PITTSBURGH – Three wrestlers for Penn State — Jason Nolf at 157 pounds, Bo Nickal at 197 and Anthony Cassar at heavyweight — won individual national titles as the Nittany Lions claimed a fourth straight NCAA team title and their eighth in nine years.
Penn State's Mark Hall, a junior from Apple Valley, was in the 174-pound final, but he lost 4-3 to Arizona State's Zahid Valencia (31-2) in a rematch of last year's title match.
The Nittany Lions totaled 137.5 team points to top second-place Ohio State's 96.5. Oklahoma State was third with 84, followed by Iowa with 76 and Michigan with 62.5.
Penn State has used a simple approach to distance itself from all competitors in the grueling three-day tournament. Keep attacking, pile up points and put as many opponents on their backs as possible.
Nickal embodied that on a weekend the Nittany Lions totaled nine pins, seven major decision and two technical falls. Nickal had three pins before beating Ohio State's Kollin Moore 5-1 for his third title.
Nolf beat Nebraska's Tyler Berger 10-2 on a major decision less than two months after the Cornhusker tweeted he planned to "bring five heads home" from the NCAA tournament, mentioning Nolf's specifically.
Cassar, who beat the Gophers' Gable Steveson 4-3 in the quarterfinals, decided to bump up to heavyweight after he was beaten out by a teammate for the starting 197-pound spot a year ago.
He got Penn State started with a 10-2 major over Oklahoma State's Derek White in the first final. White was the top seed and had lost only once before this season — to Steveson.
Nolf and Nickal, who are first and second in total pins for the program, joined former Penn State star Ed Ruth as the only Nittany Lions to win three titles.
Iowa's Spencer Lee (125), Cornell's Yianni Diakomihalis (141) and Valencia all repeated. Lee beat Virginia's Jack Mueller 5-0 while Diakomihalis got a takedown in overtime to edge Ohio State's Joey McKenna 4-2.
"This is a gladiator sport," Lee said. "We're tough guys, and we put everything on the line."
Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault became Rutgers' first NCAA champions with wins against Oklahoma State's Daton Fix and Ohio State's Micah Jordan, respectively.
Ashnault took control with two takedowns, two back points and 2:49 in riding time for a 9-4 win. He had placed three times before, but never won a title.
"It's everything that I've worked for up to this point," Ashnault said. "I try not to idolize wrestling, but a big part of my life was focused on getting a national title."
Suriano's 4-2 win wasn't without controversy as Oklahoma State coaches thought the Scarlet Knight grabbed Fix's headgear to leverage the winning takedown. The takedown was upheld on replay review.
Virginia Tech freshman Mekhi Lewis (165) was seeded eighth but brought the Hokies their first title with a 7-1 win over Penn State two-time defending champion Vincenzo Joseph. Drew Foster won Northern Iowa its first title in 19 years with a 6-4 win over Cornell's Max Dean at 184 pounds.
Steveson places third
Gophers freshman Gable Steveson (35-2) took third place in the heavyweight division by winning twice on Day 3. That's the highest finish by a true freshman in this tournament.
Steveson, the third seed, beat Youssif Hemide of Maryland 6-2 to advance to the third-place match and then defeated Jordan Wood of Lehigh 4-0.
His points for that win put the Gophers' final team score at 53.5 points — good for eight place.
Three other Gophers also placed in the top eight, earning All-America honors.
Junior Mitch McKee was sixth at 141, senior Ethan Lizak was seventh at 133 and junior Devin Skatzka was eighth at 174.
The 2020 NCAA tournament will be held at U.S. Bank Stadium. The dates are March 19-21.