By Jim & Tony Nordland

     Penn State won their fifth NCAA team title at the 86th annual NCAA Wrestling Championships before 19,270 fans at historic Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Nittany Lions tallied 123 points and finished ahead of perennial power Oklahoma State (97.5) and defending team champion Ohio State (86). They were paced by champions Nico   Megaludis (32-3) at 125 and unstoppable Zain Retherford (34-0) who rolled through five opponents en route to the 141-pound championship. The Nittany Lions also added three finalists amongst their six All-Americans and their young team will be tough to defeat over the next few years.

     Oklahoma State is the NCAA team leader with 34 NCAA team titles and added two more champions to their impressive ledger of 141 individual winners. Three-time champion Alex Dieringer (33-0, 133-4 career) finished his illustrious career with an 82-match win streak and dominated the 165-pound bracket, teammate Dean Heil (32-1) won the 141-pound class.

     Ohio State had a terrific showing at the NCAA meet and emerged with two winners, true freshman, 11th-seeded Myles Martin (33-6) and unbeaten Kyle Snyder (11-0). Martin converted an upper body throw on the edge of the mat for a six-point move and held on for an exciting 11-9 victory over Bo Nickal (Penn State) at 174.  Snyder rallied with a late third period takedown and forced overtime against two-time champion Nick Gwiazdowski (33-1, 140-12) of NC State. In the overtime stanza, Snyder struck quickly with a low ankle shot takedown and stunned Gwiazdowski for an exciting 7-5 victory at 285 pounds, for his efforts Snyder was voted the tournament's outstanding wrestler award.

     Cornell finished with two NCAA champions, including two-time titlist junior Gabe Dean (34-1) at 184 and four-time placer, unbeaten Nahshon Garrett (37-0). Garrett scored with his blast double-leg takedowns and turned in an impressive 7-6 win to capture the elusive NCAA title at 133 pounds.

     In another or the marquee match-ups in the finals, reigning NCAA king Isaiah Martinez (32-1) of Illinois was pitted against nemesis Jason Nolf (33-2) of Penn State. Both Martinez and Nolf traded takedowns throughout their bout, but Martinez scored with a slick under-hook low single takedown with 18 seconds remaining in the third period for a hard-fought 6-5 victory and his second NCAA crown at 157 pounds.

     The other NCAA champion was 2014 winner J'Den Cox (33-1) of Missouri who upended previously unbeaten Morgan McIntosh (32-1) of Penn State. Cox scored with his aggressive style and posted the decisive third period takedown with a quick low shot on the edge and a solid 3-2 verdict in the 197-pound class.



     New York State finished with three All-Americans, including four-time placer Nick Gwiazdowski (8-1-1-2), Cornell's Dylan Palcacio (20-4) and Stephen Rodrigues (31-5) of Illinois. Gwiazdowski (Duanesberg HS) saw his 88-mtach win streak thwarted in the finals by Snyder (179-0 high school record in Maryland), Palacio (Long Beach HS), a junior stormed back through the consolation bracket and finished in 4th place at 157 and Rodrigues (Fox Lane HS) capped his senior campaign with a strong 5th place NCAA medal at 165 pounds.  Once again Pennsylvania led all home states with 12 All-Americans, Ohio was second with 10 AAs. The Big Red of Cornell finished in 7th place and had 67 points. Four-time All American  Garrett (3-2-5-1) finished with 149 career wins against 12 losses, the former two-time California state champion is second on Cornell's all-time wins list, only behind Mack Lewnes (150). Three-time AA Dean (3-1-1) now boasts  a career mark of 117-6 with yet another season next year. Four-time All- American Alex Dieringer (3-1-1-1) was 19-1 in NCAA tournament competition and his 133 career victories is second on the Oklahoma State's all-time list behind head coach John Smith's 152 wins. He will go down as one of Okla-State's best. Of the 17 teams at the 2016 NCAA meet, Buffalo (3.5 points) finished in 48th place and both Hofstra and Army landed in 58th place with 2.5, followed by Binghamton in 65th place and .5 points. Hudson (21-10) and Hughes (41-10) each won a match in the competition before being eliminated. Only four NCAA wrestlers  remained unscathed on the season, Garrett, Retherford, Dieringer and World Champion Snyder. The combined record of the ten Division I champions was 311 victories and only 13 losses. The total attendance for all six sessions was 110,194 true wrestling fans. The 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on March 16th -18th.