Penn State and five individuals repeat at NCAAs while trio become their schools’ first champs

Updated: March 23, 2019

Photo: This is how the college career ended for Penn State’s three-time champion Bo Nickel, who locked up Ohio State’s Kollin Moore for the 197-pound championship, well after the Nittany Lions locked up a fourth straight team title and eighth in the last nine years. (Photo by Ginger Robinson)

By Mike Finn

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The 2019 NCAA Division I Championships will be know as the tournament of repeat champions — highlighted by Penn State’s fourth straight team title and three-peats by Nittany Lions Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (174) as well as back-to-back championships by Iowa’s Spencer Lee, Cornell Yianni Diakomihalis and Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia.


But the recent nationals, which concluded Saturday night in PPG Paints Arena, will also be known as when both Rutgers’ Nick Suriano (125) and Anthony Ashnault (149) … and Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis (165) captured their school’s first-ever national championships. The Hokie freshman also earned the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.

It will also be noted as the first time since 2000 that the University of Northern Iowa captured a team championship when Drew Foster captured the 184-pound championship.

WIN Magazine will provide extensive and comprehensive coverage of this event in the magazine’s next issue, which will be mailed April 3.

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Final Top 20 Team Standings

Pl. School (Champs/AAs) Points
1 Penn State  (3/7) 137.5
2 Ohio State (0/5) 96.5
3 Oklahoma State (0/5) 84.0
4 Iowa (1/6) 76.0
5 Michigan (0/3) 62.5
6 Missouri (0/4) 62.0
7 Cornell (1/4) 59.5
8 Minnesota (0/4) 53.5
9 Rutgers (2/2) 51.5
10 Nebraska (0/4) 51.0
11 Virginia Tech (1/3) 50.0
12 Arizona State (1/3) 42.0
13 Lehigh (0/3) 40.5
13 Northern Iowa (1/2) 40.5
15 Princeton (0/3) 35.0
16 Iowa State (0/2) 32.0
17 NC State (0/1) 31.5
18 Lock Haven (0/2) 29.0
19 North Carolina (0/2) 28.5
20 Oregon State (0/2) 28.0

Championship Matches (Started at heavyweight)

Hwt — #2 Anthony Cassar (Penn State) major dec. #1 Derek White (Oklahoma State),10-1 – There was hardly any action in this bout until the final 10 seconds of the second period when  the Nittany Lion, who trailed 1-0, got in on a single leg and took the Cowboy to his back for a four-point nearfall and 6-1 lead. Cassar added a second takedown with 1:28 left in the bout and rode out White for a 1:32 riding time advantage.

125 — #3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) dec. #5 Jack Mueller (Virginia), 5-0 — The Hawkeye scored the first of two takedowns on an inside single at the 2:08 mark in the first period, earned a second-period escape with five seconds left, then clinched the bout on another takedown off a single with 14 seconds left. Lee joins Iowa’s former three-time national champion Lincoln McIlravy (1994 and 1995) as the only Hawkeye wrestlers to win NCAA titles in his first “true” two seasons in the program.

Nick Suriano celebrated the first-ever championship for himself on his Rutgers program at 133 pounds. (Ginger Robinson photo)

133 — #3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) dec. #1 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State), 4-2 sv 2 — The Scarlet Knight junior became his school’s first national champion when he scored the  bout’s lone takedown 15 seconds into the second overtime phase. OSU coaches challenged whether the takedown came after Suriano pulled on Fix’s headgear but was not upheld. There were several other stops during this bout, including Suriano being penalized for stalling in the first tiebreaker, which gave Fix a 2-1 lead. Suriano then forced a second sudden victory period on an escape in the second half of the tiebreaker.

141 — #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) dec. Joey McKenna (Ohio State), 6-4 — The Big Red true sophomore collected a second NCAA title in dramatic style, first scoring a takedown with 25 seconds left to set the match into overtime, then scoring a takedown off a single with 15 seconds left in sudden victory period. McKenna, a three-time All-American, scored the bout’s first takedown 30 seconds into the match, then traded escapes to lead 3-1 with 1:46 left in the second period. Diakomihalis now joins Cornell’s four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake as the only true sophomore to win two straight titles.

149 — #1 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) dec. #2 Micah Jordan (Ohio State). 9-4 — Rutgers’ first four-time All-American, who missed the 2017-18 season because of injury, finally earned a top spot on the victory stand. Ashnault scored a pair of takedowns, the second one leading to a cradle and two-point nearfall with 1:06 left in the third period. The Buckeye senior had just tied the bout 3-3 when he gave up an escape to the Scarlet Knight. Ashnault’s first takedown came midway throught the first period. His final point came from a 2:49 riding time advantage.

157 — #1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) major dec. #2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) 10-2; Hodge finalist Jason Nolf controlled Berger start to finish, but a fast start really allowed Nolf to dictate the tempo of the match. Nolf put three takedowns on the board, the second one he turned into a two-point near-fall to take an 8-2 lead into the break. Nolf escaped to start the second period for the only scoring of that period, then rode Berger the entire third period for the major-decision win.

165 —#8 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) dec. #2 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) 7-1 — The Hokie freshman stunned the two-time defending national champ especially in the scoreless second period when Lewis locked up a reverse cradle for a four-point nearfall with 1:22 left in the frame. Then when it appeared the Nittany Lion might score a takedown in a 5-1 match, Lewis countered that move with another takedown with 24 seconds left in the bout.

174 —#3 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) dec #1 Mark Hall (Penn State) 4-3 — Hall opened the scoring countering a Valencia shot with a takedown 1:09 into the match and took a 2-1 lead into the break. After a Hall escape, Valencia got a takedown to tie the match 3-3. Valencia got an escape 11 seconds into the final period, and got hit with a stall warning with :24 left in the math but was able to hold off Hall for his second national title.

Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster was seeded sixth at 184 pounds when he arrived for the 2019 NCAAs in Pittsburgh. He left as the Panthers’ first national champ since 2000. (Ginger Robinson photo)

184 — #6 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) dec. #5 Maxwell Dean (Cornell), 5-4 — The Panther earned his school’s first national championship since 2000 (Tony Davis at 149 pounds) when Foster scored two takedowns, including a clincher off a low shot with 28 seconds left in the match and he was trailing 4-3 on the scoreboard. Foster’s first takedown came 30 seconds into the bout but Dean fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the first frame and scored an escape to lead 4-2 in the second period.

197 — #1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) dec. #2 Kollin Moore (Ohio State), 5-1 — There was nothing heroic about the Nittany Lion’s third NCAA championship, even after he locked up a cradle in the final 30 seconds when he decided to home him in that position rather than go for bonus points. Nickal scored his first takedown with seven seconds left in the first period before exchanging escapes with the Buckeye.