EAST LANSING, Mich. - Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said early this week that a key to a successful postseason comes in being ready to go from the start, avoiding any type of early let down.
The Nittany Lions did just that Saturday morning, storming into the Big Ten Championships to advance eight to the session two semifinals, which kick off at 6 p.m. in the Breslin Center.
Session I Team
Standings - Top 5
1. Ohio State - 85.5
2. Penn State - 81.5
3. Michigan - 64.5
4. Iowa - 39.0
5. Illinois - 29.0
Penn State did what Penn State does best, remaining focused on the bonus points, going 15-2 with seven majors and five pins.
"Looking for falls, it's going to be important in this tournament," Mark Hall said. "There's a lot of strong teams here so just making sure I do my part and compete my hardest."
Hall and Bo Nickal were among the many Nittany Lion highlights from the first session. Both recorded some of the fastest pins of the morning to advance to the Big Ten Championships semifinals.
Hall went 2-0 with a pair of pins, while Nickal registered the morning's fourth fastest fall. Following a first round bye, Nickal made quick work of Minnesota's Brandon Krone, earning the pin at the 1:25 mark.
Hall opened the day with Michigan State's Logan Ritchie, taking a 6-1 lead into the third period with four minutes of riding time. In a relatively low scoring first two for Hall, by the time the third period rolled around, Hall was feeling it.
"He took a shot and I stuffed him and as soon as I got that move I pinned him in, I knew it," Hall said. "But had I not, it was the same idea, just looking for points and putting him on his back."
Back in action against Wisconsin's Ryan Christensen, Hall went for it early, converting a first period take down into a pin just 47 seconds into his quarterfinal match.
"It's just a position I'm familiar with," Hall said. "Usually, guys know it's coming so if I do it I have to be quick with it and I just hit it as hard as I could and it felt good. Putting myself there was important too. Instead of just going around and getting two, taking the chance and that's something that not a lot of people would do."
To the sound of a roar from the Penn State fan section in the stands, Penn State's Jason Nolf returned to the mat after an injury in late January.
"It was a little boring because I'm usually getting pretty excited to wrestle," Nolf said when asked about what it felt like to miss out on the final month of the regular season. "The matches that we had were awesome, I didn't mean my team was boring but just the fact that I wasn't out there was a little less exciting for me because I also want to be out there."
Nolf wasted no time getting back to his usual self, pinning Michigan State's Jake Tucker at the 2:33 mark. He capped off the quarterfinal round with a 15-2 major decision against Minnesota's Jake Short.
Ask any of the Nittany Lion wrestlers though, and there's still room for improvement headed into tonight's Big Ten semifinals, with Penn State currently trailing Ohio State 85.5-81.5 in the team standings.
"There's tons of room to improve and we're still going out there and wrestling hard so it's just exciting to see us getting a lot of points and scoring a bunch and getting to our attacks but at the same time, seeing that we have a lot to improve on his really exciting," Nickal said.
Up Next in Session II -
125: No. 14 Seed Carson Kuhn - vs. Northwestern's No. 9 Sebastian Rivera in Consolation 2
133: No. 6 Seed Corey Keener - vs. Wisconsin's Jens Lantz in Consolation 2
141: No. 2 Seed Nick Lee - vs. Illinois' No. 14 Michael Carr
149: No. 1 Seed Zain Retherford - vs. Ohio State's No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes
157: No. 2 Seed Jason Nolf - vs. Michigan's No. 6 Alec Pantaleo
165: No. 3 Seed Vincenzo Joseph - vs. Michigan's No. 7 Logan Massa
174: No. 1 Seed Mark Hall - vs. Northwestern's No. 17 Johnny Sebastian
184: No. 1 Seed Bo Nickal - vs. Illinois' No. 7 Emery Parker
197: No. 2 Seed Shakur Rasheed - vs. Purdue's No. 24 Christian Brunner
285: No. 3 Seed Nick Nevills - vs. Ohio State's No. 2 Kyle Snyder