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The 2018 NCAA wrestling championships continued Friday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Penn State Nittany Lions are on pace to claim their seventh national title in eight years.
With one day remaining in the event, Penn State sits atop the standings with 120.5 points. The Nittany Lions own an 11-point lead on the Ohio State Buckeyes—the only school with a realistic shot at dethroning the national champions.
1. Penn State (120.5 points)
2. Ohio State (109.5 points)
3. Iowa (86.5 points)
4. Michigan (73.5 points)
5. NC State (69.5 points)
6. Missouri (51.5 points)
7. Virginia Tech (44.5 points)
8. Cornell (43 points)
9. Rutgers (42.5 points)
T10. Arizona State (37 points)
T10. South Dakota State (37 points)
Bo Nickal is among those representing Penn State in Saturday’s national championship matches. The Nittany Lions junior was the 184-pound champion a year ago, and he’s one more win away from collecting his second title.
Nickal beat Cornell’s Maxwell Dean and Michigan’s Domenic Abounader on Friday each by decision. Nickal will take on Ohio State’s Myles Martin, who was the 2016 national champion in the 184-pound weight limit.
Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph, Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford will wrestle for national titles as well.
Two-time national champion Isaiah Martinez will be standing in Joseph’s way. Martinez, who was the 2017 runner-up as well, rolled to the final with comfortable wins over Lock Haven’s Chance Marsteller and Iowa’s Alex Marinelli.
Even if Joseph is unsuccessful in repeating his victory over Martinez in last year’s final, the sheer volume of finalists from the team should keep Penn State’s hopes of a team title on track.
PennLive’s Greg Pickel marveled at what coach Cael Sanderson has built in State College:
Greg Pickel @GregPickel
Said it last year and I’ll say it again: The Penn State wrestling dynasty under Cael Sanderson is something to behold, and may never be repeated. Unbelievable semifinal run.
What’s particularly scary about the Nittany Lions is that Retherford is the only senior of the five finalists. Hall and Joseph are only sophomores. Penn State won’t be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
Although he and his fellow Buckeyes are unlikely to avenge last year’s runner-up finish to Penn State, Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder will once again compete for an individual national title.
Snyder defeated Oklahoma State’s Derek White and Duke’s Jacob Kasper on Friday to reach the final, thus setting up a third head-to-head meeting against Michigan’s Adam Coon. Coon was victorious during Michigan’s dual meet with Ohio State in February, and Snyder prevailed when they wrestled again in the Big Ten tournament.
No individual matchup will be more anticipated Saturday. UFC.com’s Damon Martin put the rivalry between Snyder and Coon against anything else going in combat sports:
Damon Martin @DamonMartin
Kyle Snyder vs Adam Coon will undoubtedly finish the NCAA Championships tomorrow night in Cleveland. Best trilogy in combat sports. #NCAAwrestling
In what’s likely to be the event’s biggest upset, Kent State’s Kyle Conel defeated No. 1 seed Kollin Moore in the third session, handing Moore what was only his fourth loss this year.
NCAA Wrestling shared a replay of Conel getting the pin on Moore to seal a semifinals berth in the 197-pound tournament:
NCAA Wrestling @ncaawrestling
From the pigtails to the semis! @KentStWrestling’s Kyle Conel knocks off top-seeded Kollin Moore of Ohio State by FALL! #NCAAwrestling https://t.co/Bae7ktv84d
“I felt it. I felt it was there,” Conel said of the match, per the Plain Dealer‘s Mike Peticca. “I’m just going with my upper body in this tournament. I felt I could get after him and I got it. And when I get it, it’s over.”
Conel’s quest for a national championship ended in the semifinals after he lost to North Carolina State’s Michael Macchiavello. Macchiavello pinned Conel in the second period after building a 6-2 lead.
Still, the fact the Golden Flashes junior will leave Cleveland as an All-American gives him plenty of validation for his efforts on the mat Friday.