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NCAA Championships: Session II Review

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

ST. LOUIS - Penn State wrestling continued its momentum into the evening session Thursday night, closing out the second session of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships with a 7-1 mark to move to 15-1 overall in the event.

NCAA Championships Standings after Session II - (Quarterfinal Participants)
1 - PENN STATE - 30.5 (7)
2. - Ohio State - 26.0 (5)
3. - Oklahoma State - 25.5 (7)
4. -  Iowa - 24.5 (6)
5. - Missouri - 20.0 (5) 

"I think overall guys are wrestling well, they're having a good time," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said.

Bonus points continued to be the key component for the Nittany Lions, who scored bonus points on 10 of 15 total wins across the first day of action at the Scottrade Center.

Junior Zain Retherford opened up the bonus point scoring for the Nittany Lions in the second session, downing Princeton's No. 16 Jordan Laster with a 16-0 technical fall at the 5:43 mark.

Sophomore Jason Nolf quickly followed with another tech fall, taking down Bucknell's No. 16 Victor Lopez. Leading by just one, 4-3, heading into the second period, Nolf broke open the score in the final two periods, cruising to a 24-9 technical fall at the 7:00 mark with 2:50 in riding time.

"That's the way it's kind of got to be sometimes because guys will just hold on to your elbows and try to slow you down but ultimately it doesn't work because they get really tired and that's why I train to get a lot of takedowns just because sometimes that back points aren't there, even though I got a set," Nolf said. "You just have to be in good condition to get a bunch of takedowns if you have to because you know the other guy is going to be tired."

In just his second NCAA Championships matchup, Mark Hall put on a dominant showing, posting a 16-0 technical fall at the 2:20 mark against Navy's Jadaen Bernstein. Having earned the tough decision in the opening round, Hall took control early in the second round and never looked back.

"I think you need a warm up match and being in an environment like this again, it's a little different than what I'm used to and just to go out and have fun, that was the biggest thing, having fun," Hall said.

Sanderson was also pleased from what he saw from the true freshman

"He did a nice job," Sanderson said. "He did a nice job transitioning from tilt to turn to turn tilt and when you're scoring four points, it gets up there quick."

Bo Nickal highlighted the second round with Penn State's second fall of the day, pinning Binghamton's No. 15 Steven Schneider at the 5:33 mark.

"I've seen Nolf do that move 1,000 times so I was thinking I'm going to push on his head, he's going to reach up and I'm going to put him on his back," Nickal said. 

It's been all about consistency for Retherford, Nolf and Nickal in day one of the three-day event, as the trio combined for five tech falls and a pin in the first day of action. 

"All three of them wrestled great, all three of them scored bonus points in the six matches that they wrestled, but there are big matches tomorrow," Sanderson said. "These points are very small compared to the points that are awarded the next two days."

Penn State now shifts its focus to the upcoming quarterfinals, advancing a total of seven wrestlers, with Vincenzo Joseph, Matt McCutcheon and Nick Nevills also earning wins the second round.

"It gets tough," Sanderson said. "It's going to get more difficult tomorrow, a lot of big matches, quarterfinals - that's one of the best rounds in the sport of wrestling so it will be a lot of fun."

Keeping things light and fun is signature to the Penn State style, as Nolf noted that opportunity all comes down to gratitude.

"I think just being grateful for the opportunity and being excited and blessed that we get to share this experience together as teammates and with our coaches and everything," Nolf said.  "So it should be a lot of fun."

Penn State remains atop the team standings (30.5) with Ohio State (26.0) and Oklahoma State (25.5) close behind in the top three. 

The Nittany Lions return to action Friday, March 17 opening session III action at 11 a.m. ET at the Scottrade Center. All action will broadcast live on ESPNU.

Up Next

141:  Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - Wrestlebacks
Gulibon vs. vs. Timmy Box, Northern Colorado

149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. - Quarterfinal Round
Retherford vs. Alex Kocer, South Dakota State

157: #1 Jason Nolf, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nolf vs. vs. B.J. Clagon, Rider

165: #3 Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - Quarterfinal Round
Joseph vs. vs. #6 Daniel Lewis, Missouri 

174: #5 Mark Hall, Fr. - Quarterfinal Round
Hall vs. #4 Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech 

184: #2 Bo Nickal, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nickal vs. #7 TJ Dudley, Nebraska

197: #5 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. - Quarterfinal Round
McCutcheon vs. #4 Jared Haught, Virginia Tech

285: #5 Nick Nevills, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nevills vs. #4 Jacob Kasper, Duke

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

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