2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships Review by Kirk Nelson

By TomM March 21, 2018 22:33

2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships Review by Kirk Nelson

2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships – Team and Individual Results  
by Kirk Nelson

Penn State Edges Ohio State for the Team Title; Badgers finish 17th; Evan Wick places 3rd at 165; Barry Davis gets a Special Send Off

As expected, Ohio State and Penn State battled for the team title throughout the tournament. After Day 1, Ohio State was in good position with 9 of 10 wrestlers advancing to the quarterfinals. Penn State advanced 7, but Nick Lee lost in the 1st round. Ohio State led Penn State 36-28.

In the quarterfinals on Friday morning, 197 #1 Kollin Moore of Ohio State was upset, but so was 285 #3 Nick Nevills of Penn State. Ohio State advanced 6 to the semi-finals; Penn State advanced 5. After the 3rd Session, Ohio State had 80.5 points, and Penn State 67, a comfortable lead.

The 4th Session on Friday night proved pivotal. All 5 of Penn State Defending National Champions – Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, and Bo Nickal – won and advanced to the finals. Ohio State only lost 4 of 6, including former 125 lb. NCAA Champion Nathan Tomasello. Only Myles Martin and Kyle Snyder advanced to the finals. The Nittany Lions captured the lead going into Saturday, with 120.5 points to Ohio State’s 109.5 points. Many big matches were yet to come.

The Buckeyes recaptured the lead during the consolation rounds on Saturday morning, with strong 3rd place finishes by 125 – Nathan Tomasello and 141- Joey McKenna leading the way. 133 – Luke Pletcher and 197 – Kollin Moore placed 4th, 174 – Bo Jordan placed 5th, and 157 – Micah Jordan placed 6th. For Penn State, 141 – Nick Lee wrestled all the back to 5th place, and 197 – Shakur Rasheed and 285 – Nick Nevills placed 7th.
In the finals Saturday night, Penn State started strong, with 149 – Zain Retherford, 157 – Jason Nolf, and 165 – Vincenzo Joseph all repeating as Champions. At 174, however, Mark Hall lost to Zahid Valencia, which opened the door for the Buckeyes. At 184, It looked like Myles Martin was going to take advantage as he secured a takedown and near fall on Bo Nickal. Bo, however, with the team title hanging in the balance, quickly rolled Martin through and onto his back, locked him up tight, and secured the pin. Even the normally stoic Cael Sanderson went crazy! Penn State clinched the team title for the 7th time in 8 years.

Penn State and Ohio State both finished with 8 All-Americans. Two truly great teams – it was a shame one of them had to finish 2nd. The final team score was Penn State 141.5 Ohio State 133.5. (By the way, Bo Nickal and Kyle Snyder were both penalized one team point for throwing their headgears after winning. Remember – “Don’t throw your headgear!”)

The Iowa Hawkeyes finished in 3rd place and finished with 5 All-Americans: 125 – 1st Place Spencer Lee, 157 – 4th Place Michael Kemerer, 149 – 5th Place Brandon Sorenson, 285 – 5th Place Sam Stoll, and 165 – 6th Place Alex Marinelli. Of this All-American group, only Brandon Sorenson graduates. The Hawks are back.

Michigan and North Carolina State finished tied for 4th.  Michigan had 5 All-Americans – 285 – Adam Coon and 133 – Steve Micic both finished 2nd, 174 – Myles Amine finished 3rd, and 157 – Alec Pantaleo and 184 – Dominic Abounader finished 5th. North Carolina State was led by 197 – NCAA Champion Michael Machiavello. 157 – Hayden Hidlay placed 2nd, 133 – Tariq Wilson placed 3rd, and 141 – Kevin Jack placed 6th.

The Wisconsin Badgers finished 17th as a team, thanks to a strong opening round and an incredible tournament performance by Evan Wick.  Four Badgers won in the opening round: 141 – Eli Stickley, 157 – Andrew Crone, 165 – Evan Wick, and 184 – Ricky Robertson. Evan Wick won in Championship Round 2, and 174 – Ryan Christensen and 197 – Hunter Ritter both won in consolations to advance to Day 2. The Badgers had a tough opening round on Friday, as all six wrestlers lost. On Friday night, a new Badger star was born, as Evan Wick began a journey from the Blood Round of 12. winning 2 matches Friday night, and 2 matches Saturday to place 3rd at 165.

At the end of Evan Wick’s 3rd place victory by fall, Evan and Barry hugged, and then Barry, in his final match as Head Coach for the Badgers, pointed to the crowd in each direction with heartfelt excitement and exuberance, and in return received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd of over 18,000 for a great wrestling and coaching career and legacy. It was almost like it was meant to be…

Top 5 Team Scores:

  1. Penn State 141.5
  2. Ohio State 133.5
  3. Iowa 97
  4. Michigan 80
  5. NC State 80

Weight by Weight Championship Results – Two Freshman Win Titles!


The top four ranked wrestlers at this weight made it to the semi-finals. #4 Seeded Nick Suriano of Rutgers defeated the #1 Seed, Defending Champion Darian Cruz of Lehigh, 2-0. The # 3 Seed, Spencer Lee of Iowa, pinned the 2nd Seed, former NCAA Champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. In the Championship, Iowa Freshman Spencer Lee controlled previously unbeaten Nick Suriano and won convincingly 5-1.

Spencer Lee battled all the way back from an ACL knee injury a year ago in high school to become Iowa’s newest champion as a True Freshman. An impressive accomplishment!


As expected, Seth Gross of South Dakota State advanced to the finals, but it was not easy. He had a tough match in the semi-finals with Tariq Wilson of North Carolina State. In the finals, Gross faced Steven Micic of Michigan, who survived yet another battle with Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the semi-finals. Gross secured the championship with a solid 13-8 victory.

With the win, Seth Gross became South Dakota State’s first individual D-1 champion in school history. Congratulations to the Jackrabbits!


# 1 Seed Bryce Meredith of Wyoming barely won 1-0 in the semi-finals over #4 Seed Joey McKenna of Ohio State. #3 Seed Freshman Yianni Daikomihalis of Cornell squeaked by 2-Time NCAA Champion Dean Heil in the quarterfinals 6-5 and won by sudden victory 6-4 over #2 Seed Jaydin Eierman of Missouri in the semis.

In the finals, Meredith appeared to secure the key takedown late to take the lead 4-2. In the last minute, however, Daikomihalis escaped and then scored a takedown and 2-point near fall with a cradle all in one spectacular move to secure the 7-4 win. Is he the 2nd coming of Kyle Dake? Time will tell…

Badger Eli Stickley (Sophomore, Urbana, Ohio / St. Paris Graham) defeated #15 Seed Nate Limmex of Purdue in the 1st round, but then lost to All-American Jaydin Eierman – Missouri in the 2nd round, and was defeated by Cole Weaver of Indiana in the consolation round.


Zain Retherford became a 3 Time NCAA Champion. 2nd Ranked Brandon Sorenson of Iowa was upset in the 2nd Round by #15 Seed from Lock Haven’s Ronnie Perry. Perry ultimately advanced to the finals. While Retherford did not dominate in the finals or semi-finals as we are accustomed to seeing, he was solid, and secured the victories.

#10 Seed Jason Tsirtsis of Arizona State, the former NCAA Champ from Northwestern, placed 7th to become an All-American once again.

Badger Cole Martin (Sophomore, Lancaster, Wisconsin, / Lancaster HS) lost to #14 Seed Beau Donahue of North Carolina State in the opening round 4-2 (Sudden Victory). Cole then lost his wrestleback to Steve Bleise of Minnesota in the 1st round of consolations.


# 3 Seed Jason Nolf of Penn State shook off any lingering effects of injury and advanced to the finals with victories over Big Ten opponents Andrew Crone, Michael Kemerer of Iowa, and Micah Jordan of Ohio State. Nolf then faced unbeaten # 1 Seed Freshman Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State and won his 2nd consecutive title with a 6-2 convincing victory.

Badger Andrew Crone (Senior, Delafield, Wisconsin / Arrowhead HS) won in exciting fashion in the opening round, securing a pin late in the match against Larry Early of Old Dominion. (At the 6:46 mark – 14 seconds remaining the match!) Andrew then faced defending National Champion Jason Nolf in the 2nd round and lost a close one 6-1. In the wrestlebacks, Andrew faced a familiar opponent, Jake Short of Minnesota, and lost a heartbreaker 3-1.

Two-time National Champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois and defending Champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State both advanced to the finals for the 2nd straight year. Joseph barely survived a quarterfinal match against Isaiah White of Nebraska (4-2 sudden victory) and then defeated unbeaten #2 Seed David McFadden of Virginia Tech 3-1 in the semis. In the finals rematch, a late first period takedown gave Joseph the lead. On the re-start, Joseph picked up a quick two point near fall in the last few seconds of the period to take a 4-0 lead into the 2nd. Joseph then became the immovable object the rest of the match, and Martinez really did not get close to securing a takedown. At one point, a frustrated Martinez was penalized for headbutting. The final score was 6-1.
Badger Freshman Evan Wick (Freshman, Murrieta, California / San Marino HS) defeated Drew Daniels of Navy 11-4 in the 1st round and Logan Massa of Michigan 9-6 in the 2nd round. Evan then lost to David McFadden of Virginia Tech 3-0 in the quarterfinals. In the Blood Round, Evan pinned Nick Wanzek of Minnesota at the 3:17 Mark to become an All-American. After that, Evan defeated Jonathan Chavez of Cornell 9-2, #5 seeded Alex Marinelli of Iowa 16-3, and pinned #9 Seed Chance Marsteller at the 3:19 Mark to secure 3rd Place. In the annals of Wisconsin Badger Wrestling History, only Lee Kemp and Andrew Howe placed higher at the NCAA tournament as Freshman (both finished 2nd) An amazing accomplishment by Evan!


As expected, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, seeded #1, faced the #2 Seed Mark Hall of Penn State for the title. Hall pinned unbeaten Daniel Lewis of Missouri to advance to the finals. In the championship, Valencia used his impressive leverage and balance throughout the match and won in decisive fashion over Hall 8-2. Whatever Hall tried Valencia seemed to have the answer. Valencia became Arizona State’s 1st NCAA Champion since Anthony Robles in 2011.

Badger Ryan Christensen (Junior, Woodinville, Washington / Woodinville HS) lost to #12 Seed Forrest Przybysz of Appalachian State 7-2 in the opening round. Ryan defeated Tyrel White of Columbia 8-1 in his 1st consolation match before losing a close match to David Kocer 5-3 on a takedown right at the end of the match. Kocer ended up placing 7th and became an All-American.


Defending National Champion Bo Nickal of Penn State and past National Champion Myles Martin of Ohio State faced off in the final with an individual title and team title on the line. As chronicled above in the team title section, Nickal won by fall in dramatic fashion secure the championship for Penn State. The match only lasted 2:30 minutes, it was action packed and could have gone either way. Bo Nickal seems to always find a way out of precarious situations.

Badger Ricky Robertson (Senior, Tinley Park, Illinois / Carl Sandburg HS) defeated Alexander DeCiantis of Drexel 13-2 in the 1st round. Ricky then lost to #6 Seed Zachary Zavatsky of Virginia Tech 9-6 in the 2nd Round. In the consolation round, Ricky lost to Bryce Carr of Chattanooga 3-1 in sudden victory.


# 1 Seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State was upset in the quarterfinals by unseeded Kyle Conel of Kent State, who pinned Moore in 1:30. Michael Machiavello of North Carolina State then pinned Kyle Conel at 4:19 in the semi-finals to advance to the finals. This set up an All ACC Title Match. The # 4 Seed Michael Machiavello of North Carolina State against the #3 Seed Jared Haught from Virginia Tech for the 3rd Time. Haught won the first two meetings. This time, however, Machiavello turned the tables and secured a late takedown for the exciting 3-1 victory!

In the consolations, Kyle Conel of Kent State wrestled back into the 3rd place match and faced Kollin Moore again. Many expected Moore to get his revenge. Conel won again, this time 5-3, to the delight of the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. Conel, who quit wrestling last year before re-joining the team this year, became an All-American for the 1st time!
Badger Hunter Ritter (Sophomore, Perryville, Maryland / John Carroll HS) lost his first match to #8 Seed Nate Rotert of South Dakota State 6-2. In the 1st consolation round, Hunter, received a medical forfeit win over Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State. In his 2nd consolation match, Hunter lost to the #7 seed Frank Mattiace of Penn 4-2.


Ohio State Olympic and World Champion Kyle Snyder faced Michigan’s Adam Coon in the final match of the night for the championship at heavyweight. Because of the size difference with Coon having a large weight advantage Snyder had to maintain excellent position at all times. Which he did. At one point in the match, Snyder had a blast double perfectly executed but because Coon is so strong, he could not finish the move so he bailed out quickly. Coon was much more aggressive this match – Snyder countered with his natural quickness. Late in the match, Coon shot in low, Snyder, got around quickly for the takedown, and that was the key score in the match. The Champion retains the title!

Final Thoughts

The Big Ten was the dominant conference at the NCAA’s, crowning 6 individual champions. Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan placed in the Top 4 in the team race. Iowa did better than expected and appears to be on the rise again. The conference is as tough or tougher than it has ever been.

The Badgers overall had a good year. After losing Connor Medbery and Isaac Jordan to graduation, many did not expect the Badgers to do much this year. Getting 7 NCAA qualifiers and an All-American while placing almost as high as last year at the NCAA’s is pretty good. The 6th place team finish at the Big Ten tournament was outstanding.

Andrew Crone and Ricky Robertson were a joy to watch throughout their careers. They were fan favorites and will be missed. Along with Johnny Jimenez!

Thank you to Barry Davis, Trevor Brandvold, Kyle Ruschell, Camden Eppert and Seth Liegel for putting in all of the countless hours for the team.

Many starters with NCAA experience return next year. There is quite a bit of talent to build on – the cupboard is not bare by any means. Good luck to Badger Wrestling! On Wisconsin!

By TomM March 21, 2018 22:33


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