Pennsylvania's Vincenzo Joseph Pulls a Stunner in St. Louis; Pins IMar to Win Title

ST. LOUIS – Based on their walk out song selections you may have been surprised by the end result at 165 lbs.; you would’ve been wrong. Penn State freshman Vincenzo Joseph, a Pittsburgh native, choose to walk out to the song Stuck in the Middle with You, a soft rock track from 1973 by the band Stealers Wheel. Returning 2-time NCAA National Champion Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) came out to an appropriate track The Champ is Here by rapper Jadakiss.

“He’s a phenomenal wrestler. He’s a bully on the mat. And this time I was definitely ready for that. I was coming right back at him” Vincenzo stated following his epic performance.

It was a culmination of a season which saw Cenzo improve each and every time he stepped on the mat for Penn State. The 2-time Pennsylvania Class 3A State Champion from District 7’s Central Catholic High School not only peaked at the right time but truly believed that he was going to be a National Champion.

This season Joseph entered his first NCAA Tournament with a (17-4) record falling to three wrestlers along the way. All three wrestlers Joseph fell to this season he defeated in the postseason. It started with Stanford’s Keaten Subjeck who downed Vincenzo in his Rec Hall debut for Penn State (18-12) in just his second career start. The Nittany Lion had to wait over four months before he could avenge the defeat, but in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA National Championship he did by a (5-2) score.

Then there was returning NCAA National Finalist Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin. In a dual meet on January 27th Joseph came within seconds of his first marquee win of  the season falling in sudden victory (6-4 SV-1) to Jordan.

In the third place match at the 2017 BIG 10 Tournament Joseph turned the tables on Jordan (5-2) winning what would turn out to be a critical match for seeding purposes. With the third place finish Vincenzo earned a #3 seed at the National Tournament which put him opposite of The Champ IMar.

The two are no strangers to each other. They squared off on February 10th in a dual meet between Penn State and Illinois, a match IMar controlled from neutral (5-2). However, in the BIG 10 semifinals, Vincenzo closed the gap and battled IMar tough in an (8-5) defeat.

“I feel like I kind of got in his head a little bit the first time we wrestled because I have a pretty good gas tank for the most part. I’m pretty good at keeping my composure while I’m wrestling.”

Despite experiencing the NCAA Finals for the first time in his young career Joseph appeared to remain calm and composed throughout. Maybe that explains the relaxing melody of his walkout song choice. Even surrendering the first takedown of the match to Martinez Joseph appeared close to breaking the bout wide open.

“I think it was just more of a mindset going into the match. I was confident going in even after I gave up that first takedown. I went back, talked to my coaches. First thing I said to them was: I’m scoring soon. I could feel it starting to open up, and I knew I was going to get to my attack soon.”

That is exactly what he did on the restart. Vincenzo escaped quickly and got right back to pressuring IMar from neutral scoring on a go-behind on the edge of the mat to take the lead. Martinez escaped with just four seconds left to end the first period tied (3-3). IMar escaped to start the second period but not before Cenzo collected 13 more seconds of riding time. Joseph again pressed the action scoring on a slick slide by on their feet and quickly bringing Martinez down taking a (5-4) advantage. Vincenzo stayed tough on top bringing his riding time advantage to (1:05) before IMar escape ending the second period on their feet.

With momentum rolling in Joseph’s favor the Pennsylvania star took bottom to start the third period. Cenzo needed to escape within 5 seconds to keep his one point riding time advantage which he did by getting to his feet and peaking out on a mat return from IMar. With the score (6-5) in favor of Joseph and having 1 point of riding time, essentially holding a two point lead in the third period, the two locked horns on their feet.

Cenzo ended up with double overhooks when Martinez looked to go upper body. Martinez wanted to toss Joseph using his hips but as the two were falling to the mat Cenzo never let go of the double overs and planted the 2-time National Champion flat on his back. The crowd erupted when Vincenzo Joseph stuck IMar seconds later with a stunning end to an impressive performance.

Isaiah Martinez entered the National Finals with a career record of (98-1) suffering only his second career defeat since taking college wrestling by storm two years ago. The only other defeat Martinez suffered was last season to Jason Nolf, also of Penn State, and also by fall. 

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