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2016 NCAA Championships Session II Roundup

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NCAA Championships Session I Roundup

NEW YORK - The Nittany Lion wrestling team earned six slots in the NCAA quarterfinals following another strong session inside Madison Square Garden on Thursday evening.

Penn State went 6-2 in second round matches, and the Lions will have Nico Megaludis (125), Jordan Conaway (133), Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) wrestling in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championships on Friday.

Boosted by 5.5 bonus points in the evening session, the Nittany Lions powered into the overall lead following the first day of competition in New York. On Friday night, Penn State tallied pins from Retherford and McIntosh and a technical fall from Nolf en route to a total of 13.5 bonus points in the opening two sessions of the tournament.

The Lions went 14-4 overall on the first day with three pins, three technical falls and three major decisions. With 27.5 points, the Lions own a 3.5-point lead over Ohio State heading into the second day of the action in The Garden. Oklahoma State is third with 22.0 points. Penn State has six wrestlers still alive (eight total) in the main draw, while Ohio State has five and Oklahoma State has seven.

Session II Team Standings (Main Draw/Consolation)
1. Penn State - 27.5 (6 Main Draw, 2 Consolation)
2. Ohio State - 24.0 (5 Main Draw, 1 Consolation)
3. Oklahoma State - 22.0 (7 Main Draw, 1 Consolation)
4. Nebraska - 20.0 (5 Main Draw, 5 Consolation)

The eight-mat setup on day one of the championships often lends itself to a pair of Nittany Lions wrestling simultaneously. In the case of Thursday night, Megaludis and Conaway wrestled side-by-side during the lead-off matches of the session for the Blue and White.

Both bouts proved to be sparks in a pivotal stretch for the Lions en route to punching six tickets to the quarterfinal round. Megaludis finished his match first with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Joshua Rodriguez from North Dakota State. He scored the first takedown of the match and took a 3-1 lead after one. Megaludis added an escape point and never allowed Rodriguez to score again.

Moments later, Conaway closed out a come-from-behind 8-5 victory over 12th-seeded Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin. Two weeks ago in Iowa City at the Big Ten Championships, Taylor beat Conaway twice - once in the main draw and once in consolation action.

The Lion senior did not let those two losses or an early deficit faze him on Thursday night, though. Conaway finished strong with a pair of third-period takedowns en route to his first appearance in the quarterfinals at the national tournament.

Just as they did during the morning session, Retherford and Nolf turned in back-to-back dominant performances in the middle of the round. Retherford gave up the first takedown against Edinboro's Patricio Lugo, but stormed to an 11-4 lead after two periods. Retherford then turned Lugo for a pin at the 6:37 mark.

Nolf then took the mat and rattled off 25 points for a 25-10 technical fall against May Bethea from Penn. The middle duo for the Nittany Lions is potent and a fun tandem to watch.

"We are united as one group. We stand together at tournaments, and we spend a lot of time together outside of practice," said Nolf. "I think how close we are is what makes this team special. Everybody wants to win gold, but everyone does it by looking at the team championship. Everyone wants to do well for themselves and the team."

Nickal became Penn State's fifth quarterfinalist with a 7-2 decision against Nebraska's Micah Barnes at 174 pounds. The Lion freshman did not generate the type of offense he had been looking for on day one of the NCAA Championships, but Nickal has an eye on Friday's action.

"It's been a bit of a slow start for me," said Nickal. "I haven't gotten my offense going as much as I would like to. But I have another match in the morning to look forward to. I just need to move forward, get better and improve."

McIntosh finished off the night with a unique match at 197. It's rare to see the California native give up a takedown at all, let alone two in one period. Kent State's Kyle Conel jumped out to a 4-2 lead after one against McIntosh on Thursday.

However, McIntosh flipped a switch and took control with a nine-point second period en route to a pin at the 6:02 mark and a trip to the quarterfinals for the second-straight year.

"I gave up a couple takedowns I shouldn't have, but in that situation you just have to keep wrestling and finishing strong. I was able to do that tonight," said McIntosh. "It's a good feeling when you come from behind like that."

The Nittany Lions now shift attention towards a pivotal morning session where eight wrestlers will look to add more to Penn State's team total. The wrestlers are confident that it will be another strong day, largely because of the support the group is receiving in the stands of MSG. More than 35,000 fans (17,500+ in each session) filled The Garden to watch the action on Thursday.

"This is an awesome atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of the BJC matches, so the coaches did a great job getting us prepared for this type of environment," said Nickal. "It's a testament to the fan base we have. The support we get is amazing."

Session three of the NCAA Championships begins at 11 a.m. on Friday (ESPNU and Six Nittany Lions will kick things off with quarterfinals matches at the beginning of the morning session. There will be two rounds of consolation action after the quarterfinals. Stay tuned for much more from Madison Square Garden.

Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (29-3) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. Connor Youtsey (Michigan)

133: #5 Jordan Conaway (28-5) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. No. 4 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma)

141: Jimmy Gulibon (13-9) - 1-1 - Consolation Second Round
Up Next: Consolation Second Round vs. Ian Nickell (Cal State Bakersfield)

149: #1 Zain Retherford (31-0) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. No. 9 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan)

157: #3 Jason Nolf (31-1) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. No. 6 Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State)

165: Geno Morelli (20-11) - 1-1 - Consolation Second Round
Up Next: Consolation Second Round vs. Jake Fause (Duke)

174: #1 Bo Nickal (31-1) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. No. 9 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State)

184: #16 Matt McCutcheon (16-8) - 0-2 - Tournament Complete

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (30-0) - 2-0 - Tournament Quarterfinals
Up Next: Quarterfinals vs. No. 8 Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska)

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 NCAA Championships Session I Roundup

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NEW YORK - The Big Ten champion Nittany Lion wrestling team went 8-1 in the opening session of the 2016 NCAA Championships inside Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon.

Bonus points were the theme of Penn State's strong start to the national tournament. Six of Penn State's eight victories in the first round of the tournament accounted for 8.0 bonus points, including major decisions from Nico Megaludis (125), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197), technical falls from Jimmy Gulibon (141) and Zain Retherford (149) and a pin from Jason Nolf (157). Additionally, Jordan Conaway (133) and Geno Morelli (165) punched tickets into the second rounds with victories.

Gulibon and Morelli impressed in the opening round, with each Nittany Lion knocking off seeded wrestlers on Thursday. Gulibon posted a dominant 17-2 technical fall victory over fifth-seeded Matt Manley (Missouri), while Morelli topped 11th-seeded John Staudenmayer (North Carolina).

Thanks to the 8-1 overall mark and slew of bonus points, the Nittany Lions will head into Thursday's evening session sitting second in the team standings with 16.0 points. Ohio State tallied 16.5 points in session one. The Nittany Lions and Nebraska each have eight wrestlers alive in the main draw.

Session I Team Standings (Main Draw/Consolation)
1. Ohio State - 16.5 (6 Main Draw, 2 Consolation)
2. Penn State - 16.0 (8 Main Draw, 1 Consolation)
3. Nebraska - 13.0 (8 Main Draw, 2 Consolation)
4. Iowa - 11.0 (6 Main Draw, 3 Consolation)
5. Michigan - 10.0 (7 Main Draw, 0 Consolation)
5. Missouri - 10.0 (5 Main Draw, 4 Consolation)
5. Oklahoma State - 10.0 (7 Main Draw, 3 Consolation)

NCAASession 1_Blog.jpg
The action moved at a rapid pace on Thursday. Eight mats and 170 matches covered more than three hours of time as the draws were trimmed from 32 to 16 at each of the 10 weight classes. Conaway opened the tournament with a victory in the team's first bout, setting up a stout initial session.

Following Conaway's victory at 133 pounds, the Nittany Lions put together a string of dominant matches mid-way through the session. Gulibon jumped out to an 8-0 lead in his match and never looked back on the way to his third technical fall victory of the season. The stretch of wins also included side-by-side victories from Megaludis and Retherford.

No matter what the circumstances are, the NCAA Championships can be very unforgiving if you don't wrestle your best right off the bat. That's what makes the tournament so intense and so much fun to watch.

"You have to show up every single match. That's the fun of it," said Retherford. "Some people think it's a grind, but I think it is great test and I like the challenge. This is awesome."

Nolf followed Retherford's technical fall with a pin in his first action at the national tournament. Morelli took the mat next for the Nittany Lions. The DuBois, Pa., native earned a wildcard spot in the NCAA field following the Big Ten Championships. Grateful for the opportunity, Morelli took the mat with confidence on Thursday.

"I knew I was going to be relaxed because I don't have any pressure on me," said Morelli. "I'm lucky to be here, so I'm just going to go out and keep competing."

Morelli started his NCAA Championships appearance with a bear hug and four-point throw on the way to a 4-1 lead after one period. He held on from there with a 5-3 triumph and a spot in the second round of the 165-pound draw.

"I got him in a bear hug, and then kind of slammed him. I only got two back points, and if I would have just held him for a little longer, I would have had four," said Morelli. "But it was a lot of fun out there."

Penn State had a loud cheering section inside The World's Most Famous Arena. The Nittany Lion faithful turned out in big numbers, and the wrestlers appreciate the type of atmosphere they get to compete in.

"It's fun. It reminds me a lot of the Bryce Jordan Center when we have the big duals in there," said Morelli. "They get really loud for, and we have a lot of fans here. We have the best fans in the country, and I'm just so grateful that they are all here to cheer us on."

The session sets up a host of critical second round matches on Thursday night. But Penn State's approach does not change. The confident Nittany Lions are enjoying the experience in New York.

"We are just going to go out there and wrestle the way we know how to and look to keep the momentum going," said Morelli. "When your teammates are winning, it's a lot of fun out there."

Session two begins at 7 p.m. on ESPNU and One round of pigtail consolation action will take place before the Nittany Lions take the mat in the second round. Nico Megaludis will be up first at 125 pounds. Stay tuned for much more from Madison Square Garden.

Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (28-3) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 14 Joshua Rodriguez (North Dakota State)

133: #5 Jordan Conaway (27-5) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 12 Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin)

141: Jimmy Gulibon (13-9) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 12 Chris Mecate (Old Dominion)

149: #1 Zain Retherford (30-0) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 16 Patricio Lugo (Edinboro)

157: #3 Jason Nolf (30-1) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. May Bethea (Penn)

165: Geno Morelli (20-10) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 6 Steven Rodrigues (Illinois)

174: #1 Bo Nickal (30-1) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 16 Micah Barnes (Nebraska)

184: #16 Matt McCutcheon (16-7) - 0-1 - Consolation First Round
Up Next: Consolation First Round vs. Jack Dechow (Old Dominion)

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (29-0) - 1-0 - Tournament Second Round
Up Next: Second Round vs. No. 16 Kyle Conel (Kent State)

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Set for Nationals

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11789170.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -Dreams of standing on the podium and being called a national champion will be fulfilled by 10 wrestlers and one team, as the weekend every wrestler has been looking forward to since last March is upon us. 

After 16 dual meets, two tournaments and one conference tournament, the biggest weekend in wrestling is here as head coach Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions get set for the NCAA Championships.

Going into the biggest weekend of the season, there is a chance for potential rematches. Besides making small adjustments, Sanderson believes having the right attitude is the most important factor and a good mindset can carry you farther than skill can.

"I would always take attitude over technique any day. When you have the right attitude and you are coming up just a little short, then it's usually something technical," said Sanderson. "When you are in the Big Ten, you have the tendency to wrestle the same guy over and over again. The right attitude usually wins out in the long run because if you have the right attitude, you are going to improve technically as well."

Making his fourth and final appearance at the national tournament, Nico Megaludis has finished as the finalist twice along with a third place crown. Entering his final go-around, it is easy to be nervous or put more pressure on himself to win. Sanderson thinks the senior has the perfect mindset heading into the last tournament of the season. Being relaxed and focused, Sanderson knows that Megaludis wrestles his best at Nationals and is very confident that he is going to be at his peak at Madison Square Garden.

"I think Nico is in a great state of mind. He's very relaxed and he's focused," said Sanderson. "Nico's always wrestled his best tournament at the Nationals. He's beat guys that have beaten him throughout the year and we believe and I would say know, that he's going to be at his best this week."

Having three senior starters on the team not only provides wisdom, but also brings the experience of winning team titles. Having strong senior classes has been a staple in the Sanderson regime, and the seventh year head coach expects to have another strong showing from his seniors at these Nationals. With the likes of Matt Brown, David Taylor, Ed Ruth and others winning in their final season has Sanderson believing his seniors Megaludis, Jordan Conaway, and Morgan McIntosh can continue the trend and earn their first individual championship Saturday night.  

Despite winning four of the last five team national titles, the 2015-16 squad does not have a individual national champion. The lack of experience in conquering the ultimate prize is not a concern of Sanderson, who believes the mentality he and the coaching staff instill in the team each day is enough to teach them how to get over the hump and become individual champions. Leading by example, the four-time national champ exudes confidence throughout the team and by preaching to his team to carry the same mentality into each match, Nationals will seem like a regular match.  

The national tournament isn't just a time to crown champions, but also a pivotal time to expand the coverage of the sport. With the attention ratcheted up to an all-time high, Sanderson is excited to see that the sport is growing across the country and believes Nationals is the perfect event to develop wrestling fans.

"If you go to the tournament for the first time and maybe you aren't a wrestling fan, you are going to leave a wrestling fan," said Sanderson. "It's just an incredible energy and the atmosphere and the intensity with the individual title race coupled with the team race, it's the best thing in wrestling."

With the big stage come distractions. Trying to stay focused can be hard at times with all of the fanfare surrounding Nationals. Each wrestler has their own strategy for staying focused and blocking out everything else. For McIntosh, he believes that it's a decision to allow those thoughts in your head and play games with his mind, so he works on blocking those thoughts out. For Retherford, he deleted all of his social media accounts and responds only to family and friends over text messaging with short replies.

In order to be the lone team standing on top of the podium for the fifth time in six years, Sanderson knows his nine grapplers are not only going to have to win, but score those bonus points that create separation from the rest of the field. Not only does wrestling a defensive style and wrestling not to lose not only prevent the possibility of getting those extra points, but in Sanderson's mind, is just plain boring and doesn't give the fans a reason to watch.

Looking back on his career as it culminates this weekend, McIntosh is gracious for the way everything has worked out in his years as a Penn Stater.

"I'm very grateful. I couldn't ask for a better place to be or a better team to be on or a better bunch of guys to hangout with all the time. Gratitude is definitely something Coach Cael talks to us about and that's always on our mind," McIntosh said.

VIDEO: 2016 NCAA Wrestling Preview Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of winning its fifth Big Ten title in the last six seasons, the Nittany Lion wrestling team will head to Madison Square Garden on Thursday to begin competition at the NCAA Championships.

Competing on the sports ultimate stage is what drives the group in the wrestling room all season long. The biggest week in the sport is here, and the Nittany Lions are looking forward to competing. caught up with Morgan McIntosh and Bo Nickal for some insight on preparing for the national tournament.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 Big Ten Champions - Lions Win Fifth Conference Title

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VIDEO: Cael Sanderson Big Ten Championship Remarks

Big Ten Championships Session I Roundup | Big Ten Championships Session II Roundup

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Headlined by three individual champions, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team claimed its fifth Big Ten title with a dominant weekend performance inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Penn State earned Big Ten crowns from Zain Retherford (149), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) en route to a commanding 23.5-point victory over host Iowa and the program's fifth conference title in the past six seasons 
on Sunday evening.

The Nittany Lions were a force during the two-day tournament in Iowa City, scoring six pins, two technical falls and eight major decisions on the way to 28 combined victories during the three sessions of action. Penn State tallied 23.0 bonus points at the Big Ten Championships and will take a great deal of momentum into the national tournament.

"I think, overall, we wrestled pretty darn well," said Big Ten Coach of the Year Cael Sanderson. "We lost a couple tight matches in the finals, but both lost to national champions. Our guys wrestled well. Three champions, and we have eight through (to nationals). We would have liked to have had 10, but you have to show up and earn your way...This was a great atmosphere. It doesn't get much better than wrestling the Big Ten Championships at Iowa."

Final Team Standings
1. Penn State - 150.5
2. Iowa - 127.0
3. Ohio State - 126.0
4. Nebraska - 117.0
5. Rutgers - 106.5

Third-seeded Nico Megaludis finished second at 125 pounds following a sudden victory setback to No. 1 Nathan Tomasello from Ohio State in Penn State's first of a program-record six appearances in the Big Ten finals. Megaludis advanced to the final bout following a 4-3 victory in the first tiebreaker against Iowa's Thomas Gilman on Saturday evening.

He again found himself in a tight battle on Sunday. Takedowns were tough to come by in the title tilt. The two wrestlers each scored an escape point before the bout headed into overtime tied at 1-1. Tomasello scored the match's only takedown in a scramble on the edge of the mat for a 3-1 victory. Megaludis, who is 27-3 on the season, is a two-time Big Ten runner-up.

Junior Jimmy Gulibon earned his first trip to the Big Ten finals with a thrilling 3-2 win over top-seeded Micah Jordan and a 6-5 decision against fifth-seed Javier Gasca III on Saturday. Gulibon faced off with third-seeded Anthony Ashnault in the final match at 141 pounds. Ashnault used a big second period to power past Gulibon by a count of 9-0, but the weekend was a huge boost for the Lion veteran as he preps for the national tournament.

However, with the Lions needing a boost in the finals on Sunday afternoon, top-seeded and undefeated Zain Retherford took the mat against No. 2-seeded Brandon Sorensen in the final at 149 pounds. At the time, it was a pivotal bout in the team scoring with Iowa inching closer to Penn State, and the near-capacity crowd in Carver-Hawkeye knew it.

So did Retherford. The redshirt sophomore took a commanding 2-0 lead after a first-period takedown and powerful ride out. He notched an escape early in the second for a 3-0 edge heading into the third. Retherford never relinquished control of the match on the way to a 4-0 victory on the way to his first Big Ten championship.

"I just think our team is having a lot of fun being out there and competing," said Retherford. "The depth is awesome. The guys like to compete hard, and we are having a lot of fun this time of year. That is for sure...I've never done it before, so it was awesome today."

In a rematch of two of the sport's most decorated wrestlers, No. 1 Jason Nolf battled No. 2 Isaiah Martinez in the 157-pound final. Nolf pinned Martinez during the dual season, but the fans had this bout circled for the month of March.

The duo did not disappoint and put on a great show on Sunday evening. Nolf moved in on Martinez's legs on several occasions, but Martinez held him off. The match entered sudden victory knotted at 1-1. The bout entered a second sudden victory period tied at 2-2. Martinez earned a tiebreaker victory by virtue of 22 seconds of riding time in the second tiebreaker, claiming the Big Ten crown on criteria.

The Lions were far from done in the finals, though. Redshirt freshman Bo Nickal rolled past Zach Brunson of Illinois by a score of 18-9 in the 174-pound final. Nickal wasted little time taking command of the match, scoring two quick takedowns in the first period. The Texas native never looked back from there, completing a dominant run in his first appearance at the Big Ten Championships. In three matches, Nickal had two majors and a pin.

"This was an awesome experience," said Nickal. "The fans were great. Wrestling is my favorite thing to do, so I just went out there and had a good time. As a team, you have to go our there and compete, and we did that this weekend.

Senior Morgan McIntosh put an exclamation point on Penn State's title-winning day in Iowa by winning his second-straight Big Ten Championship at 197 pounds. A first-period takedown ignited the California native to a 3-2 decision against Iowa's Nathan Burak.

"It feels good to be a part of a team like this during my senior season," said McIntosh. "This is what I came here to do. I wish I could have scored a few more points and make it a little more exciting for the fans. But it feels good to get the win, regardless of how the match went. And to lock up that team victory, it was exciting."

With three individual champs on Sunday, the Nittany Lions now have 38 Big Ten titles among 23 different wrestlers in program history. McIntosh became Penn State's ninth wrestler to earn at least two Big Ten championships. As a team, the Lions finished just a half-point off of their all-time high score at the Big Ten Championships.

In all, nine Nittany Lions placed at the Big Ten Championships. In addition to the six Lions who placed in the top two, Conaway (133) finished fourth, McCutcheon (184) took fifth and Morelli (165) finished eighth. By virtue of their finishing spot, Megaludis, Conaway, Gulibon, Retherford, Nolf, Nickal, McCutcheon and McIntosh all qualified for the NCAA Championships, which begin on March 17 in Madison Square Garden.

"We had guys step up big time for us on the back side of the bracket, and they got some huge points for our team score," said Nickal. "I'm really proud of the team, and I'm excited to compete with this group of guys at the NCAAs in two weeks."

Focus now shifts towards the biggest wrestling weekend of the year, as the Nittany Lions will be seeking their fifth national title in six seasons.

Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (27-3) - 3-1 - Finished Second

133: #3 Jordan Conaway (26-5) - 4-2 - Finished Fourth

141: #8 Jimmy Gulibon (12-9) - 2-1 - Finished Second

149: #1 Zain Retherford (29-0) - 4-0 - Big Ten Champion

157: #1 Jason Nolf (29-1) - 3-1 - Finished Second

165: #7 Geno Morelli (19-10) - 2-3 - Finished Eighth

174: #1 Bo Nickal (29-1) - 3-0 - Big Ten Champion

184: #2 Matt McCutcheon (16-6) - 2-2 - Finished Fifth

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (28-0) - 4-0 - Big Ten Champion

285: #8 Nick Nevills (6-3) - 1-2

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 Big Ten Championships Session II Roundup

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Session I Roundup - Video and Story

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team flexed its muscle on Saturday evening with stellar performance in the second session of the Big Ten Championships inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Penn State will have six wrestlers competing in title matches on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. on BTN) following a 6-1 effort in the semifinals. Nico Megaludis (125), Jimmy Gulibon (141), Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) will represent the Blue and White in the Big Ten finals.

In addition to the six Big Ten finalists, Jordan Conaway (133) and Matt McCutcheon (184) will compete in the consolation semifinals, while Geno Morelli (165) will battle in the seventh-place match.

Headlined by six pins, two technical falls and seven major decisions, the Nittany Lions tallied a 23-6 combined record during the two sessions on Saturday. Penn State notched 22.0 bonus points and will take a 27-point lead over Iowa in the team race into the final day of the tournament.

In the team race, the Nittany Lions will have six wrestlers in the finals, while second-place Iowa will have four and third-place Ohio State will have three.

Session II Standings - (Wrestlers Left in Finals/Consolation Draw)
1. Penn State - 133.0 (6 in finals, 3 in consolation)
2. Iowa - 106.0 (4 in finals, 5 in consolation)
3. Ohio State - 100.0 (3 in finals, 7 in consolation)
4. Nebraska - 98.5 (1 in finals, 9 in consolation)
5. Rutgers - 91.5 (1 in finals, 9 in consolation)

Saturday night's impressive outing began in dramatic fashion when Nico Megaludis outlasted second-seeded and unbeaten Thomas Gilman from Iowa in the 125-pound semifinal matchup between the Lions and Hawkeyes in front of a boisterous Iowa crowd. Megaludis and Gilman entered the sudden victory period knotted at 1-1 after a tightly-contested seven minutes of wrestling. Megaludis advanced to the Big Ten title tilt with a clutch takedown in the first tiebreaker, clinching a 4-3 victory.

"He hung on a lot and really tried to slow things down," said Megaludis. "He was holding in tight on the tie-ups so it was harder to shoot. But I just waited for him to get tired and tried to hand-fight really hard."

Gulibon saved his best wrestling of the season for the time when it matters most, and he will represent the Nittany Lions in the 141-pound Big Ten title match. Gulibon trailed Michigan State's Javier Gasca III by a score of 4-2 following the first period.

Entering the third period down by a score of 5-2, the junior roared back with four unanswered tallies to win a thriller by a score of 6-5. Gulibon's third period included an escape and takedown. He rode out Gasca to accumulate 1:33 in riding time, which proved to be the clinching point.

From there, the combination of Retherford, Nolf and Nickal put on a show in Penn State's next three semifinal matches. Retherford tallied his second first-period takedown of the day with a fall at the 2:46 mark against Michigan's Alex Pantaleo. Nolf then rolled over Iowa's Edwin Cooper, Jr. in a 21-3 technical fall. The redshirt freshman's day included a pin and two techs. Nickal then capped off the string of mid-weight semifinal matches with a pin at the 2:28 mark.

"Coming in to this arena, the crowd gets into it, so that makes it fun to be out there," said Nolf. "I think it just comes down to the pace. I'm not afraid to go out there and shoot to score. Some people shoot just to make sure they don't get called for stalling. I shoot to get the leg and get a takedown."

"it was a great experience today," said Nickal. "Usually, the team with the most bonus points ends up with the team victory. That's something that all of us stress. We all go out there looking to win and do the best we can to help the team (score) as much as possible."

McIntosh became the sixth Nittany Lion to earn a spot in the finals with an 8-2 win over Nebraska's Aaron Studebaker. The California native will be searching for his second-straight 197-pound Big Ten crown on Sunday.

Sunday's action at the Big Ten Championships begins with the consolation semifinals at 1 p.m. ET. The championship finals will begin at 4 p.m. The finals will air live on BTN.

"Overall, our team is wrestling pretty darn good, but we have a lot of big matches left," said head coach Cael Sanderson.

Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (27-2) - 3-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
Megaludis will meet top-seeded Nathan Tomasello from Ohio State in the title match.

133: #3 Jordan Conaway (25-4) - 3-1 - Consolation Semifinals
Up Next:
Conaway will wrestle Nebraska's Eric Montoya in the consolation semifinals.

141: #8 Jimmy Gulibon (12-8) - 2-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
Gulibon will wrestle third-seeded Anthony Ashnault from Rutgers in the title match

149: #1 Zain Retherford (28-0) - 3-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
Retherford will wrestle second-seeded Brandon Sorenson from Iowa in the title match.

157: #1 Jason Nolf (29-0) - 3-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
Nolf will meet second-seeded Isaiah Martinez in the title match.

165: #7 Geno Morelli (18-9) - 2-2 - Seventh Place Match
Up Next:
Morelli will wrestle Iowa's Patrick Rhoads in the seventh-place match.

174: #1 Bo Nickal (28-1) - 2-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
Nickal will wrestle third-seeded Zach Brunson from Illinois in the title match.

184: #2 Matt McCutcheon (15-5) - 1-1 - Consolation Semifinals
Up Next:
McCutcheon will meet Nick Gravina from Rutgers in the consolation semifinals.

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (27-0) - 3-0 - Championship Match
Up Next:
McIntosh will wrestle third-seeded Nathan Burak from Iowa in the title match.

285: #8 Nick Nevills (6-3) - 1-2 - Tournament Complete

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 Big Ten Championships Session I Roundup

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team will have seven competitors in the Big Ten semifinals following a strong first session at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday.

Headlined by four pins and a technical fall, the Nittany Lions tallied a 14-3 overall mark in the first session of the tournament. Penn State pocketed 15.5 bonus points thanks to the four pins, technical fall and six major decisions.

Nico Megaludis (125), Jimmy Gulibon (141), Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174), Matt McCutcheon (184) and Morgan McIntosh (197) will represent the Nittany Lions in the semifinals on Saturday evening. The second session of the day begins at 7 p.m. ET with a round of consolation matches before the semifinals. Jordan Conaway (133), Geno Morelli (165) and Nick Nevills (285) will be take the mat first in the second round of the consolation draw.

In the team race, the Nittany Lions head into the evening with a four-point lead over Iowa. The Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes will have seven in the semifinals, while third-place Nebraska will have six in the semis.

Session I Standings - (Wrestlers Left in Semifinals/Consolation Draw)
1. Penn State - 74.0 (7 in semifinals, 3 in consolation)
2. Iowa - 68.0 (7 in semifinals, 3 in consolation)
3. Nebraska - 63.0 (6 in semifinals, 4 in consolation)
4. Ohio State - 43.5 (5 in semifinals, 5 in consolation)
5. Illinois - 41.5 (4 in semifinals, 6 in consolation)
5. Michigan - 41.5 (4 in semifinals, 6 in consolation)

Penn State opened the morning with six victories in seven matches during the first round of the bracket. With the six wins, that sent nine Nittany Lions to the quarterfinals.

Megaludis kicked things off in quarterfinal action with a 10-2 major decision against sixth-seeded Johnny Jimenez at 125 pounds. The Nittany Lion senior used a takedown and four near-fall points in the first period en route to his second major of the day.

At 141, Gulibon became Penn State's second semifinalist with a dramatic 3-2 win in the second tiebreaker against top-seeded Micah Jordan from Ohio State. Gulibon and Jordan entered the first sudden victory period knotted at 1-1. Both wrestlers earned an escape point in the initial tiebreaker before Gulibon secured the decisive tally in the second tiebreaker.

"I felt really good throughout the whole match," said Gulibon. "At the end, I took that one nice shot in overtime. I thought it was two. I had the leg hooked and arms wrapped around both legs, but then I completely forgot about that stayed focus for the rest of the match."

Retherford followed Megaludis and Gulibon into the semifinals with a dominant 14-4 major decision over Minnesota's Jake Short. Retherford went 2-0 in the first session with a pin and a major.

"It's been good so far. I'm two matches in, and I'm feeling good," said Retherford. "...This tournament is a lot of fun. It's fun that it's in Iowa and Carver-Hawkeye. It's a lot of fun, and you just have to embrace it this time of year."

Immediately after Retherford's match, Nolf trotted onto the same mat and marched his way into the semifinals with a 20-5 (6:51) technical fall victory against Minnesota's Brandon Kingsley. The redshirt freshman was dominant in his first day at the Big Ten Championships, scoring a pin and a technical fall.

After earning a bye in the first round, Bo Nickal used a 10-point first period to scored a 15-3 major against Phil Bakuckas from Rutgers. McCutcheon then followed suit with a hard fought 6-2 win over Illinois' Jeff Koepke.

No one was more dominant than McIntosh during the first session. The senior wrestled a grand total of 3:07 in two matches on Saturday. McIntosh pinned Indiana's Jake Masengale (1:27) in the first round and Michigan State's Jacob Cooper (1:40) in the quarterfinals to make it seven Lions in the semifinals.

"It felt really good in the first match. The team is doing great," McCutcheon said. "It's exciting, and I just want to keep going now. It was a tough match against a very good opponent, and now we just need to all focus on the next one."

The semifinal round is always entertaining at the Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions will face Iowa wrestlers in three of their seven semifinal bouts. Action continues on Saturday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena with the semifinals and wrestlebacks taking place beginning at 6 p.m. CT. The BTN will again stream Session II.

Breaking Down the Nittany Lions

125: #3 Nico Megaludis (26-2) - 2-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
Megaludis will second-seeded Thomas Gilman from Iowa in the semifinals on Saturday night.

133: #3 Jordan Conaway (23-4) - 1-1 - Wrestleback Second Round
Up Next:
Conaway will wrestle against Indiana's Alonzo Shepherd in the second round of wrestlebacks.

141: #8 Jimmy Gulibon (11-8) - 1-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
Gulibon will wrestle Michigan State's Javier Gasca III in the semifinals.

149: #1 Zain Retherford (27-0) - 2-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
Retherford will wrestle against fifth-seeded Alec Pantaleo from Michigan in the semifinals.

157: #1 Jason Nolf (28-0) - 2-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
Nolf will meet Iowa's Edwin Cooper, Jr. in the tournament semifinals.

165: #7 Geno Morelli (17-8) - 1-1 - Wrestleback Second Round
Up Next:
Morelli will wrestling against Bryce Martin from Indiana in the second round of wrestlebacks.

174: #1 Bo Nickal (27-1) - 1-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
Nickal will wrestle fourth-seeded Myles Martin from Ohio State in the semifinals.

184: #2 Matt McCutcheon (15-4) - 1-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
McCutcheon will wrestle Iowa's Sammy Brooks in the semifinals.

197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (26-0) - 2-0 - Tournament Semifinals
Up Next:
McIntosh will wrestle Nebraska's Aaron Studebaker in the semifinals.

285: #8 Nick Nevills (6-2) - 1-1 - Wrestleback Second Round

Up Next: Nevills will wrestle Brooks Black from Illinois in the second round of wrestlebacks.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Experience and Youth Lead the Way to the Postseason

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Heading into the Big Ten Championships this weekend, the Nittany Lions will rely on both their oldest and youngest wrestlers as the program seeks its fifth conference championship under head coach Cael Sanderson.

Having one more go-around, Nico Megaludis is excited that he still has one final chance to go out and win the 125 title. Coming so close in his last Big Ten Championships appearance where the senior finished runner-up, Megaludis doesn't think about that match too much and instead looks to the future and what he can control.

"I don't dwell on that. It's a new year, and obviously I want to win, so being in the past doesn't affect my wanting to win it any more or less," said Megaludis.

Megaludis compares wrestling in the toughest conference in the country to being in a high school state championship match week in and week out because of the level of competition that the Big Ten produces at each school. Having to constantly be at your best every week is something that Megaludis relishes in because he knows that experience is the biggest thing that prepares him for the postseason.

The conference tournament also provides an opportunity for wrestlers to see each other again and become familiar with each other's styles. With this knowledge, some wrestlers could come up with different game plans on attacking their opponent, which is something that Megaludis doesn't mess too much with.

"I just keep my own strategy," said Megaludis. "I mean, there's no reason to really change anything. You have to be smart if they have something crazy, but you just have to wrestle your own style."

For Bo Nickal, the regular season also allowed the freshman to become familiar with his competition, as he has already wrestled six of the 14 grapplers in the 174 bracket. Having a sense of knowing what to expect doesn't change the approach or mindset of the Allen, Texas, native, who keeps the same approach every time.

"No. Just stay the same strategy, just one match at a time and wrestle everybody the same, so it doesn't really matter if I wrestle him one time or one thousand times," said Nickal.

With the sensational performances of Jason Nolf and Nickal this season, Megaludis doesn't feel the need to provide advice for these freshmen about what to expect in the postseason because of the confidence they already carry with them.

"They are as experienced as you can get. They know what to do," said Megaludis. "We all just know what to do and it's pretty cool that you know that the [freshmen] know that they are the best."

With guys like Megaludis and Morgan McIntosh getting ready for their final Big Tens appearance, Nickal he is excited to get after his first Big Ten Championships appearance and is ready to compete. Having a full season of dual matches under his belt, Nickal's preparation for this upcoming weekend won't include much feedback from the dual season and instead, the freshman is just trying to focus on himself and how can get better.

The biggest lesson that McIntosh has learned throughout his years at the tournament is managing your body. The senior says each guy has to know they are going to feel tired and have to deal with little injuries throughout the weekend.

"It's important to know how your body's going to feel and you are going to be tired and you are going to get little injuries that you have to deal with and I guess that's one thing that I would want these guys to know that you are going to be hurting and it's going to feel like a little bit of a grind because the Big Ten Tournament is a tough tournament and you're going to wrestle tough guys. Every match is going to be a good match," said McIntosh.  

Confidence has been a big key for this group throughout the year, which has led to the whole team being loose. Staying relaxed has also allowed this team not to get fatigued at this point in the season, which is something that McIntosh credits to his coaching staff as well for keeping the whole team fresh all year.

"Yea I think we have a lot of confidence and we're just really enjoying the year. We try to have fun and just enjoy the whole process," said McIntosh. "Our coaches have a good system of peaking us for this time of the year and we are ready to go and we are excited and still having fun and we are not worn out at all."

Even though the outside pressure certainly ramps up during this time of the year, McIntosh and his teammates take each match with the same mindset. Facing big crowds before and constantly being the hunted throughout the season has helped this team not feel the pressure and instead, treat the Big Tens like just another match.  

"I think on a match-by-match basis, we shouldn't take it any differently," said McIntosh. "The atmosphere is definitely different and you have all of those different sections of the Big Ten teams cheering and getting loud and it's exciting, but we've had crowds like that and bigger at the Bryce Jordan Center, so I think we are used to an intensity level like that. We shouldn't be wrestling any differently because it's the Big Tens.

Being able to close out his career as a Big Ten champion one more time is the biggest goal for the senior. Winning his second would be pretty special.

"It would mean a lot," said McIntosh. "It's what I've wanted to do and just have fun with it and enjoy every last little bit of time I have left here."

VIDEO: Big Ten Championships Preview with Cael Sanderson (3/1/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team has reached the best month in the sport.

The Big Ten and NCAA wrestling champions will be decided in the next three weeks. First, the 14 wrestling teams representing the Big Ten will congregate in Iowa City on Saturday for the 2016 Big Ten Championships. The two-day tournament will crown the 10 individual Big Ten champs and the team champ in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Action begins on Saturday at 10 a.m. CT on Saturday. Penn State finished its regular season with a 16-0 record in duals and will head into the postseason with three wrestlers earning a No. 1 pre-seed for the Big Ten Championships. Penn State and Iowa shared the Big Ten regular season crown, with both teams finishing at 9-0 in conference duals. will be on-site in Iowa City throughout the weekend. Stay tuned for extensive written, video and photo coverage from the 2016 Big Ten Championships.

Leading up to Penn State's trip to Iowa, spent time with head coach Cael Sanderson.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Capture National Dual Meet Title

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a palpable buzz in Rec Hall in anticipation of the top two teams squaring off, top-ranked Penn State continued to roll as they downed the Cowboys of Oklahoma State to capture the first ever NWCA National Dual Championship Series title.

With the main focus from day one being Big Tens and Nationals, it is easy to put a match like this on the backburner and focus on the postseason that's just two short weeks away. For Sanderson, the match was big for two reasons. Winning every match is always the goal, but even more importantly, the sixth-year coach believes his guys are wrestling at their best.

"This is a big deal to us. We want to win the dual championship, but it's more about getting ready as we are moving forward getting into Big Tens and Nationals," said Sanderson. "I think our guys are where we want them to be at this point."

Earning the national dual championship is something Sanderson is proud of when you look at the season his team had, going undefeated in the dual meet schedule for the first time since 1972. The 9-0 Big Ten record is also the second time in Penn State history that the team has not lost or tied a conference match.

"I think these guys had such a great year dual meet wise, dual meet after dual meet," said Sanderson. "You want to go out there and finish strong and if you don't finish strong, I think that's no fun, but they did a good job. I think they have to be happy moving forward."

The coaching staff was confident coming into the season of the talent that was on this roster. Receiving a boost with the return of Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford along with the success from a couple of freshmen were the biggest keys to the unblemished record. The biggest takeaway in going undefeated for the first time in Sanderson's tenure was that the team kept grinding towards the end of the season when the schedule ramped up.

"I think we were confident with the team we had coming in. It seems like the last eight weeks, it was just tough team, tough team, tough team," said Sanderson. "It takes a lot of strength and character to continue to step up and wrestle well and not have a bad match here or a bad match there, so that's a real testament to these guys up here and the rest of the team."

Bonus points, just as they have all season long, played another big role in helping the Nittany Lions notch their 16th victory of the season. Tallying three pins on the afternoon allowed the Blue and White to make up for the fact that they allowed a technical fall as well as giving up six points due to an injury default.

"I think pins are huge in a big dual meet like that. Bonus points are huge, but more than that, I always say it's more about the attitude," said Sanderson. "If you are wrestling with some fire in your bones, bonus points will come and I think our guys are wrestling with some fire and they enjoy what they are doing out there and the result is going to be bonus points."

Starting off the bout for the very last time at Rec Hall was Nico Megaludis, who was able to close out his wrestling career at Rec Hall the same way he started it five years ago.

"I mean I don't like to show emotion, but I guess I did a little bit. It was my last match and it's pretty cool," said Megaludis. "I haven't been the biggest pinner in the world, and my first match here, it was against Bloomsburg my freshman year, I pinned the kid and then go out like this, that's kind of special."

The pin was just the redshirt senior's 17th career fall and his sixth in dual meets at Rec Hall. The pin came at such a rare time, it caught teammate Jordan Conaway off guard, who was forced to rush to get ready to wrestle.

"I was getting ready, but still had my clothes on and everything and everyone was going nuts and [Nico] somehow pinned him, so I had to hurry up and get ready to go," said Conaway.

Like all new events, there are always things that can be changed and ideas to make the championship the best it can be. Sanderson likes the idea of a dual championship meet and thinks the format of just one match compared to a tournament is better because it isn't as taxing on the grapplers by the time the postseason comes around. One thing this dual series does do is that it allows teams that don't usually matchup to get a chance to wrestle each other, which provides the extra excitement for the fans.

For Morgan McIntosh, it was special to be able to win the first ever dual meet national championship at Rec Hall in front of the Nittany Lion faithful, but the senior, like the rest of the team, realizes that this was not the ultimate goal and still have their eyes set on the big prize.

"It's exciting, but nothing like winning a team national title," said McIntosh. "It's exciting and we are happy and we are wrestled hard today and we wrestled to win and we are happy to get that win, but I think it doesn't really compare to the team tournament."


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