchmer was downed by SIU Edwardsville’s Jake Residori in a wild 6-5 contest at 174 pounds.

Big Ten champion Ohio State surged into third place in the latter stages of the morning with 14 first round points, a 7-2 individual record and six bonus point wins.

NCAA champions Nathan Tomasello, Myles Martin and Kyle Snyder all picked up convincing victories for the Buckeyes to start the day. Tomasello and Martin scored major decisions over unseeded opponents while Snyder ended with a technical fall on Buffalo’s Jake Gunning.

“If you are going to compete with teams like Oklahoma State and Penn State, bonus points are the key, especially if you want to win this thing,” said Martin. “Our coaches just tell us to go out there and have fun, leave it out there on the mat. That is what we are trying to do. We want to win that team title badly. You want to compete as hard as you can and win. Bonus points are big.”

Iowa, Lehigh and Missouri find themselves tied for third place at the end of the opening round, four points behind first place Penn State.

The Hawkeyes picked up wins from all six of its seeded wrestlers plus an upset win from 197-pounder and late tournament entrant Cash Wilke who took down No. 13 seed Tom Sleigh of Bucknell, 4-2.

Two-time NCAA finalist Cory Clark controlled Stanford All-American Connor Schram 4-0 to begin his final run at a 133-pound title.

Freshman Michael Kemerer secured his first-ever win at the NCAA Championships 14-3 over Indiana’s Jake Danishek as the No. 2 seed at 157 pounds.

“It’s exciting, it’s awesome. It was great to see if from that perspective rather than being up in the stands. It was fun to win out there,” Kemerer said of his first NCAA tournament win.

Lehigh rode the momentum gained from No. 4 seed Darian Cruz at 125 pounds. Cruz electrified the crowd early with a 52-second pin over Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters in the first clash between past All-Americans for the tournament. The Mountain Hawks boast five wrestlers in the second round.

“I was kind of nervous to be out here, wrestling a tough kid like Dylan Peters…Those jitters are going to come in those tough matches. As soon as the whistle blows, I’m just geared to flip a switch and get going. I felt really good right away. I didn’t think I was going to pin him, but I did which made me super happy. That kid is super tough,” Cruz noted.

Mizzou worked six wrestlers into the round-of-16 led behind two-time NCAA champion and Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox at 197 pounds. Cox went to work early in front of the pro-Missouri crowd to defeat Jeric Kasunic of American by first-period fall.

Tiger All-American Daniel Lewis posted an impressive 6:51 of riding time in his 8-0 major decision win over Luke Zilverberg of South Dakota State at 165 pounds.

In total, five wrestlers who were seeded in the top-eight were ousted in the first session. Joining Crutchmer in this category were No. 6 Clayton Ream of North Dakota State at 157 pounds, No. 7 Joey Ward of North Carolina at 141 pounds, No. 8 Patricio Lugo of Edinboro at 149 pounds and No. 8 Jake Short of Minnesota at 157.

Eight past All-Americans suffered first-round defeats. Peters, Schram, Ward, Crutchmer, Conor Youtsey of Michigan, Earl Hall of Iowa State, Casey Kent of Penn and Brett Harner of Princeton will now need deep consolation runs to regain a place on the NCAA podium.

The 165-pound and 184-pound brackets saw all 16 seeded wrestlers advance to the second round. The 157-pound brackets suffered the most carnage with five seeded wrestlers falling in round one.

The second session of the NCAA Division I Championships will begin at 7 p.m. (ET) tonight with the round of 16 and two rounds of consolation matches. The action can be viewed live on ESPN.

Complete brackets and match-by-match results for this event can be found on Trackwrestling.com.

2017 NCAA DIVISION I WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
March 16-18 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.


Team Standings
1. Penn State 16
2. Oklahoma State 15
3. Ohio State 14
4. Iowa 12
4. Lehigh 12
4. Missouri 12
7. Minnesota 11
8. Cornell 10.5
9. Virginia Tech 10
10. Nebraska 9.5

Notable Session I Results
125 pounds
No. 4 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) fall Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa), 0:52
No. 15 Drew Templeman (Wyoming) dec. Conor Youtsey (Michigan), 4-3

133 pounds
Cam Sykora (North Dakota State) maj. dec. No. 16 Kevin Devoy (Drexel), 11-3
Pat D’Arcy (Princeton) dec. No. 13 Earl Hall (Iowa State), 8-1
Joseph Palmer (Oregon State) dec. No. 15 Jamal Morris (North Carolina State), 5-2
No. 4 Cory Clark (Iowa) dec. Connor Schram (Stanford), 4-0

141 pounds
Jimmy Gulibon (Penn State) tech. fall No. 13 Javier Gasca III (Michigan State), 18-3
Jack Hathaway (Oregon State) fall No. 7 Joseph Ward (North Carolina), 3:28

149 pounds
Andrew Crone (Wisconsin) dec. No. 12 Sam Speno (North Carolina State), 8-5
Alex Kocer (South Dakota State) dec. No. 8 Patricio Lugo (Edinboro), 6-5
Joey Delgado (Oregon State) dec. No. 11 Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma), 6-5

157 pounds
Bryant Clagon (Rider) dec. No. 8 Jake Short (Minnesota), 4-2
May Bethea (Penn) dec. No. 12 Clark Glass (Oklahoma), 3-2
Paul Fox (Stanford) dec. No. 6 Clayton Ream (North Dakota State), 8-4
Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois) dec. No. 13 John Van Brill (Rutgers), 11-4
Chase Delande (Edinboro) dec. No. 15 Archie Colgan (Wyoming), 8-2

165 pounds
No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) dec. Keaton Subjeck (Stanford), 5-1
No. 6 Daniel Lewis (Missouri) maj. dec. Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State), 8-0 (6:51 RT)

174 pounds
Jadaen Bernstein (Navy) dec. No. 12 Casey Kent (Penn), 7-3
Jake Residori (SIU Edwardsville) dec. No. 7 Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State), 6-5

184 pounds
No first round notables

197 pounds
Daniel Chaid (North Carolina) dec. No. 9 Nate Rotert (South Dakota State), 10-5
Steban Cervantes (Navy) dec. No. 16 Austin Severn (Central Michigan), 6-4
Cash Wilcke (Iowa) dec. No. 13 Tom Sleigh (Bucknell), 4-2
No. 7 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska) fall Brett Harner (Princeton), 4:51
Brad Johnson (Oklahoma) dec. No. 15 Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin), 4-2

285 pounds
Mike Kosoy (North Carolina State) dec. No. 13 Collin Jensen (Nebraska), 5-2
Conan Jennings (Northwestern) dec. No. 11 Jared Johnson (Chattanooga), 4-0