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Snyder, Nickal, Gilman prevail at NLWC event


The Nittany Lion Wrestling Club is loaded with top-notch wrestlers.

And they put on a heck of a show when the NLWC hosted a high-level Senior freestyle wrestling event on Saturday night. The event was streamed live on Rokfin.

The 13-match card included numerous athletes who have excelled at the international and collegiate levels. The event provided fans an opportunity to watch some outstanding competitors take the mat.

Here is my breakdown from the evening's matches:

74 kilograms: Malik Amine vs. Rick Durso

Durso came out aggressively, scoring on a pair of leg attacks to jump ahead 4-0. Durso continued to pour it on, building an 8-0 lead halfway through the opening period. He fired in on a single leg before finishing for a takedown to win by a 10-0 technical superiority in just 1 minute, 40 seconds. He turned in an impressive performance with the dominating victory.

125 kilograms: Nick Nevills vs. Jordan Wood

Nevills took charge early, attacking with his offense to build a 4-1 lead after one period. He moves well for a big man and put that on display early in the match. Wood charged out strong in the second period, scoring on a pushout to close within 4-2. Wood scored on two leg laces in the closing seconds to pull out a dramatic 6-4 win. Wood wrestled hard and it paid off.

62 kilograms: Jennifer Page vs. Desiree Zavala

Zavala shot in on a slick fireman's carry off the opening whistle to take a quick 4-0 lead. She followed with a leg lace to jump ahead 6-0 in the first 30 seconds of the bout. Page came back strong with a pair of leg laces late in the opening period to draw within 10-6. She continued her momentum with a takedown and turn to tie it 10-10 early in the second period. Page took the lead while finishing for a takedown off a single-leg shot. She was nearly teched before rallying for an impressive 14-10 comeback win. Page kept her composure and continued to battle before earning the win.

196 pounds: Jaime Espinal vs. Domenic Abounader

The explosive Espinal, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, scored on an early turn after being put on the shot clock. Abounader responded with a flurry of points to lead 5-2 late in the first period. Espinal wasn't overly active and his late rally came up short. Abounader scored in the final seconds to prevail 7-2.

157 pounds: Zain Retherford vs. Alec Pantaleo

Retherford, a three-time NCAA champion for Penn State, bumped up in weight for the bout against Pantaleo, a former Michigan star. Retherford led 1-0 at the break after Pantaleo was put on the activity clock. Pantaleo powered in for a double-leg takedown to lead 2-1 early in the second period. Retherford fired in on a textbook single and finished for a takedown to lead 3-2 with just under a minute left. It was a strong showing by Retherford, who earned a hard-fought win over a bigger opponent.

79 kilograms: Jason Nolf vs. David McFadden

Nolf, another three-time NCAA champion for the Nittany Lions, is a wrestler with a bright future in freestyle and it showed. Nolf is constantly moving forward and applying pressure. He led 5-2 after an action-packed first period. Nolf continued to attack McFadden with an array of shots before earning a solid 5-2 victory.

77 kilograms: Vincenzo Joseph vs. Dan Vallimont

In a battle of former Nittany Lions, Joseph was the aggressor from the outset and led 1-0 after Vallimont was put on the shot clock. Joseph powered in on a single and followed with a quick finish to lead 3-0 early in the second period. He spun behind for another takedown en route to a 5-0 win. It will be interesting to see how Joseph, a two-time NCAA champion, fares as he transitions to freestyle.

125 kilograms: Greg Kerkvliet vs. Youssif Hemida

Kerkvliet, a Cadet world champion, is an exciting young prospect with an extremely bright future. He came out with a quick takedown and scored on a leg lace to go up 4-0. Penn State fans are excited to see this guy wrestle and he proved why Saturday. He wrestles at a high level already despite still being very young. Kerkvliet fired in on a double-leg takedown to lead 6-0 before adding another double. He went up 8-0 late in the opening period. Kerkvliet finished it with a single to win by a 10-0 technical superiorty. This kid is really impressive.

77 kilograms: Bekzod Abdurakhmonov vs. Logan Massa

Abdurakhmonov, a world medalist and Olympian who competes for Uzbekistan, matched up against a top young athlete in Massa. Bekzod, a savvy veteran, opened the scoring after Massa was put on the shot clock. Massa is strong defensively and continued to fight off Bekzod's attacks. Massa scored on a pushout after a leg attack to tie it 1-1 with two minutes left. He added a second pushout with 1:20 left to lead 2-1. Bekzod shot in on a double-leg attack late, but Massa flipped him over in an exchange where both wrestlers were awarded two points. Massa earned a big win in knocking off Abdurakhmonov 4-3.

62 kilograms: Jane Valencia vs. Julia Salata

Valencia powered in with a double-leg shot before transitioning to a leg lace to lead 4-0. Salata won a scramble early in the second period, scoring a takedown to draw within 4-2. Salata spun behind for a takedown and scored a turn before taking a 6-4 lead. Valencia shot in on a leg attack in the closing seconds, scoring a takedown to win the match 6-6 on criteria.

59 kilograms: Thomas Gilman vs. Darian Cruz

Cruz came out with a strong single-leg shot to score a takedown on Gilman, a 2017 world silver medalist. Gilman, a hard-nosed, physical wrestler, came back with a series of pushouts to lead 3-2. Cruz responded with a leg attack to score a takedown to lead 4-4 on criteria with two minutes left. Gilman came back with two more pushouts to lead 6-4 before spinning behind for a takedown with 1:20 left. Gilman added a gut-wrench and followed with a double-leg takedown to go up 12-4. He then hit a high-crotch that led to a takedown, giving him a 14-4 win by technical superiority. Gilman used a relentless attack and looked superb in an impressive win.

99 kilograms: Kyle Snyder vs. Michael Macchiavello

Snyder, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, put on a superb display while wrestling a quality opponent. Snyder is the total package with his strength, relentless approach and superb technical skills. He built a quick 8-0 lead over Macchiavello, an NCAA champion. Snyder then spun behind for a takedown he turned into a gut-wrench to prevail 12-0. Snyder has improved on top in par terre and continues to evolve. I'm looking forward to seeing him compete at the Olympics next year in Tokyo.

Main event

190 pounds: Bo Nickal vs. Alex Dieringer

The main event featured an intriguing matchup between promising international wrestlers who each won three NCAA titles at the collegiate level. The match was tied 1-1 in the final minute, but Nickal held the edge after scoring last. Nickal held off Dieringer in the final seconds, winning 1-1 on criteria in one of the slower paced matches of the night between two high-level athletes.

Final thoughts

This was an excellent card loaded with standout wrestlers - and it definitely delivered. There was high-level wrestling with an abundance of great matchups. Kudos to Nittany Lion Wrestling Club for delivering with an entertaining event. It was fun to watch and good to see wrestlers have another opportunity to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Byers and David Taylor did an excellent job on the broadcast. Taylor was outstanding with his commentary and analysis. It was interesting to hear all of his perspectives on what it's like to compete at this level.

The quality of the Rokfin live stream was excellent. It moved along smoothly with one match after another. Kudos to everyone involved for hitting a home run with this outstanding event.

Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games, written 10 books and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.

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