Penn State in line to win another NCAA title with five finalists, including two seniors

Updated: March 18, 2016

NEW YORK — Cael Sanderson has said many times the reason he redshirted so much talents a year ago — when Penn State sacrificed a fifth-straight national title — because the coach believed he has such a strong young nucleus that will also yield plenty of success in the future.

And there is no doubt that Penn State has a bright future, considering three of Penn State’s five finalists are underclassmen in sophomore Zain Retherford (149) and two redshirt freshmen in Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (174), who helped PSU build a 114-79.5 margin over second-place Iowa heading into Saturday.



But it should also be pointed out that the other two finalists are seniors, 125-pound Nico Megaludis and 197-pound Morgan McIntosh, whose past NCAA experience has left them feeling hungry … despite their team’s success.


But both veteran Nittany Lions, who were part of Penn State’s four-year national championship run (2011-14) while settling for lower than wanted All-American honors, will get another chance to go out on top Saturday night when the NCAA Championships conclude at 8 p.m. (EDT) in Madison Square Garden.

Megaludis, who finished second in both 2012 and ’13 and settled for third place in 2014 before redshirting last winter, reached another final when he defeated American University’s David Terao, 8-2. The Lion senior will meet Iowa’s Thomas Gilman, who pinned the 2015 national champion Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) in 7:37 of their overtime bout.

McIntosh, a two-time All-American, reached his first NCAA final when he defeated Iowa’s Nathan Burak,4-2. The native of California will face 2014 NCAA champion J’den Cox, who pinned Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr to reach his second national final.

“Every one of these guys wants to win and for Nico, this is his third trip to the finals which is an unbelievable accomplishment and the a four-time All-American,” Sanderson said. “Obviously I want him to throw ’em up in the air after he wins the national title. It’s something I’ve been picturing and visualizing for a while. He’s worked so hard and everyone works hard, though.

“But you’ve got to go out there and score more points than your opponent and that’s how you win the match.

“Morgan is in a tough battle, also, being a fifth-year guy. Yeah, you want those guys to go out on top, be happy, win their last match and be a national champion. There is a difference between being in the finals and being a national champ.

Obviously and we want them to win and we feel like they both have a good chance.”

Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan (center) beat his cousin Bo of Ohio State for a third time this year but will need to beat Oklahoma State's two-time champ Alex Dieringer for the title. (Ginger Robinson pix)

Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan (center) beat his cousin Bo of Ohio State for a third time this year but will need to beat Oklahoma State’s two-time champ Alex Dieringer, originally a native of Wisconsin, for the title. (Ginger Robinson pix)

If Penn State, which features a sixth All-American in 133-pound Jordan Conaway, still in line to claim third Saturday morning, does indeed win another team title, there will be a question to what team finishes second.

Oklahoma State, which features two finalists in 141-pound Dean Heil and 165-pound Alex Dieringer — shooting for a third NCAA title — are currently in second place with 79.5 points.

The Cowboys are just two points ahead of the Hawkeyes, who will leave NYC with six All-Americans and three finalists, including 133-pound Cory Clark, who also reached the finals last year, and 149-pound Brandon Sorensen, who will meet Penn State’s Retherford in a rematch of this year’s Big Ten final, won by Retherford.

But the individual matchup that most fans want to see is the heavyweight tilt between NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowski, the two-time NCAA, and 2015 World freestyle champions Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), who finished second at 197 in 2015. The NCAA announced that the heavyweight match will be the finale on Saturday night.


Top 10 Teams Heading into Saturday

Rk School (Finalists/AA) Pts
1. Penn State (5/6) 114.0
2. Oklahoma State (2/6) 79.5
3. Iowa (3/6) 77.5
4. Virginia Tech (0/6) 69.5
5. Ohio State (2/4) 68.0
6. Missouri (1/4) 58.5
7. Nebraska (1/3) 56.0
8. Cornell (2/3) 53.5
9. NC State (1/3) 43.0
10. Illinois  (1/3) 42.0


Semifinal Highlights

125 pounds

No. 4 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) pinned #1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State), 7:37 sv — Tied 1-1 through regulation, Iowa’s Gilman got the takedown midway through the sudden victory period and pinned last year’s national champ with 23 seconds left in overtime period to bring a thunderous eruption and start to the semifinal round.

#3 Nico Megaludis (Penn State) dec. David Terao (American U.), 8-2 — Megaludis, a runner-up in 2012 and ’13, earned a trip to his third final when he methodically picked apart Terao with a takedown in each period and added 1:32 in riding time for the win.

133 pounds

#1 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) pinned #4 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma), 0:21 — Leading 6-0, Garrett — a national runner-up in 2014 — brought the second eruption of the finals when he pinned the second champ of the night by catching Brewer on his back while the Sooner was attempting to scramble away from the Big Red senior’s ride.

#2 Cory Clark (Iowa) dec. #3 Zane Richards (Illinois), 4-3 — The Hawkeye got a takedown against Richards with 10 second left in the match to notch the come-from-behind 4-3 win against his Big Ten rival Richards.

141 pounds

#1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. #4 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers), 8-3 — The top-ranked Heil dominated the fourth seed from start to finish in his first trip to the NCAA finals. The Cowboy got a takedown in each of the periods and never allowed Ashnault to get his offense going.

#14 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming) dec. #2 Joey McKenna (Stanford), 5-3 — A year after transferring from NC State, the native of Wyoming made his state proud when he scored two takedowns, the second coming with 35 seconds left, to reach the finals.

149 pounds

#1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) pinned #5 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), 4:49 — The top-ranked Nittany Lion was leading 12-0 when he used the turk a third time and eventually earned his third straight fall of the tournament.

#2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) dec. #11 Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State), 4-2 — The Hawkeye scored the bout’s only takedown in the first period, then built up enough riding time to ice the victory.

157 pounds

#1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) dec. #4 Ian Miller (Kent State), 7-5 sv — The defending national champion scored the deciding takedown on an ankle pick with 41 seconds left in the overtime phase after Miller scored two takedowns, including the second on an inside trip with 50 seconds left to lead 5-4.

#3 Jason Nolf (Penn State) won by TF over #15 Chad Walsh (Rider), 19-4 (5:19) — The Nittany Lion, who led 8-1 after one period and 12-3 after two frames, scored his final takedown came when he tripped the funky Bronco to his back for a four-point move.

165 pounds

#1 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) major dec. #4 Daniel Lewis (Missouri), 14-4 — The two-time national champion ran his winning streak to 81 straight wins in impressive manner when he scored three of his five takedowns in the first period, then added a 2:28 riding time advantage.

#2 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) dec. #3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State), 5-4 — The Badger junior maintain his mastery over his cousin late in the match when he reversed the high-riding Buckeye sophomore who had just scored a reversal against Isaac to lead 4-3.

174 pounds

#1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) dec. #12 Nate Jackson (Indiana), 4-3 — The Nittany Lion freshman avenged his only loss of the season, but not until he rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the second period by scoring a takedown with 56 seconds left in the second and added a third-period escape.

#11 Myles Martin (Ohio State) dec. UN Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State), 8-2 — The Buckeye freshman scored three takedowns — the first off a double with 37 seconds left in the first period — to knock off the giant-killing Cyclone.

184 pounds

#1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. #13 Pete Renda (NC State), 9-4 — The defending national champ scored a pair of takedowns in both the first and third periods and added a 1:53 riding time advantage.

#7 T.J. Dudley (Nebraska) major dec. #14 Willie Miklus (Missouri), 12-4 — A video review upheld a four-point nearfall by the Husker in the second period before Dudley added four more points in the third frame on a reversal and takedown that led to a 2:14 riding time advantage.

197 pounds

#1 Morgan McIntosh (Penn State) dec. #4 Nathan Burak (Iowa), 4-2 — The Lion scored the bout’s only takedown in the first period and then clinched the match with a 1:07 riding time advantage.

#2 J’den Cox (Missouri) pinned #3 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota), 6:29 — Leading 6-2, the 2014 national champion turned an ankle pick into a cradle and flattened the Gopher for his second national final appearance.


#1 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) dec. #5 Adam Coon (Michigan), 3-2 — In a rematch of the 2015 national final, the Wolfpack senior came out on top again when he scored the bout’s only takedown in the first period and will enter his third NCAA final on an 88-match winning streak.

#2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec. #3 Ty Walz (Va. Tech) , 10-6 — The 2015 World freestyle champion showed that he could be taken down — when the Hokie scored a takedown in first to lead 3-2 — but the Buckeye showed his strength on a double in the second period and a final takedown with 18 seconds left.