Just when we thought we had reached the pinnacle of PSU Sports with the Rose Bowl in January, our athletes continue to raise the bar. This past weekend we had an incredible amount of success for our winter sports: wrestling, hockey and gymnastics.
Over the weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, Penn State Wrestling took home its eighth Team National Championship Title, six of which have been led by current coach and former 2004 Olympic Wrestling Champion, Cael Sanderson. Cael rose to prominence during his college career where he became the only wrestler in NCAA history to accomplish an undefeated career. Sanderson has done great things for the program since his arrival in 2009 and this year was no exception.
Saturday night after the team victory, the five wrestlers vying for an individual title, Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph, Bo Nickal, Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford, each walked off the mat as Individual Champions in their weight classes.
The surprise of the night was when freshman, Vincenzo Joseph, beat Illinois senior Isaiah Martinez, who was going for his fourth straight National Championship win. He would’ve been the fifth person to do so, one of which was Cael Sanderson. Martinez went for the takedown, but Joseph was able to escape and take him down in a huge upset. This haul of titles is nearly twice as many victories that PSU has ever received in a single year. Penn State is simply, without a doubt, in a class of their own when it comes to wrestling at the this point in time.
Meanwhile, over in Detroit, the Lions took a historic win for Hockey Valley. Many believed the highlight of the season might’ve come in January when the program reached a number one ranking for the first time in its history, but over the weekend they surpassed all expectations.
Penn State Men’s Hockey came out on top as the Big Ten Champions in double overtime with a score of 2 to 1. The whole game was a repeat of watching the Big Ten Football Championship all over again. Penn State wins over Wisconsin to repeat the football teams success. Just as Saquon Barkley, #26 at Beaver Stadium, clinched the final touchdown for the Big Ten title, Liam Folkes, #26 at Pegula Ice Arena, clinched the game for the Nittany Lions with two goals scored in double overtime.
Junior Kathleen McDonald said, “Penn State Hockey has only been in the NCAA since 2010, so it’s amazing to see their incredible growth in such a short amount of time. Me and my friends were at the Gaff and it was so fun! The game was on all the TVs, and the entire place erupted in a ‘We Are’ chant when we scored.”
The team has now earned their first NCAA tournament bid and are slated to play against Union College in the NCAA Men’s Regional Championship in Cincinnati this Saturday at 4:30 pm.
Penn State Men’s Gymnastics kept the winning streak going and beat Big Ten rival, Michigan by just over four points. They started off slow in the first three rotations, posting relatively low scores on pommel horse. In true Penn State fashion, they fired back in the last three events overtaking Michigan’s team totals on Vault, Parallel Bars.
High Bar was the highlight of the meet. Though it wasn’t the highest scoring event for the team, three of the competitors stuck their full twisting double layout dismounts to bring the crowd to a roar. Individually, Penn State took home the All-Around and five of the six possible event titles. Senior Leroy Clarke Jr. captured the Pommel Horse and High Bar titles, senior Dominic DiFulvio posted the top score on Still Rings and freshman Sam Zakutney took home the All-Around title as well as the Floor Exercise and Parallel Bars titles. They will appear one last time for the regular season against Iowa at their Senior Night this Saturday, March 25 at Rec Hall.
As we all know, the success of a program only breeds more success. Valley is very excited if this weekend is any indication of what’s to come for the future. Valley wishes the best of luck in all of the final upcoming games, meets, and competitions for PSU Athletics. Fight On, State!