MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.; March 10, 2019 – No. 1 Penn State (14-0, 9-0 B1G) rolled through the competition to claim the 2019 Big Ten Championship. Head coach Cael Sanderson’s squad crowned four individual champions to out-distance second place Ohio State by over 30 points.
Sanderson’s squad had nine wrestlers place in the top six, qualifying all nine competitors for the 2019 NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh on March 21-13. Penn State won the team title with 157.5 points, far out in front of second place Ohio State, who had 122.5. Iowa was third with 107.5 and host Minnesota was fourth with 101.5.
Senior Jason Nolf, ranked No. 1 at 157, met No. 2 Tyler Berger of Nebraska in the first of six Big Ten title tilts for Penn State. Nolf swarmed Berger off the whistle, taking him down just :04 into the bout to open up an early 2-1 lead after cutting Berger loose. The Lion senior quickly grabbed Berger’s ankle, lifted his leg off the mat, and finished off a second takedown to lead 4-2 with 1:50 on the clock. Berger chose down to start the second period and Nolf was strong on offense. He maintained control long enough to build up over 1:00 in riding time before cutting Berger loose. Nolf added a third takedown to lead 6-3 with over 2:00 in riding time after two periods. Nolf added an escape and a takedown midway through the third period to open up a 9-4 lead. He added a final takedown and 2:45 in riding time to roll to the 12-4 major decision and become a two-time Big Ten Champion.
Junior Vincenzo Joseph, ranked No. 1 at 165, took on No. 2 Alex Marinelli of Iowa in the Big Ten championship bout. The duo battled through a high paced opening two minutes with Joseph able to withstand a solid Marinelli single leg at the 1:00 mark. The top-ranked pair paced the center of the mat for the full three minutes but Joseph was called for one stall warning. Joseph escaped to start the second period but Marinelli was able to connect on a throw for six points, getting the takedown and four near fall points. The Hawkeye carried a 6-2 lead in to the third period and escaped to a 7-2 lead. Joseph forced a scramble that nearly ended with each man getting a takedown but Marinelli finished on top, taking a 9-2 lead. Joseph added an escape but Marinelli walked away with the 9-3 victory, handing Joseph his first loss of the year.
Junior Mark Hall, ranked No. 1 at 174, faced off against No. 2 Myles Amine of Michigan in the conference finals. Hall got in on a single leg a minute into the bout but Amine was able to force a stalemate and a reset. The duo battled evenly for the next minute before Hall forced a scramble that ended with the Lion notching a takedown with :33 on the clock. Amine escaped before the period ended and Hall led by one after the opening period. Amine chose down to start the second period and Hall went to work on top, building up :40 in riding time before Amine escaped to tie the bout. Tied 2-2, Hall chose down to start the third period an quickly escaped to a 3-2 lead.
Senior Shakur Rasheed, ranked No. 2 nationally at 184, took a medical forfeit in the finals at 184. Not a loss for the senior, Rasheed heads to the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh after a 2-0 Big Ten tournament that included a pin.
Senior Bo Nickal, ranked No. 1 at 197, took on No. 2 Kollin Moore of Ohio State in the conference title bout. Nickal was steady for the first minute and a half before turning a low shot into a takedown and a 2-0 lead at the 1:04 mark. The Lion senior then maintained control of Moore for the rest of the period to lead 2-0 after one. Nickal escaped to start the second period and then countered a Moore shot, scrambled through a takedown and took a 5-0 lead. He added a last second takedown and led 7-1 after two periods. Moore escaped to start the third period but Nickal continued to pour on the offense. The Lion senior added another takedown and built his riding time point up well over 2:00. Nickal went on to post the 10-3 win with 2:51 in riding time to become a three-time Big Ten Champion.
Senior Anthony Cassar, ranked No. 3 at 285, battled No. 1 Gable Steveson of Minnesota in the final Big Ten Championship match-up. Cassar had his first blast double defended as Steveson stepped back from the Lion’s initial move. The duo battled evenly then, facing each other in the center of the mat for the remainder of the first period. Tied 0-0, Steveson escaped to start the second period, taking a 1-0 lead. The second period mirrored the first with no offensive threats and Cassar trailed by one after two. Cassar escaped to start the third period, quickly tying the score at 1-1. Cassar got called for stalling at the 1:25 mark and then Steveson connected on a takedown to lead 3-2 after a quick Cassar escape. The Lion stayed steady, working his way into a single leg and takedown to open up a 4-3 lead with :20 on the clock. The takedown was the first given up by Steveson all year long. Cassar then maintained control of Steveson for the final seconds to notch the impressive 4-3 victory and become a Big Ten Champion.
Sanderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his ten years at Penn State. Nickal and Nolf were named Co-Big Ten Wrestlers of the Year, becoming Sanderson’s eighth and ninth Big Ten Wrestler of the Year winners. Nolf was honored as the 2019 Big Ten Championship Co-Outstanding Wrestler, sharing the honor with Alex Marinelli. He is Sanderson’s fifth tournament O.W.
The Nittany Lions went 7-2 on day two and finish the tournament with a 26-8 record. The Nittany Lions picked up 24 bonus points off nine majors, two technical falls and four pins. Nolf and Hall now have two Big Ten titles each while Nickal became a three-time Big Ten Champion. Cassar won his first.
Penn State has now won six 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 now had 26 individuals win a total of 47 Big Ten individual titles.
Penn State will now head to Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena for the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 21-23. The three-day event begins on Thursday, March 21, at 12 p.m. and concludes with Saturday night’s NCAA finals at 7 p.m. Penn State has won seven of the last eight NCAA team titles.