Six returning NCAA champions reach Southern Scuffle finals; Penn State takes 50-point lead with seven finalists

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Jan. 02, 2018, 2:15 p.m. (ET)
Lehigh's NCAA champion Darian Cruz battles Virginia's Louie Hayes in the 125-pound semifinals at the Southern Scuffle. Video capture from Flowrestling broadcast.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - All six 2017 NCAA champions competing in the semifinals at the Southern Scuffle have advanced to Tuesday night’s championship matches.

These finalists include Penn State’s five returning champions, Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184), along with Darian Cruz of Lehigh (125).

Cruz was in control the entire match against No. 4 Louie Hayes of Virginia, finishing with an 11-0 major decision. He will face No. 2 seed Jay Schwarm of Northern Iowa in the finals.

Retherford scored a pin over No. 5 seed Sam Krivus of Virginia, and will battle unseeded Josh Heil of Campbell in the finals. Heil knocked off No. 3 seed Jared Prince of Navy, 4-3 in his semifinal. Heil has knocked off the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 7 seeds in his march to the finals.

Nolf pinned No. 5 seed Paul Fox of Stanford in 3:42 to reach the finals, where he faces No. 2 seed Mitch Finesilver of Duke.

Joseph opened up his offense in a 19-3 technical fall over unseeded Gordon Wolf of Lehigh. His finals opponent is No. 2 Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa, who edged No. 3 seed Chance Marsteller of Lock Haven, 3-2.

Hall had the closest semifinal of the Penn State NCAA champions, beating No. 4 Jadean Bernstein of Navy, 4-0. Hall broke a scoreless tie with an escape with 58 seconds left in the match, added a takedown with 17 seconds left, and had 1:11 in riding time for his final point. He draws No. 2 Jordan Kutler of Lehigh in the finals.

Nickal scored a number of takedowns late in the match, to open up a 12-4 major decision over No. 5 seed Nick Reenan of NC State. He will battle No. 2 seed Drew Foster of Northern Iowa in the finals.

Penn State freshman Nick Lee, seeded No. 5 and competing unattached, reached the finals with a pin of No. 1 seed Josh Alber of Northern Iowa, tossing Alber with a double overhook throw and securing the fall at 6:51 at 141 pounds. Lee will face another athlete who is currently not in his team’s starting lineup, Oklahoma State’s No. 6 seed Kaden Gfeller, who knocked off No. 2 seed Luke Karam of Lehigh, 2-1.

Penn State’s other finalist is unseeded Shakur Rasheed, who pinned No. 2 seed Matt Williams of CSU-Bakersfield in the 197-pound semifinals in 41 seconds. An all-Penn State final was denied in the other semifinal, where No. 5 Jacob Holschlag of Northern Iowa scored a sudden victory overtime takedown to edge No. 1 seed Anthony Cassar of Penn State, 6-4. Referees gave Cassar a takedown in the closing seconds to break a 4-4 tie, but Northern Iowa challenged the call and the takedown was waved off after it was reviewed.

At the conclusion of the semifinals, Penn State was in first with 161.5 points, extending its lead over second-place Northern Iowa to 50 points, which finished the round with 111.5 points and four finalists. Lehigh is in third with 92 points and two finalists.

At 133 pounds, No. 2 seed Jack Mueller of Virginia advanced to the finals with an injury default win over No. 3 seed Austin Desanto of Drexel. The match was a close battle in the third period when Desanto was injured and unable to continue with 58 seconds to go. He will face unseeded Gary Wayne Harding of Oklahoma State in the finals.

The heavyweight finals will feature No. 2 seed Jacob Kasper of Duke against No. 8 seed Mike Boykin of NC State.

The consolation matches are being finished now. The finals are set for 7:00 p.m. ET on Flowrestling, where all of the tournament matches are also being archived, as well as complete brackets and results.

At Chattanooga, Tenn., Jan. 2

Finals pairings (seeds listed)

125 pounds - No. 1 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) vs. No. 2 Jay Schwarm (Northern Iowa)
133 pounds - No. 2 Jack Mueller (Virginia) vs. Gary Wayne Harding (Oklahoma State)
141 pounds - No. 5 Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. No. 6 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)
149 pounds - No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. Josh Heil (Campbell)
157 pounds - No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Mitch Finesilver (Duke)
165 pounds - No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa)
174 pounds - No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh)
184 pounds - No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa)
197 pounds - No. 5 Jacob Holschlag (Northern Iowa) vs. Shakur Rasheed (Penn State)
285 pounds - No. 2 Jacob Kasper (Duke) vs. No. 8 Mike Boykin (NC State)

Semifinal results

125 pounds
No. 1 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) MD No. 4 Louie Hayes (Virginia), 11-0
No. 2 Jay Schwarm (Northern Iowa) F No. 6 Sergio Mendez (CSU-Bakersfield), 0:50

133 pounds
Gary Wayne Harding (Oklahoma State) DEC No. 8 Colby Smith (Unattached), 3-2
No. 2 Jack Mueller (Virginia) DEF No. 3 Austin Desanto (Drexel), 6:02

141 pounds
No. 5 Nick Lee (Penn State) F No. 1 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa), 6:51
No. 6 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) DEC No. 2 Luke Karam (Lehigh), 2-1

149 pounds
No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) F No. 5 Sam Krivus (Virginia), 1:53
Josh Heil (Campbell) DEC No. 3 Jared Prince (Navy), 4-3

157 pounds
No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) F No. 5 Paul Fox (Stanford), 3:42
No. 2 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) MD Garrett Hammond (Drexel), 9-1

165 pounds
No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) TF Gordon Wolf (Lehigh), 19-3 5:53
No. 2 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) DEC No. 3 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven), 3-2

174 pounds
No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State) DEC No. 4 Jadaen Bernstein (Navy), 4-0
No. 2 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) DEC No. 3 Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa), 8-4

184 pounds
No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) MD No. 5 Nick Reenan (NC State), 12-4
No. 2 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) DEC No. 3 Bryce Carr (Chattanooga), 2-0

197 pounds
No. 5 Jacob Holschlag (Northern Iowa) DEC No. 1 Anthony Cassar (Penn State), 6-4 SV
Shakur Rasheed (Penn State) F No. 2 Matt Williams (CSU-Bake), 0:41

285 pounds
No. 8 Mike Boykin (NC State) DEC No. 5 Nathan Butler (Stanford), 3-1
No. 2 Jacob Kasper (Duke) DEC No. 3 Mike Hughes (Hofstra), 2-0

Team standings after semifinals

1 Penn State 161.5
2 Northern Iowa 111.5
3 Lehigh 92
4 Duke 76
5 Navy 74.5
6 Drexel 70
7 CSU-Bakersfield 62.5
8 Lock Haven 60
9 Virginia 55
10 Stanford 51