PITTSBURGH – Penn State clinched its eighth team title in the last nine years before the finals started on Saturday evening in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena, but the Nittany Lions decided to throw in two titles just for the heck of it, as Jason Nolf and Anthony Cassar won gold.

Penn State had 123.5 points after placement matches concluded Saturday afternoon to move into third place on the all-time list with nine national titles. The Lions had 133.5 points prior to the last match at 197 pounds. Ironically, PSU passed head coach Cael Sanderson’s alma mater Iowa State in team championships. Oklahoma State leads the way with 34 and Iowa has 23.

Sanderson, who is in his 10th season at the helm, has guided Penn State to two four-peats. The first was from 2011-14, while the Lions started their current run in 2016. Ohio State broke the first run in 2015.

“That’s definitely a blessing to be part of such a great team,” Nolf said. “Sometimes, you can take it for granted and kind of expect that it’s going to happen. But at the beginning, at the end of the day, you’ve got to go work hard for it, and everybody individually has to do their part.

“I’m definitely blessed to be around people that have such a clear mind and know exactly what they want. And they’re willing to sacrifice maybe some other things that other people are doing in order to get it. Our team is just full of a bunch of great guys and definitely blessed.”

The Buckeyes were second in the team standings with 96.5 points. The Cowboys were third with 84. The Hawkeyes (76) and Michigan (62.5) rounded out the top five.

Nolf (31-0) won his third NCAA title in his final collegiate match with a 10-2 major decision over Nebraska’s Tyler Berger (28-4) at 157. The Kittanning native built an 8-2 lead in the first period with three takedowns and two near-fall points and allowed Berger to escape twice. Nolf escaped in the second and earned another point for riding time.

“Not as good as four-time national champ, but I’ll take it,” said Nolf, when asked how does being a three-time champion sound to him. “Look, coming into college, I think everybody wants to be a four-time national champ. I was definitely willing to work for it and sacrifice. But after the first year, my goal was to be a three-time national champ, and that’s what I am.”

Cassar (30-1) used a six-point move in the second period to down Oklahoma State’s Derek White (32-2) in the finals at 285. Cassar, a senior, was wrestling in his first national tournament. He also avenged a 3-2 loss to White earlier this year.

Iowa’s Spencer Lee (23-3) is halfway home in becoming the 5{sup}th{/sup} four-time national champion in NCAA history after earning a 5-0 decision over Virginia’s Jack Mueller (21-1) at 125.

The Franklin Regional graduate looks to join the Cowboys’ Pat Smith (1990-94), Sanderson (1999-02), Cornell’s Kyle Dake (2010-13) and Ohio State’s Logan Stieber (2012-15) as the only four-timers.

“Being in Pittsburgh is awesome,” Lee said. “I don’t really care about being a four-timer. I’m not a three-time national champ. I’m focused on what’s next. That’s going to be summer wrestling and we’ll see how that goes. And gotta get healthy and everything, whatever, you know how it is. Big time big national tournament, everyone is a little tweaked up, getting ready to finish the summer off strong.”

Lee, who handed Oklahoma State’s Nick {span class=”x_place-athlete”}Piccininni{/span} (34-2) his first loss of the season, used a takedown in the first, was awarded a point in the second when Mueller was hit for stalling, and scored another takedown in the third for the decision. Piccininni had pinned Lee in a dual meet at Stillwater earlier in the year.

“I remember losing to Oklahoma State and freaking,” Lee said. “I had whole team grab me and telling me they loved me, and we were a family and we’re going to be in this together. And I know that moment there is when I gotta move on. I’ve got to be the better version of myself.

And thanks to them. I wish I could have seen them after the match. Last year I got to hug them, but don’t worry; that will be the next step after this.”

The Nittany Lions’ Vincenzo Joseph (27-2) was denied a chance at a third national title in as many years in a 7-1 setback to Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Mekhi Lewis (28-2) at 165. Lewis used a cradle to earn four near-fall points in the second period to break a scoreless time, and after allow an escape to Joseph, scored another escape and a takedown in the third.

Joseph, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate, was in deep on several shot attempts, but Lewis was able to fight off the attempts to become the Hokies’ first national champion in wrestling.

Penn State’s Mark Hall (30-1) suffered the first loss of the season in a 4-3 setback to Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia (31-2). The Sun Devil won his second national title.

PSU had two other All-Americans in Nick Lee (5th at 141) and Roman Bravo-Young (8th at 133). Lee, a sophomore, is a two-time All-American. Bravo-Young is a true freshman.

Rutgers’ Nick Suriano (29-3) won his school’s first wrestling championship with a 4-2 decision over the Cowboys’ Daton Fix (34-2) at 133. Teammate Anthony Ashnault (32-0) gave the Scarlet Knights their second titleholder with a 9-4 decision over Ohio State’s Micah Jordan (29-3) at 149.

Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis (29-0) earned a 6-4 sudden-victory decision over the Buckeyes’ Joey McKenna (24-3) at 141. The sophomore won his second national championship. Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster (28-5) won a 6-4 decision over the Big Red’s Maxwell Dean (25-6) at 184.

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