Tom Gannam, Associated Press
The Penn State wrestling team salutes their fans after winning the team title at the NCAA Division I wresting championships, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in St. Louis.
Cael Sanderson, who prepped at Wasatch High School, winning four state titles, coached Penn State to its sixth national championship in the past seven years. The Nittany Lions won five individual titles, including two shocking upsets over a pair of two-time NCAA champion wrestlers.
Penn State finished with 146.5 points, way ahead of runner-up Ohio States, with 110 points. Oklahoma State was third with 103, while Iowa finished fourth with 97.
Sanderson, who won four high school and college individual titles and a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, has turned the Penn State wrestling program into a dynastic powerhouse. Sanderson is also assisted by his older brother Cody, who was Utah Valley's first-ever wrestling coach before joining his brother at Iowa State and then moving to Penn State with his sibling in 2010.
Out of the 10 weight classes, Penn State crowned five individual champions, and what is scary is two of the wrestlers who brought home the gold are freshmen now capable of doing what Sanderson did when he wrestled for Iowa State by making it to the top of the podium four times. And all five champions will return for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State wrapped up the team trophy way before the championship finals thanks to a fifth-place finish by Nick Nevills (285 pounds).
This just set up a historic night of college wrestling where the Nittany Lions went 5-for-5 in the championship finals, winning the last five bouts of the tournament.
Zain Retherford (149) started off the Nittany Lion onslaught with a technical fall victory 18-2 over Missouri's Lavion Mayes. Mayes actually scored the first two points with an early takedown, only for Retherford to rebound to crush the Tiger grappler. Retherford won four of his tournament matches by technical fall with the other win coming by pin. Retherford capped off a perfect season by winning his 28th match on the season.
Jason Nolf (157) finished an unblemished season at 27-0 by also defeating a Missouri Tiger wrestler in Joey Lavallee by major decison, 14-6.
Those two wins were expected, but in the next three matches Penn State wrestlers were the underdogs, with a pair of wrestlers facing opponents who each had won two NCAA titles.
At 165 pounds, redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph shocked the college wrestling world by pinning two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois. Martinez, a junior, was on course to become a four-time NCAA champion and carried in an undefeated record of 31-0, but trailing 6-5, he found himself on the losing end of an upper-body throw that resulted in the fall.
At 174 pounds, Mark Hall, from his fifth seed, defeated Ohio State's Bo Jordan 5-2. Hall gave up his redshirt in December and actually lost his first official bout as a Nittany Lion but got better and better as the season progressed. He scored a major upset over top seed Zahid Valencia of Arizona State 4-3 in the semifinals before knocking off Jordan, the third seed.
Penn State kept rolling, and Bo Nickal (184) knocked off Cornell's Gabe Dean 4-3. Dean was going for his third straight title for the Big Red. After Dean scored the first takedown, Nickal scored the next four points and then held off Dean in a wild scramble at the end of the match.
The championship finals actually started at 197 pounds, and the first two bouts featured a pair of two-time NCAA champions and recent Olympic medalists.
J'Den Cox of Missouri, who won the bronze at the 2016 Games, won his third NCAA title in four tries by defeating Minnesota's Brett Pfarr 8-2.
Then at 285 pounds, Ohio State's Kyle Snyder took care of Connor Medberry of Wisconsin 6-3. Snyder, the lightest competitor in the heavyweight field checking in at 226 pounds at Saturday's weigh-in, won the gold medal at 213 pounds this past summer in Rio.
Also winning individual titles were Lehigh's Darian Cruz (125), Iowa's Cody Clark (133) and Oklahoma State's Dean Heil (141). Heil completed an undefeated season at 32-0.
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Utah Valley had a pair of wrestlers who competed in the tournament. Dustin Dennison (285) won a pair of matches before being eliminated, while Tanner Orndorr (197) went 1-2. The Wolverines finished in a tie for 53rd place out of the 69 schools that qualified wrestlers for the 2017 tourney.
Also of local interest, Wyoming's Branson Ashworth, who prepped at Spanish Fork High School, went 1-2 for the Cowboys, who finished 21st in the standings.
Complete team and individual results can be found at www.trackwrestling.com.
Brian Preece is a freelance prep sports writer. He was the former head wrestling coach at Provo High School from 1994-2006 and in 2006 was named Utah Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.