2017 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Penn State won their sixth title in seven years at the 87th annual NCAA Wrestling Championships before 19,657 fans at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The Nittany Lions tallied 146.5 points and crowned five champions, tying a NCAA record for individual winners held by both Iowa (1986 & 1997) and Oklahoma State in 2005. Winning titles were the dynamic duo of two-time champion Zain Retherford (28-0) along with Jason Nolf (27-0) at 157. Retherford posted four tech falls and a first period pin en route to the 149-pound crown and was voted the tournament's outstanding wrestler award. Nolf, a sophomore, rolled through five opponents to capture his first NCAA gold medal. Other Penn State winners were: Vincenzo Joseph (22-4) who was embroiled in a 6-6 match with two-time NCAA champ Isaiah Martinez (31-1, 98-2) of Illinois before tossing him for a stunning fall at the 5:26 mark of their 165-pound bout, freshman Mark Hall (31-3) at 165 and Texas native Bo Nickal (26-1). Nickal upended Cornell's two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean for the 184-pound crown. In the marquee match-up of the finals, Dean (34-1) opened the scoring with a solid double leg takedown, then a Nickal escape made it 2-1in favor of Dean. During a scramble takedown Nickal was awarded a questionable two-points following a video review after real-time wrestling time had lapsed. Dean's late takedown attempts came up short and Nickal held on for a 4-3 win.
Ohio State finished as runners-up with 110 points and were paced by reigning NCAA and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder (17-0) who prevailed with a rib injury sustained in his quarterfinal match. Snyder, a junior and a light heavyweight at 226 pounds scored with a double leg-lift takedown over Wisconsin's Connor Medberry (29-2) en route to a solid 6-3 win in the 285-pound final.
Oklahoma State (103 points) took home the NCAA team bronze medal and were led by two-time winner junior Dean Heil (32-0) at 141pounds. The Cowboys are the NCAA team leader with 34 NCAA team titles and finished with an impressive eight All-Americans, the most amongst the 70-team field.
Also winning titles were three-time champion and four-time All-American J'den Cox (1-5-1-1). Cox (28-0) is a home-grown Missouri product and the Olympic bronze medalist finished his stellar career with an overall mark of 130-6. Other NCAA winners were: junior Darien Cruz (31-2) of Lehigh at 125 and Iowa's four-time All-American Cory Clark (5-2-2-1) at 133 pounds. Both champions registered upset victories over top-seeded wrestlers in the semifinal action, Cruz edged Thomas Gilman (Iowa), 4-2 OT and Clark scored with a late inside the leg takedown to defeat Nate Tomasello (Ohio State), for a 4-3 victory.
New York State finished with three All-Americans including Cornell's three-time placer BrianRealbuto (2-6-5) at 174. Realbuto (27-3, 119-19) was defeated by tough Bo Jordan (Ohio State),11-7, in the semifinals and teammate Dylan Palacio (11-4, 83-20) dropped a close 8-5 verdict to Joey Lavalle (Missouri). Realbuto battled back for a 5th place finish and two-time AA Palacio was 6th in their respective weight classes. The other Empire State wrestler that finished with All-American honors was was red-shirt freshman Nick Piccininni (27-8) of Oklahoma State who had a solid tournament and landed in 4th place at 125 pounds, he was defeated twice by Iowa's Thomas Gilman in the meet. The Big Red of Cornell (60.5 points) finished in 8th place and had four All-Americans including two-time NCAA champion Gabe Dean. The four-time AA Dean (3-1-1-2) finished as Cornell's winningest wrestler and had a spectacular career mark of 152-6. PA once again led the field with 49 NCAA qualifiers, followed by Ohio (31) and New Jersey (30). Howeve, the state of Ohio had the most All-Americans at the 2017 NCAA meet with 10, followed by PA (8) , then Illinois Iowa, Michigan, OK and NJ with 5 each. Penn State returns all five NCAA champions next year and will be tough to beat, their top challenger Ohio State will have a squad that has three NCAA titlists along with a strong nucleus of experienced underclassmen. Look for those two elite teams, along with Oklahoma State to challenge for the team title in 2018. Only five NCAA wrestlers remained unscathed on the season: Heil, Retherford, Nolf, Cox and Snyder. The combined record of the ten Division I champions was 262 victories and only 13 losses. The total attendance for all six sessions was 111,454 true wrestling fans. The 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on March 15th-17th. The next tier of NCAA meet host sites: 2019-2022 will be released by the NCAA officially on April 18th.