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Top seeds hold firm, Penn State separates as semifinals set at NCAA Division I Championships

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | March 17, 2017, 12:27 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Dylan Palacio (Cornell) celebrates a pin over Michael Kemerer (Iowa) in the 157-pound quarterfinals on Friday morning in St. Louis. Photo by

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ST LOUIS, Mo. – The 18,186 fans filling the Scottrade Center were treated to thrilling quarterfinal action on Friday morning at the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships as defending champion Penn State inched that much closer to claiming its sixth title in seven seasons.

The Nittany Lion crew placed a tournament high five wrestlers in the semifinals scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET) this evening. As a result, Penn State separated itself in the team race, totaling 74 points to lead second place Ohio State by 15.

Three Nittany Lion wrestlers find themselves one win away from appearing in the NCAA finals for the second-consecutive season.

Top seeds Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf continued their runs among the unbeaten with highly-convincing quarterfinal wins. Retherford won by 18-2 technical fall over South Dakota State’s Alex Kocer at 149 pounds, while Nolf pinned Rider All-American Bryant Clagon in the second frame at 157 pounds.

“I am improving throughout and that’s good,” Nolf said following the win. “My goal is to pin everybody. I will do the same thing I always do, be consistent. I knew that guy was going to be stronger and scramble a little bit more. I wanted to make sure I was finishing clean. When I got on top, I got to my turns and pinned him.”

Standing opposite the duo tonight is a pair of Big Ten rivals. Retherford will take on No. 5 seed Brandon Sorensen of Iowa in a rematch of last year’s NCAA finals. The two last met in a January dual meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with Retherford escaping in overtime, 9-8. Nolf will take on Nebraska’s Tyler Berger, a match he won by major decision in January.

The always-electric Bo Nickal continued his quest at 184 pounds with a pin over NCAA finalist Tim Dudley of Nebraska in the quarterfinals. Nickal is slated to meet two-time Big Ten champion Sammy Brooks of Iowa this evening. Nickal pinned Brooks in 38-seconds during their only meeting of the season.

On top of the three established talents, Penn State freshman Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall navigated to the semifinals at 165 pounds and 174 pounds, respectively. It took a last second takedown for Joseph to top Missouri All-American Daniel Lewis. Hall found his spot in the semis with less anxiety, defeating Virginia Tech All-American Zach Epperly by major decision 10-2.

Both Joesph and Hall will face fellow freshman opponents in tonight’s session. Joseph goes up against No. 2 seed Logan Massa of Michigan in their first meeting of the year. Hall is targeting top seed Zahid Valencia of Arizona State and will try to topple him from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Joining Sorensen and Brooks in the semifinals for Iowa is the lightweight duo of Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark. The pair of senior Hawkeyes are seeking return trips to the NCAA finals where they finished as runners-up last year.

Gilman, the top seed at 125 pounds, upheld his undefeated mark on the season with a punishing third-period fall over Oklahoma State freshman Nick Piccininni. He will continue his run against Lehigh All-American Darian Cruz.

After outlasting Michigan freshman Stevan Micic 6-4 in the quarters, Clark will get his shot at revenge against undefeated Buckeye Nathan Tomasello at 133 pounds. Clark and Tomasello wrestled a 5-4 barn burner in the Big Ten finals two weeks ago with Tomasello eking out the win.

“I just worry about what I do and not so much about what he’s got,” Clark said of his match against Micic. “I know he’s got a good Russian, which he got to. Going into the match, it is not to try to stay away from this and stay away from that. It is get to this and get to that. It may not have showed, but that is my game plan and approach to the match.”

Tomasello is one of four Ohio State wrestlers to make the semifinals. Joining the 133-pound dynamo tonight is Olympic, World and NCAA champion Kyle Snyder, plus Big Ten champions Bo Jordan and Kollin Moore.

Snyder remained undefeated on the season with a 13-7 decision over Minnesota All-American Michael Kroells at 285 pounds. The next test for Snyder comes from No. 4 seed Jacob Kasper who became just the third All-American in Duke history with a 3-1 win over Penn State’s Nick Nevills.

Late match heroics were needed from Jordan in the 174-pound semifinals against Iowa’s Alex Meyer. Jordan stole the match with a late takedown to win 4-3. He will seek a spot in the championship match against No. 2 seed Brian Realbuto, one of three Cornell semifinalists.

“Making the semifinals means a lot,” Jordan said. “I am happy. I am still a little disappointed that I didn’t put it out there. I have been talking about it throughout the tournament and trying to do it since the first match. I don’t think I have put it all out there. Win or lose, that is the most important thing. You just need to grow as a wrestler and put your best stuff out there.”

It will be a Big Ten finals rematch for Moore this evening with Minnesota All-American Brett Pfarr seeking redemption at 197 pounds. Moore utilized his high-paced motor against Oklahoma State’s Preston Weigel in a 13-5 quarterfinal win.

Ohio State and Iowa are neck-and-neck in the team race, separated by a single point heading into tonight. Ohio State sits in second place with 59 points and Iowa in third place with 58 points.

Oklahoma State fell to fourth place in the team standings with 47.5 points on the board and three semifinalists.

NCAA champion Dean Heil won his third close contest of the tournament, this time 6-5 courtesy of a riding time point over Missouri’s Jaydin Eierman at 141 pounds. Heil takes on two-time Big Ten champion Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers for a place in the finals.

No. 3 seed Kaid Brock and No. 4 seed Nolan Boyd wrestled to seed and qualified for the semifinals. Brock will face South Dakota State’s Seth Gross in a Big 12 finals rematch at 133 pounds. Boyd will challenge two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean of Cornell at 184 pounds.

Gross became the first NCAA Division I All-American in South Dakota State history with his 11-1 major decision victory over Nebraska’s Eric Montoya.

The scrambling sensation Dylan Palacio booked a semifinal trip alongside his Cornell teammates Realbuto and Dean with a pin over No. 2 seed Michael Kemerer of Iowa in the 157-pound quarters. Cornell has ridden the backs of these three stars to a current fifth-place standing in the team race.

Two-time NCAA champion and Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox was joined by Missouri All-Americans Joey LaVallee and Lavion Mayes in tonight’s semifinals. The Tigers currently sit in sixth place in the team race, right in the mix for a podium finish.

Returning NCAA finalist Bryce Meredith of Wyoming upended No. 2 seed Kevin Jack of North Carolina State for the second-straight year at the NCAA Championships. Meredith is set to face Virginia’s George DiCamillo for a spot in the 141-pound finals.

Two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois went back and forth with Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers in a 10-5 winning effort. Standing in the way of Martinez returning to the NCAA finals for a third time is last year’s NCAA runner-up Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin.

As we enter session four, five of the ten weight classes held serve, placing all top-four seeds in the semifinals. All ten No. 1 seeds remained unbeaten, one win away from the finals.

Session four of the NCAA Division I Championships will begin at 8 p.m. (ET) on Friday with the semifinals and bloodround. The action will be televised live on ESPN and streamed online on ESPN3. 

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

March 16-18 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.

Semifinal Matchups
125 pounds
No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs. No. 4 Darian Cruz (Lehigh)
No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) vs. No. 10 Jack Mueller (Virginia)

133 pounds
No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) vs. No. 4 Cory Clark (Iowa)
No. 3 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 2 Seth Gross (South Dakota State)

141 pounds
No. 1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 5 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers)
No. 6 George DiCamillo (Virginia) vs. No. 10 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)

149 pounds
No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. No. 5 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)
No. 3 Lavion Mayes (Missouri) vs. No. 7 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa)

157 pounds
No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) vs. No. 4 Tyler Berger (Nebraska)
No. 3 Joey LaVallee (Missouri) vs. No. 7 Dylan Palacio (Cornell)

165 pounds
No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) vs. No. 4 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)
No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Logan Massa (Michigan)

174 pounds
No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. No. 5 Mark Hall (Penn State)
No. 3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 Brian Realbuto (Cornell)

184 pounds
No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) vs. No. 4 Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State)
No. 3 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Bo Nickal (Penn State)

197 pounds
No. 1 J’den Cox (Missouri) vs. No. 4 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech)
No. 3 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota)

285 pounds
No. 1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) vs. No. 4 Jacob Kasper (Duke)
No. 3 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 2 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)

Quarterfinal Results
125 pounds
No. 1 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) fall No. 8 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State), 6:04
No. 4 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) dec. No. 12 Sean Fausz (North Carolina State), 5-2
No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) tech. fall No. 14 Freddie Rodriguez (SIU Edwardsville), 15-0
No. 10 Jack Mueller (Virginia) dec. No. 2 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech), 4-2

133 pounds
No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) dec. No. 8 Zane Richards (Illinois), 3-1
No. 4 Cory Clark (Iowa) dec. No. 5 Stevan Micic (Michigan), 6-4
No. 3 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 11 Bryan Lantry (Buffalo), 7-3
No. 2 Seth Gross (South Dakota State) maj. dec. No. 7 Eric Montoya (Nebraska), 11-1

141 pounds
No. 1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 8 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri), 6-5
No. 5 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) dec. No. 4 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton), 6-2
No. 6 George DiCamillo (Virginia) dec. No. 11 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota), 5-2
No. 10 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming) dec. No. 2 Kevin Jack (North Carolina State), 6-5

149 pounds
No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) tech. fall Alex Kocer (South Dakota State), 18-2
No. 5 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) dec. No. 4 Micah Jordan (Ohio State), 3-0
No. 3 Lavion Mayes (Missouri) dec. No. 6 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech), 4-2
No. 7 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) dec. No. 15 Kenny Theobold (Rutgers), 5-1

157 pounds
No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) fall Bryant Clagon (Rider), 4:06
No. 4 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) dec. No. 5 Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State), 3-1 SV1
No. 3 Joey LaVallee (Missouri) dec. Paul Fox (Stanford), 6-1
No. 7 Dylan Palacio (Cornell) fall No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), 3:28

165 pounds
No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) dec. No. 9 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State), 10-5
No. 4 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. No. 5 Chad Walsh (Rider), 7-3
No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) dec. No. 6 Daniel Lewis (Missouri), 6-5
No. 2 Logan Massa (Michigan) maj. dec. No. 7 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State), 9-0

174 pounds
No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec. No.9 Myles Amine (Michigan), 14-8
No. 5 Mark Hall (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 4 Zach Epperly (Virginia Tech), 10-2
No. 3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State) dec. No. 11 Alex Meyer (Iowa), 4-3
No. 2 Brian Realbuto (Cornell) fall No. 10 Zac Brunson (Illinois), 1:12

184 pounds
No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. No. 8 Jack Dechow (Old Dominion), 4-3 TB1
No. 4 Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 12 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa), 11-7
No. 3 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) fall No. 11 Emery Parker (Illinois), 6:01
No. 2 Bo Nickal (Penn State) fall No. 7 Tim Dudley (Nebraska), 4:33

197 pounds
No. 1 J’den Cox (Missouri) maj. dec. No. 8 Ryan Wolfe (Rider), 10-1
No. 4 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech) dec. No. 5 Matt McCutcheon, 7-3
No. 3 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) maj. dec. No. 6 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), 13-5
No. 2 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) dec. No. 10 Kevin Beazley (Old Dominion), 6-0

285 pounds
No. 1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec. No. 8 Michael Kroells (Minnesota), 13-7
No. 4 Jacob Kasper (Duke) dec. No. 5 Nick Nevills (Penn State), 3-1
No. 3 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) maj. dec. Conan Jennings (Northwestern), 15-4
No. 2 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) dec. No. 7 Tanner Hall (Arizona State), 5-3