Big Ten drops could give Hidlay a boost
EAST LANSING, Mich. — For the most part, the top seeds for the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships will come from established wrestlers at each weight.
When the NCAA releases the seeds and brackets on Wednesday, one weight could be headed by newcomer — 157.
For a large portion of the season, the top three wrestlers at 157 pounds have been No. 1 Jason Nolf of Penn State, No. 2 Michael Kemerer of Iowa and No. 3 Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State.
The popular opinion heading into the weekend’s conference tournaments was that whoever won the Big Ten — Nolf or Kemerer — would secure the No. 1 seed at the NCAA tournament and that Mifflin County graduate Hidlay would have an argument for second if he won the ACC championships.
Well, 157 at the Big Tens was turned on its head when Nolf medically forfeited after reaching the semifinals and Kemerer did the same after getting caught and pinned in the semifinals.
Hidlay, the only undefeated freshman left in Division I, would have a strong argument for being seeded first.
Hidlay is only the eighth freshman in the last five years to end the regular season undefeated. He was one of two this year with Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, who suffered his first loss, three actually, at the Big Ten tournament.
Of the eight freshmen who ended the season undefeated in the past five years, only Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez went on to win a national championship.
All six who finished undefeated in the past four years ended as All-Americans. Ohio State’s Bo Jordan finished as a runner-up in 2015 as did Nolf in 2016.
With his third Big Ten title, Zain Retherford became just the fifth Nittany Lion to win three Big Ten individual championships. He joined Kerry McCoy, Sanshiro Abe, David Taylor and Ed Ruth. Taylor and Ruth each won four titles.
Penn State, under Cael Sanderson, has thrived in tournament formats. This weekend’s Big Ten tournament was no exception.
The Nittany Lions went 31-9 for a .775 winning percentage. Seventeen of those victories were bonus-point wins (11 major decisions and six pins).
No Nittany Lion finished with a record worse than .500: Carson Kuhn, 125 (3-3); Corey Keener, 133 (2-2); Nick Lee, 141 (4-1); Zain Retherford, 149 (3-0); Jason Nolf, 157 (2-0, his medical forfeits don’t count as official losses); Vincenzo Joseph, 165 (3-1); Mark Hall, 174 (4-0); Bo Nickal, 184 (3-0); Shakur Rasheed, 197 (3-1); Nick Nevills, 285 (4-1).
Retherford, Hall and Nickal remain undefeated on the season.
Nick Nevills will be a senior during the 2018-19 season and he won’t be the only Nevills on Penn State’s team. Nick will be joined by his younger brother, Seth.
Seth became just the third wrestler in the 46-year history of California’s state wrestling tournament to win four state titles over the weekend. He finished his career with a 169-1 record.
Most national rankings have Nevills ranked among the Top 10 seniors in the country.
Tom Brands’ Iowa Hawkeyes endured a brutal Big Ten tournament.
The Hawkeyes finished in fourth place, the first time in 12 years Iowa failed to finish in the top three at the conference tournament.
Iowa only had one finalist among its nine NCAA automatic qualifiers and exactly zero champions for the first time since 2015.
Ohio State 125-pounder Nathan Tomasello mounted a comeback to defeat Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, 10-7, in the final. He became just the 15th four-time champion in 106-year history of the Big Ten Conference.
Then, at 165, Isaiah Martinez of Illinois became the 16th to earn that distinction when he defeated Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State, 4-1 avenging his NCAA finals loss in 2017.
The 2019 Big Ten Championships are scheduled for March 9-10 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It will be interesting to see if that relatively remote location can draw as many fans as East Lansing.
Attendance figures for this year’s tournament: Session 1, 4,968; Session 2, 5,192; Session 3, 6,319.