Jason Nolf celebrates after a semifinal victory (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- No. 1 Penn State (14-0, 9-0 B1G) leads the field after day one of the 2019 Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis. Head coach Cael Sanderson's squad owns a 19.5-point lead after day one of the two-day event at the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena.
The Nittany Lions had eight wrestlers in the semifinals, all of whom already qualified for the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh on March 21-13. Six of those Lions won and will compete for an individual Big Ten title in tomorrow afternoon's Big Ten Championship finals which air live nationally on the Big Ten Network. One more Lion punched his ticket to the NCAA Championships, brining Penn State's total to nine. The three Lions not in the championship finals tomorrow are all live for third place. Penn State leads the team race with 130.0 points while Ohio State is second with 111.5. Nebraska is in third with 84.0, Iowa is fourth with 83.5 and Minnesota is fifth with 76.5.
Sophomore Nick Lee (Evansville, Ind.), ranked No. 2 at 141 and the second seed, took on No. 3 Joey McKenna of Ohio State in the first of Penn State's eight semifinal match-ups. McKenna drew first blood with a takedown midway through the opening period and another in the final seconds to lead 4-1 after one. McKenna led 5-1 in the second and Lee cut into the lead late in the third but the Buckeye was able to hold on for a 5-4 win. Lee will continue in consolation action Sunday, still alive for third place.
Redshirt freshman Brady Berge (Mantorville, Minn.), ranked No. 13 nationally at 149 and the sixth seed, faced off against No. 2 Micah Jordan of Ohio State in the semifinals. Jordan opened up a big early lead with three first period takedowns. Berge notched a second period escape but Jordan pulled away in the third to post a 13-4 major decision. Berge will continue in a quest for third place on Sunday.
Senior Jason Nolf (Yatesboro, Pa.), ranked No. 1 at 157 and the top seed, took on No. 5 Alex Pantaleo of Michigan in the semifinals. Nolf notched a takedown early in the first period and amassed 1:14 in riding time to lead 2-1 after one. He escaped to start the second stanza and then took Pantaleo down again to up his lead to 5-1. He picked up a stall point and 2:08 in riding time to post a dominating 7-1 decision and advance to Sunday's Big Ten Championship finals match.
Junior Vincenzo Joseph (Pittsburgh, Pa.), ranked No. 1 at 165 and the top seed, faced No. 7 Logan Massa of Michigan in the semifinals. Joseph scored quickly, taking Massa down to open up an early 2-1 lead, which he carried to the second period. Massa escaped to tie the match in the second and Joseph escaped to start the third period to take a 3-2 lead. Joseph pressed Massa for the entire third period and turned a shot and scramble into a fall at the 6:41 mark to move in to Sunday's finals.
Junior Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.), ranked No. 1 at 174 and the top seed, met No. 12 Devin Skatzka of Minnesota in the semifinals. Hall battled Skatzka through a scoreless first period. The Lion junior chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. He pressed the Gopher for the entire period and notched a takedown to lead 3-0 after two. Skatzka chose down to start the third and scrambled to a late reversal to cut the lead to 3-2. Hall escaped to a 4-2 lead and made the score stand. Hall's 4-2 decision pushes him through to tomorrow's finals.
Senior Shakur Rasheed (Coram, N.Y.), ranked No. 2 nationally at 184 and the second seed, took on No. 6 Taylor Venz of Nebraska in the semifinals. Rasheed wasted no time taking Venz down to open up an early lead and then countered a Venz shot to lead 4-1 midway through the first period. Venz escaped to start the second but not before Rasheed owned a 1:15 riding time edge. Rasheed escaped at the start of the third period and led 5-3 with 1:30 in riding time. He gave up a last second takedown but his 1:25 in riding time gave the Lion a 6-5 win and moves him in to the finals Sunday.
Senior Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas), ranked No. 1 at 197 and the top seed, met No. 13 Eric Schultz of Nebraska in the semifinals. Nickal took Schultz down at the 1:00 mark of the first period and added a second late to lead 4-1 after one. Schultz chose down to start the second period and escaped but Nickal added another takedown to lead 6-2 after two periods. Nickal added an escape, a takedown and 2:48 in riding time to post a 10-2 major decision and advance to the championship finals.
Senior Anthony Cassar (Rocky Hill, N.J.), ranked No. 3 at 285 and the second seed, met No. 14 Conan Jennings of Northwestern in the last of Penn State's eight semifinal bouts. After a scoreless minute, Cassar took a lead with a takedown and then added a second one late in the period to lead 4-1 after one. The Lion added a takedown and a stall point and led 7-1 after two periods. He added a reversal in the third period and rode Jennings out to roll to a 10-1 major decision with 2:05 in riding time. Cassar's win makes him Penn State's sixth finalist.
True freshman Roman Bravo-Young (Tucson, Ariz.), ranked No. 12 nationally at 133 and the fourth seed, took on Wisconsin's Jens Lantz in his first consolation bout. Bravo-Young took an early first period lead with two first period takedowns and added three more in the second period. The Lion freshman then picked up two more takedowns and added a bonus point thanks to 1:47 riding time to post a strong 14-5 major decision. The win clinched Bravo-Young's trip to nationals, making him Penn State's ninth qualifier. The Lion then met Dylan Duncan of Illinois in the consolation quarterfinals. Bravo-Young notched an early first period takedown to lead after the opening period. Duncan tied the match with an escape to start the second and the match was tied after two. Bravo-Young chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 3-2 lead. The Lion freshman made the escape stand and held on for a 3-2 decision. Bravo-Young ended day one with a 3-1 mark and is still alive for third place.
Sophomore Devin Schnupp (Lititz, Pa.), making his first ever appearance at the Big Ten Championship at 125, faced Rutgers' Shane Metzler in the first round off a special consolation bracket with the opportunity to place ninth at 125 and earn a trip to the NCAA tournament still in hand. Schnupp, who dropped a 6-1 decision to Metzler earlier in the tournament, lost 6-4 this time. Schnupp ends his season with a 6-17 record
Penn State went 8-3 in the second session. The Lions picked up three more majors and a pin and now have 17 bonus points off six majors, two technical falls and four pins.
Penn State has won five Big Ten Championships (tournament) under Sanderson and six Big Ten Regular Season (dual meet) titles, including this year's dual crown. The Nittany Lions have had 25 individuals win a total of 43 Big Ten individual titles.
Action resumes on Sunday with consolation action starting at 1 p.m. Eastern / 12 p.m. Central (local) and the championship finals at 4 p.m. Eastern / 3 p.m. Central (local). The Finals will air live on the Big Ten Network and the entire tournament, every mat, will stream live on BTN2go/BTN-Plus ($).
Penn State Fans are encouraged to follow Penn State wrestling via twitter at @pennstateWREST, on Penn State Wrestling's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pennstatewrestling and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/pennstatewrest. This is PENN STATE. WRESTLING lives here.
Top 5 Teams after session 2
1: PENN STATE - 131.0
2: Ohio State - 111.5
3: Nebraska - 84.0
4: Iowa - 83.5
5: Minnesota - 76.5