Ntttany Lion wrestling team wins 2016 Big Ten championship

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- No. 1 Penn State (16-0, 9-0) entered enemy territory and won the 2016 Big Ten Wrestling Championship in Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Penn State crowned three champions as head coach Cael Sanderson led Penn State to its fifth Big Ten title in the last six years.

The Nittany Lions were led by senior Morgan McIntosh, sophomore Zain Retherford and red-shirt freshman Bo Nickal, each earning Big Ten titles as Penn State out-ran second place Iowa by over 20 points. Penn State won the team race with 150.5 points, well ahead of second place Iowa's 127.0. Ohio State was third with 122.0, Nebraska fourth with 117.0 and Rutgers fifth with 106.5.

Retherford, ranked No. 1 at 149, took on No. 2 Brandon Sorensen of Iowa in the 2016 Big Ten finals. The Nittany Lion continued his impressive season with a resounding 4-0 win to claim his first Big Ten title. Retherford took a 2-0 lead with a takedown at the :43 mark in front of the Iowa bench and then rode Sorensen out. Retherford chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 3-0 lead. Sorensen chose down to start the third period and Retherford controlled the action from the top, building his riding time up over 1:00 first, and the completed the dominating performance with a ride-out to finish with 2:37 in riding time. Retherford is the 22nd Penn Stater to win a Big Ten crown, claiming the school's 36th title. The top-ranked sophomore, a 2014 All-American at 149, heads to NCAAs with 29-0 overall record after a 4-0 run through this year's Big Ten tournament.

Nickal, ranked No. 1 at 174, took on No. 3 Zach Brunson of Illinois. Nickal became the 23rd person to win Penn State's 37th Big Ten championship with a lop-sided 18-9 major over Brunson. Nickal scored quickly, taking Brunson down just seconds into the bout and added a second shortly thereafter. The second takedown was challenged by Illinois but the call stood and Nickal led 4-1. He added a third takedown but was called for a potentially dangerous hold, giving Brunson a point. Nickal appeared to turn Brunson for back points but the official could not see from his position and the Lion freshman led 6-3 with nearly two minutes in riding time after one. Nickal picked up a fourth takedown to lead 8-5 after two periods with 2:24 in time. Nickal controlled the third period as well, rolling up two more takedowns and four back points. Nickal's dominance from start to finish gave the Lion freshman an 18-9 major with 3:12 in riding time and the Big Ten title as a freshman. Nickal, the only freshman Big Ten champion at this year's event, heads to nationals with a 29-1 record. His 3-0 run through the conference tournament all came with bonus points (two majors and a pin).

McIntosh, the defending Big Ten champion and ranked No. 1 at 197, met No. 4 Nathan Burak of Iowa in Penn State's final championship match. The Lion senior defended his Big Ten title with a 3-2 win and won Penn State's third individual title of the day. McIntosh took an early 2-1 lead with a takedown at the 1:11 mark and carried that margin into the second period. Burak chose neutral to start the second period and escaped to a 2-2 tie. Neither wrestler scored again in the second and McIntosh chose down to start the third period. The Lion senior picked up a quick escape to lead 3-2 and made that point stand up to become Penn State's ninth two-time Big Ten champion. McIntosh, already a two-time All-American, went 4-0 over the weekend and will head to his final NCAA championship with a 28-0 record.

Senior Nico Megaludis, ranked No. 4 nationally at 125, took on Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello, ranked No. 1, in the championship finals. Tomasello notched a takedown in extra time to post a 3-1 (SV) victory and hand Megaludis second place. After a scoreless first period, Megaludis chose down to start the second period and quickly escaped to a 1-0 lead. Tomasello looked to take Megaludis down at the 1:40 mark but Megaludis scrambled out of trouble to stay neutral. Ohio State challenged the call but the call was upheld. Trailing 1-0, Tomasello chose down to start the third period and quickly escaped to a 1-1 tie. Tied 1-1, the bout moved to sudden victory where Tomasello notched a scrambling takedown to get the win. Megaludis, 3-1 and runner-up at this year's tournament, is already a three-time All-American and will head to the 2016 NCAA Championships with a 27-3 record.

Red-shirt freshman Jason Nolf, ranked No. 1 at 157, met No. 2 Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in the title bout. In a rematch of January's meeting where Nolf pinned Martinez, handing him his first loss as a collegian, Nolf dropped a 3-3 (TB2; criteria-:22 RT) loss. The setback was the first of Nolf's career. The bout began with Nolf as the aggressor as he nearly connected on two shots late in the first period but Martinez fought the moves off and send the match to the second period tied 0-0. Each wrestler picked up escapes as the bout moved into its final seconds and Nolf nearly connected on two shots early in the third. Martinez, however, was able to scramble out of trouble twice and send the bout to sudden victory. After a scoreless minute, the bout moved to a tie-breaker. Martinez chose down to start his period and escaped quickly to a 2-1 lead. Nolf then chose down for his period and escaped with :08 left to tie the bout at 2-2. Martinez, however, had :21 riding time as the match moved to a second sudden victory period. Another scoreless minute ensued, sending the bout to a second tie-breaker. Nolf escaped quickly to a 3-2 lead but Martinez scrambled his way to an apparent takedown on the edge of the mat to take a 4-3 lead with :09. Penn State challenged the takedown and the takedown was reversed. Nolf led 3-2 and needed to keep Martinez down to secure the win. Martinez, however, escaped and with a :22 riding time edge won the Big Ten title on criteria (:22 riding time). Nolf went 3-1 in his first Big Ten tournament. The Lion heads to NCAAs with a 29-1 overall record as the 2016 Big Ten Runner-Up.

Junior Jimmy Gulibon, ranked No. 21 at 141, took on No. 5 Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers in the title bout. Gulibon was the victim to two turns in the second period on the way to a 9-0 loss to the Scarlet Knight. After a scoreless first period, Gulibon chose down to start the second but was turned for four near fall points by Ashnault and fell behind 4-0 midway through the middle stanza. Another two-point turn before the period ended and Gulibon trailed 6-0 heading into the final period. Ashnault would go on to post the 9-0 victory and Gulibon, the eighth seed, finished as the Big Ten runner-up. Gulibon, a 2015 All-American at 133, went 2-1 and heads to the NCAA championships with a 12-9 overall record.

Senior Jordan Conaway, ranked No. 5 nationally and the tournament's third-seed at 133, took fourth place with a 1-1 showing in consolation action. Conaway battled No. 9 Eric Montoya of Nebraska in the consolation semifinals. The Lion sophomore fell behind 2-1 early but dominated the final two periods, picking up takedowns in both the second and third to roll to a 6-4 win and move into the third place bout. Conaway got a rematch with No. 14 Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin in the third place match and came up just short, dropping a 5-4 decision in a frenetic match. The loss sets Conaway, a 2015 All-American a 125, as the fourth-place finisher at 133 with a 4-2 mark and he will head to NCAAs with a 26-5 overall record.

Sophomore Matt McCutcheon, ranked No. 11 nationally, placed fifth after a 1-1 showing in consolation action today. In his first match, McCutcheon gave up a quick first period takedown and dropped a 4-1 decision to Gravina. The loss sent the Lion sophomore to the fifth place match. He met No. 22 Jeff Koepke of Illinois in the fifth place bout, a rematch of a second round meeting won by McCutcheon 6-2. McCutcheon used a late takedown in the third period to take a 3-1 lead and used a short ride out to grab the 3-1 win and fifth place. McCutcheon went 2-2 at the tournament and heads to the NCAA championships with a 16-6 overall record.

Junior Geno Morelli competed in the seventh place match where he took on Iowa's Patrick Rhoads. The bout was an even match over three periods before Rhoads notched a takedown late in the sudden victory stanza to post a 4-2 (SV) win, handing Morelli eighth place. Morelli ends his first Big Ten championship with a 2-3 record. Morelli, 19-10 overall, meets the standards set by the NCAA to be considered for an at-large bid at 165. The full field, including brackets, will be announced Wednesday night at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com.

The Nittany Lions went 28-12 overall, picking up 29 bonus points off six pins, two tech falls and eight majors. Showcasing dominance start to finish, the Nittany Lions notched an outstanding 71-22 takedown advantage over the course of the tournament. The Nittany Lions have eight guaranteed NCAA qualifiers and will await word on Morelli's status Wednesday night. Red-shirt freshman Nick Nevills did not compete today after a 1-2 showing on day one at 285.

After receiving the team trophy, Penn State then collected all three of the conference's post-season awards. Head coach Cael Sanderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his seven years as Penn State's head coach. It is the seventh time Penn State has had the conference's coach of the year (John Fritz '98; Troy Sunderland '03). Retherford was honored as the 2016 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, becoming the seventh Nittany Lion to be honored as such. Nolf was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Nittany Lion to win the award since David Taylor in 2011 and the fifth overall.

Penn State has now claimed five Big Ten championships, all under Sanderson. The veteran mentor has now won five conference titles in seven years, crowned 18 Big Ten individual champions and qualified 58 wrestlers (before Wednesday's at-large bids) for the NCAA championships in his seven years at the helm of the Nittany Lion program.

The Nittany Lions will now trek to New York City's Madison Square Garden for the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 17-19. The three-day event begins on Thursday, March 17, at 11 a.m. The tournament's six sessions are as follows: Thursday, March 17, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Friday, March 18, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 19, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Last Updated March 11, 2016