Nickal pin clinches seventh NCAA title in eight years for Penn State

Updated: March 18, 2018

By Mike Finn

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Seven seconds is a short time, but was just enough for Penn State’s Bo Nickal to use that much time to literally turn the tables on Ohio State’s Myles Martin Saturday night in the Quicken Loans Arena … and captured a seventh team championship in the past eight years.

NCAA final team scores and brackets

For that was the time that went off the clock when it Nickal was taken down to his back but continued the momentum with his “elevator” move that eventually put the Buckeye on his back and eventual fall in 2:30. That victory, the third individual title Penn State in the finals session, also clinched the team title for Penn State, which trailed by six points before the start of the championship matches.


“I really didn’t have to think,” said Nickal, who captured a second championship and avenged his 2016 NCAA final loss to Martin at 174 pounds. “I’ve been doing that move for a really long time. I try it a lot in practice, just messing around and play wrestling with guys and stuff like that. So it’s a position that I’m comfortable in. And I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have to think too much about it.”

Ohio State did earn an individual championship at heavyweight, where senior Kyle Snyder defeated Michigan’s Adam Coon, 3-1, to claim his third straight NCAA championship … to go along with two World titles and the 2016 Olympic gold medal.

“It would have been awesome to end my career at Ohio State with a team title,” said Snyder. “I still believe we have an amazing team.”

Meanwhile, Iowa’s Spencer Lee (125) and Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis (141) also won championships, marking the first time that two true freshmen claimed titles.

Lee, who defeated Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, did not lose his redshirt until January this season … and earned a title one year after losing a state final as high school senior and going through knee surgery.

“You know my motto: You get punched in the face; you get up and you hit them back again,” Lee said. “After losing (the 2017 Pennsylvania state title), the plan was get my knee healthy, and then got my redshirt pulled (indiscernible) to the NCAA title. And coaches believed in me and my family and friends and teammates believed in me. And that’s why I’m here.”

“It’s all about belief, in my opinion,” said the Cornell freshman, who used a late cradle to upset top-seed Bryce Meredith, 7-4, and become his school’s first true freshman to capture a title since Kyle Dake in 2010. “I know my coaches have infinite confidence in me. And I know every time I step out there, I have a lot of scoring potential.”

The final is a breakdown of the top 10 teams and championship hightlights.

Top 10 Team Standings

1 Penn State 141.5
2 Ohio State 133.5
3 Iowa 97
4 Michigan 80
4 NC State 80
6 Missouri 61.5
7 Cornell 48
8 Virginia Tech 47.5
9 Nebraska 47
10 Arizona State 43


Championship Matches

125 — Spencer Lee (Iowa) dec. Nick Suriano (Rutgers), 5-1 — Lee became’s Iowa’s first true freshman since Lincoln McIlravy (in 1993) to claim a championship when he scored the first of two takedowns in the final 10 seconds of the first period.

133 — Seth Gross (South Dakota State) dec. Stevan Micic (Michigan), 13-8 — Gross became his school’s first-ever champion when he jumped on top 6-0 in the first period and later 9-4 before Micic tallied two takedowns in the final period.

141 — Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. Bryce Meredith (Wyoming), 7-4 — Trailing 4-3, the Big Red true freshman caught the Cowboy in a reverse cradle in the final 11 seconds for his title.

149 — Zain Retherford (Penn State) dec. Ronald Perry (Lock Haven), 6-2 — In one of the lowest scoring NCAA bouts of his Penn State career, Retherford scored a pair of takedowns and added riding time advantage for his school-tying third individual championship.

157 — Jason Nolf (Penn State) dec. Hayden Hidlay (NC State), 6-2 — The PSU junior claimed his second championship with a pair of takedowns; the first on an inside single and the second off a low shot before adding a 1:31 riding time advantage.

165 — Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) dec. Isaiah Martinez (Illinois), 6-1 — In a similar move that gave Joseph his first championship in 2017, the Lion sophomore used an inside trip for his first takedown then used a two-point tilt at the end of the first period to lead 4-0. Martinez, the two-time NCAA champ, was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and could not penetrate Joseph’s defense.

174 — Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec. Mark Hall (Penn State), 8-2 — The Sun Devil claimed his first title by scoring a takedown in each period, which also avenged a controversial semifinal loss to the Nittany Lion and defending champ.

184 — Bo Nickal (Penn State) pinned Myles Martin (Ohio State), 2:30 — Just when it looked like the Buckeye was about to take the Nittany Lion to his back, Nickal used an “elevator” move to put Martin on his back and scored the fall, which also clinched the team title for PSU.

197 — Michael Macchiavello (NC State) dec. Jared Haught (Virginia Tech), 3-1 — The Wolfpack wrestler claimed his first NCAA title on a takedown with 11 seconds left. The victory also moved NC State into a tie for fourth place with Michigan.

Hwt — Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec. Adam Coon (Michigan), 3-2 — Snyder claimed his third NCAA title when he scored the bout’s only takedown on a throw-by with 22 seconds left.