NCAA SESSION IV NOTES: Six undefeated wrestlers power into 2019 NCAA finals

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 23, 2019, 1:58 a.m. (ET)
Jack Mueller of Virginia wins his semifinal match at 125 pounds. Mueller is among six undefeated wrestlers in the NCAA finals on Sunday. Photo by Tony Rotundo.

Six undefeated wrestlers remain in the tournament - There were 12 undefeated wrestlers when the NCAA Championships began on Thursday morning. There were 10 left after the quarterfinals. With the conclusion of the semifinals, there are only six left. They are:
125 - Jack Mueller of Virginia, 21-0
141 - Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell 28-0
149 - Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers 31-0
157 - Jason Nolf of Penn State 30-0
174 - Mark Hall of Penn State 30-0
197 - Bo Nickal of Penn State 29-0

To even be considered for the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top college wrestler, you pretty much need to finish the year undefeated. The only Div. I winner of the Hodge Trophy with a loss was Brent Metcalf of Iowa, who went 39-1 and won the 2008 Dan Hodge Trophy.

If all six win on Saturday, WIN Magazine will need to look at other factors of dominance in coming up with the finalists for the Dan Hodge Trophy. Stay tuned.

New Jersey produces the most 2019 NCAA Finalists – Coming into the semifinals, host Pennsylvania produced the most 2019 NCAA semifinalists with eight, with New Jersey close behind with seven. After the semifinals, the Garden State moved ahead of the Keystone State, as Jersey has five 2019 NCAA finalists, with Pennsylvania next with four.

1. New Jersey (5)- Nick Suriano (Rutgers), Joey McKenna (Ohio State), Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers), Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
2. Pennsylvania (3) Spencer Lee (Iowa), Jason Nolf (Penn State), Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State),
3. (tie) Ohio (2): Micah Jordan (Ohio State), Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
3. (tie) Texas (2): Jack Mueller (Virginia), Bo Nickal (Penn State)
3. (tie): Oklahoma (2): Daton Fix (Oklahoma State), Derek White (Oklahoma State)
6. (tie) New York (1): Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)
6. (tie) California (1): Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)
6. (tie) Minnesota (1): Mark Hall (Penn State),
6. (tie): Michigan (1): Max Dean (Cornell)
6. (tie): Oregon (1): Tyler Berger (Nebraska)
6. (tie): Iowa (1): Drew Foster (UNI)

Lots of little notes from various programs

* Penn State has set a standard many expect will be hard to match. For the fourth straight year, the Nittany Lions put five wrestlers into the gold-medal finals of the NCAA Championships. Amazing.
* With his semifinal win over Daniel Lewis of Missouri at 174 pounds, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State now has 100 career wins. Valencia avenged a loss by pin to Lewis earlier in the season.
* With his win in the 197 pound semifinals, Bo Nickal has become a four-time finalist, competing in three different weight classes.
* Drew Foster has become the 25th two-time All-American in Northern Iowa history today, which was clinched when he reached the semifinals on Friday morning.
* With his win in the quarterfinals Friday morning, Jordan Wood became Lehigh’s 151st All-American, and gave Lehigh a semifinalist for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
* With his quarterfinals win, Mehki Lewis became the 22nd All-American in Virginia Tech’s history, and gave the Hokies an All-American for the eighth straight year.
* With his quarterfinal win on Thursday morning, Daniel Lewis became only the third Missouri wrestler to become a four-time All-American. The first two became Olympians, Ben Askren (2004-07) and J’den Cox (2014-17)
* By reaching the semifinals, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State became the 10th three-time All-American in Sun Devil history. The most recent three-timer was Anthony Robles (2009-2011)

Bonus Babies – Coming into the semifinals, eight wrestlers had scored bonus point wins in all of their matches so far in the NCAA Championships. With the semifinals finished, only two wrestlers have won them all with bonus points: Zahid Valencia of Arizona State at 174 and Bo Nickal of Penn State at 197.

Valencia beat Daniel Lewis of Missouri in the semifinals by an 11-3 major decision. Going into the finals, Valencia has one pin and three major decisions.

Nickal pinned Patrick Brucki of Princeton in his semifinal in 4:41. Nickal heads to the finals with three pins and a major decision.

The last 33rd seed in the tournament – For the first time, the NCAA seeded every athlete in the tournament, with wrestlers ranked from No. 1 all the way down to No. 33. The final No. 33 seed in the event reached the blood round at 174, Devin Kane of North Carolina. Kane won his pigtail match against No. 32 Jake Covaciu of Indiana, then fell to No. 1 seed Mark Hall of Penn State. Kane won three straight matches to reach the blood round. However, he fell short of All-American status, after losing to No. 5 seed Jordan Kutler of Lehigh for All-American honors, 6-0.

Geer is the only blood round winner with a seed over No. 20 – A review of the brackets showed there were 13 wrestlers who were seeded No. 20 or higher who reached the blood round with a chance to make All-American. At least this year, the seed was a strong indicator of who would advance. Only one of the 13 was able to win their blood round match and become an All-American, No. 26 seed Dakota Geer of Oklahoma, who stopped No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt, 6-0 to secure his All-American status.

Finalists by conference –Here is the tally of finalists by conference:
Big Ten – 12
Big 12 – 3
ACC – 2
EIWA – 2
Pac-12: 1

Transfer watch:: Going into the semifinals, there were four transfers still on the championship side of the bracket. Three of the four athletes who had transferred were able to advance to the finals:
No. 3 at 133 – Nick Suriano of Rutgers (from Penn State)
No. 2 at 141 – Joey McKenna of Ohio State (from Stanford)
No. 1 at 285 – Derek White of Oklahoma State (from Nebraska)

How host Pitt did in Session Four – All three Pitt wrestlers who competed on Friday night lost, meaning the host school is done for this year’s NCAA Championships.
Consolation at 133 – No. 4 Micky Phillippi –lost to Roman Bravo Young (Penn State), 4-3 (eliminated)
Consolation at 157 – No. 12 Taleb Rahmani – lost to Christian Pagdilao (Arizona State), 13-7 (eliminated)
Consolation at 184 – No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi – lost to Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State), 6-0 (eliminated)

Lower seeds beating higher seeds in the semifinals: Five semifinal winners beat opponents with higher seeds.
125 – No. 5 Jack Mueller (Virginia) DEC No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), 8-2
125 – No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) DEC No. 2 Nick Piccininni Stillwater, OK (Oklahoma State), 11-4
133 - No. 3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) DEC No. 2 Stevan Micic (Michigan), 4-1
165 - No. 8 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) DEC No. 4 Evan Wick (Wisconsin), 5-2
184 - No. 5 Maxwell Dean (Cornell) DEC No. 1 Myles Martin (Ohio State), 5-4