PALO ALTO, Calif.—Sean Nickell won the 125-pound championship as CSU Bakersfield finished third at Sunday’s Pac-12 Wrestling Championships.
The third seed, Nickell, jumped out to an 8-0 lead against Cal Poly’s Brandon Staley before winning the first round bout 8-5. In the semis, Nickell again earned an early 8-0 lead, this time against Oregon State’s Kegan Calkins, the second seed. Calkins bounded back, closing the lead to 10-9, but with over a minute of riding time, Nickell earned a spot in the final match.
Nickell’s final round opponent was the No. 4 seed, Arizona State’s Josh Kramer. Kramer upset the top seed, Stanford’s Gabe Townsell 5-2 in the semis. Nickell trailed early before using a 4-2 second period to propel himself to a 7-5 victory. With the victory, Nickell earned the lone automatic berth into the NCAA Championships that the Pac-12 receives. Nickell becomes the first CSUB wrestler to win a Pac-12 title at 125 since Tyler Iwamura accomplished the feat in 2013.
"Sean showed that when he wrestles at his best, he is one the best in the country," said CSUB head coach Manny Rivera.
After receiving a first round bye, Coleman Hammond, the second seed, advanced to the finals of the 149-pound bracket with a 12-0 major decision over Oregon State’s Joey Delgado. With the victory, Hammond punched his ticket to the NCAA Tournament, as he received one of the three automatic berths the allocated to the conference by the NCAA.
The top seed, Arizona State’s Josh Maruca, awaited Hammond in the final match. In a rematch from the Midlands in December, Maruca defeated Hammond for the second time this season, 8-2.
"Coleman did a great job of getting himself to the finals," Rivera said. "I expect hime to be even better at the NCAA Tournament."
Lorenzo De La Riva, the third seed at 165 pounds, received a first round bye. In the semifinals, he matched up against Keaton Subjeck, the second seed. With the score 2-2 after regulation. De La Riva qualified for the NCAA Tournament when he took down Subjeck 38 seconds into the extra frame to win 4-2.
As a result of making it to the first place match, De La Riva received one of the two Pac-12 automatic berths at 165 pounds. The finals were a rematch from a Feb. 9 dual at Arizona State. The Sun Devils’ Anthony Valencia defeated De La Riva by a 16-7 count.
"Lorenzo competed fearlessly today and proved that he has the ability to beat anyone in the nation," said Rivera.
Matt Williams received a first round bye at 197 pounds. In the semifinals, Williams went to triple overtime against Stanford’s Josh Marchok before falling 5-4. In the consolation round, Williams gave himself a chance to earn the final Pac-12 automatic berth in his weight class when he pinned Cal Poly’s Tom Lane 19 seconds into the second period.
The winner of the third place bout between Williams and Boise State’s Harley DiLulo would earn the final Pac-12 automatic bid into the NCAA Championships. Williams became the fourth CSUB wrestler to advance to nationals with a 6-2 victory.
"Matt is peaking at the right time," Rivera said. "Today was the best he as wrestled in a while and it showed in his performance."
Carlos Herrera received a first round bye at 133 pounds. As the third seed, Herrera, faced No. 2 seed, Joey Palmer of Oregon State in the semifinals. Palmer defeated Herrera 6-1 to send the Bakersfield native into the consolation bracket. Herrera posted a major decision (12-2) to defeat Cal Poly’s Yoshito Funakoshi to earn a spot in the third place match. Herrera shutout Boise State’s Josh Newberg, the fourth seed, 4-0 to take third place.
Bryan Battisto turned in a third place showing at 184 pounds. Stanford’s Zach Nevills defeated Battisto 7-5 in overtime in the first round. In the consolation semis, Battisto shutout Oregon State’s Seth McLeod 6-0 to set up a third place match against Cal Poly’s Mtich Woods. Battisto earned a major decision, 11-2, against Woods to earn the spot.
Russell Rohlfing finished fifth at 141 pounds. The third seed, Rohlfing lost to the second seed, Jack Hathaway of Oregon State 5-3 in the first round. In the consolation semifinals, Rohlfing was pinned in the first minute of the first period by Arizona State’s Nikko Villarreal. With a bye in the fifth place match, Rohlfing earned fifth place points for the Roadrunners.
Jacob Thalin dropped his first two matches at 157-pounds. The losses sent Thalin into the fifth place match where he avenged a regular season loss to Abraham Rodriguez of Oregon State 9-6.
Matt Penyacsek (174) and Alex Encarnarcion-Strand (285) went 0-3 at their respective weight classes. Both would place sixth. CSUB scored 92 points, edging five-time and defending conference champion Oregon State by ½ point. Arizona State took home the team honors for the first time since 2006 with 127 points. Stanford (122.5) was second. Boise State (79) and Cal Poly (78) rounded out the team-scoring race.
Nickell, Hammond, De La Riva, and Williams will travel to St. Louis, Mo. Mar. 16-18 for the NCAA Division I Championships. The Pac-12 meet is the first of the eight NCAA Division I qualifying tournaments. After all of the qualifying events have concluded, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining 49 at-large qualifiers, which are going to be released March 7. All weight classes will consist of 33 wrestlers. The at-large selections are based on the following criteria: head-to-head competition; quality wins; coaches’ ranking; results against common opponents; RPI; qualifying event placement; and winning percentage.