ST. LOUIS, MO -- If the quarterfinals taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected; and Friday night followed that same narrative. Three number one seeded (and undefeated) wrestlers fell during the semifinals portion of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships, each in dramatic fashion.
At 125 lbs. #4 Darian Cruz of Lehigh stunned #1 Thomas Gilman of Iowa 4-2 in sudden victory. The match was scoreless after the first period. Gilman rode out Cruz the entire second period, accumulating two minutes of riding time. Cruz scored a takedown with ten seconds left, but a quick escape by Gilman as time expired tied the match at 2-2. In overtime, Cruz was able to score a go-behind takedown on the edge to stun the Iowa faithful.
Luckily for Iowa fans, that loss didn’t seem to rattle #4 Cory Clark as he was able to advance to his third straight NCAA finals with a 7-4 victory over #1 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. The Buckeye struck first, finishing on a takedown to take a 2-1 lead into the second. Tomasello’s escape in the second period made it a 3-1 advantage heading into the third. Clark would take the lead with an escape and a takedown of his own, but a Tomasello escape would knot the bout at 4-4. With just under 20 seconds left, Clark is able to score off a Tomasello shot attempt, while adding a riding time point for a 7-4 victory.
At 174, Mark Hall (Penn State) won a knockout, grind-out bout against #1 Zahid Valencia of ASU. The first period finished scoreless. Wrestlers exchanged escapes in the second and third periods. With about 30 seconds left, Valencia appeared to have the winning takedown secured, but after a challenge by PSU head coach Cael Sanderson, the call was reversed to a technical violation against Valencia for pulling on the headgear, waving off the takedown and putting this match at 2-1 for Hall. Valencia was pushing the pace, controlling a body lock on the edge, but Hall was able to convert on an inside trip to make it 4-1. Valencia scored another escape and a stalling point, but his comeback bid ran out of time, 4-3 Hall.
Penn State advanced all five of their semifinalists into the finals, while building a commanding lead with 121 points. Zain Retherford was able to pick up a fall against longtime rival Brandon Sorenson of Iowa. Retherford converted on a bow-and-arrow in the first period to finish the bout. At 157, Nolf kept his bonus point streak going, with a 13-5 major decision in his bout. At 184, Bo Nickal’s antics were on full display, as he pinned Iowa’s Sammy Brooks in 1:01 via a throw from double-overhooks.
165 pounds featured two of the most highly touted freshman in the land in Logan Massa and Vincenzo Joseph; and it lived up to the hype. This was another match that ended the first period scoreless, but with plenty of action to boot. Two Massa escapes and a Joseph takedown had this match knotted up after two periods, 2-2. Joseph escaped to start the third period, taking a 3-2 lead. Massa had a near takedown to Joseph’s back, but the script was flipped and Joseph was able to turn his hips and score his second takedown of the bout. An escape and a stalling point for Massa made it 5-4, but time ran out on the Michigan frosh.
The Ohio State Buckeyes currently sit in second place in the team race with 89.5 points while having two Buckeyes make the finals in Bo Jordan (174) and Kyle Snyder (HWT). Realbuto seemed primed for a finals run after building a 7-2 lead. But Jordan battled back and used a counter takedown while picking up four nearfall points to go up 11-7 while finishing the match on top. Snyder was dominant in a 19-6 major decision over Jacob Kasper of Duke.