Cael Sanderson's wrestlers often have a knack for putting on a show and providing fans with entertainment, but this weekend it was Sanderson who did the entertaining once again.

No, the Olympic gold medalist didn't come out of retirement and step onto the mat himself to compete.

Instead, the 12th-year coach organized a 13-bout freestyle event hosted by the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in State College, which featured some of the top names in men's and women's freestyle.

The night's final bout at 190 pounds was also the main event.

It pitted three-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner Bo Nickal from Penn State against three-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner from Oklahoma State Alex Dieringer.

Nickal ultimately won a 1-1 match on criteria to cap things off for the NLWC.

Way before Nickal and Dieringer ever squared off, the night got started at 74 kg with Penn RTC wrestler Rick Durso taking on the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club's Malik Amine.

Durso, one of the only All-Americans in the history of Franklin and Marshall's program, cruised to a 10-0 tech fall thanks to five takedowns in just 1:40, beating the former Michigan NCAA qualifier Amine handily.

The night's second bout pitted two-time Penn State All-American Nick Nevills against All-American and two-time EIWA champion Jordan Wood from Lehigh.

Wood ultimately prevailed thanks to four quick points in the last 30 seconds, giving him a 6-4 win in the night's first of two 125 kg bouts.

The night's first of two women's matches saw Jennifer Page take on Desiree Zavala where there was no shortage of offense.

Zavala opened up the scoring quickly, jumping out to a 10-4 lead in the first before Page came back and answered with 10 points of her own to take it by a score of 14-10.

The night's fourth bout featured the NLWC's Jaime Espinal, a former Olympic silver medalist, taking on former Michigan All-American Dom Abounader at 196 pounds.

Abounader ultimately came out on top, beating Espinal by a score of 7-2.

The night's fifth bout saw three-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford compete up a weight at 157 pounds, where he made relatively easy work of former Michigan three-time All-American Alec Pantaleo.

Retherford, the Nittany Lion great, won 3-2 thanks to a last-minute takedown to secure the win.

The sixth bout of the night pitted Penn State three-time champion Jason Nolf against two-time Virgina Tech All-American David McFadden.

Nolf wrestled with his usual flair but didn't score at the prolific rate fans are used to, though he beat McFadden 5-2.

Big Ten wrestling tournament, Vincenzo Joseph and Alex Marinelli

Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph takes down Iowa’s Alex Marinelli in the 165-pound finals at the Big Ten Wrestling tournament at the Rutgers Athletic Center on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Marinelli won 3-2 by decision.

Two former Nittany Lions faced off in the night's seventh bout when two-time NCAA champion Vincenzo Joseph downed two-time All-American Dan Vallimont by a score of 5-0.

Highly touted transfer and redshirt freshman Greg Kerkvliet faced off against Maryland’s two-time All-American Youssif Hemida at 125 kgs.

The Nittany Lion heavyweight Kerkvliet recorded the night's second tech fall, shutting out Hemida 10-0 in the process.

The night's ninth bout pitted Olympic bronze medalist and NLWC member Bekzod Abdurakhmonov against two-time NCAA qualifier for Michigan Logan Massa.

Abdurakhmonov led 1-0 after the first but it was Massa who pulled off the upset, downing the former Olympian by a score of 4-3.

The night's second women's bout featured Olympic qualifier Jane Valencia taking on Julia Salata at 62 kg.

Valencia jumped out to an early 4-0 lead after the first period before Salata scored six unanswered to go up 6-4, but it was Valencia who won on criteria after securing a pushout as time expired.

The NLWC's newest resident athlete Thomas Gilman took on former Lehigh NCAA champion Darian Cruz at 59 kg in the night's 11th bout.

Gilman, a three-time All-American and World silver medalist beat Cruz by a 14-4 tech fall in his NLWC debut.

The penultimate bout saw Olympic gold medalist and Ohio State standout Kyle Snyder take on NC State NCAA champion Mike Macchiavello at 99 kg.

Now with the NLWC, Snyder secured a commanding 12-0 tech fall, the third tech fall of the night and fourth shutout.

All told, the first-ever freestyle club event that Sanderson put on was a success, as wrestlers representing the NLWC won nine of the night's 13 bouts.


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