Defending national champion Jason Nolf will not need surgery after an injury Sunday and Penn State’s wrestling team remains “very optimistic” he’ll return during the postseason, according to head coach Cael Sanderson.
Sanderson made the remarks on the radio Monday evening during the “Penn State Coaches Show” with Jeff Byers.
“Really, it’s not as bad as we feared,” Sanderson said. “But it’s going to be some time before we get him back in, just to play it safe and try to get him back as close to 100 percent as we can before the postseason. So we probably won’t even try to put him in a dual meet; we’ll just try to get him ready for the postseason.”
On Sunday against Rutgers, the Nittany Lions’ 157-pound dynamo was leading 5-4 in the second period when he and No. 17 John Van Brill were scrambling on the edge of the mat. After the official called a stalemate, Van Brill jumped to his feet while Nolf reached toward his right knee.
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Nolf was forced to injury default, and fans worried that Nolf’s season was over.
On Monday, Sanderson provided some better news for the blue-and-white fan base. He acknowledged Nolf will have to be replaced over these next three duals, but no one’s redshirt will be pulled.
“If Jason wasn’t coming back, this is a time where you’d pull (Brady) Berge’s redshirt or something like that,” Sanderson said. “But we’re very optimistic that we’ll have a strong Nolf back for the postseason, so that’s not even a consideration.”
With no one else listed at 157 pounds on the roster, it’s not yet known who will fill in for Nolf for at least the next two weeks. If Sanderson doesn’t want to pull any redshirts, he could choose to move up Bo Pipher, who’s currently listed at 141/149 — or he could go with someone like redshirt freshman Luke Gardner, who’s at 149.
Sanderson will next be available to the media Wednesday afternoon.
“We have a handful of guys who are in those weight classes that can step in and wrestle,” Sanderson added. “We’ll just try to see who will give us the best effort and the fighting spirit.”
The Big Ten championships are from March 3-4 in East Lansing, Mich., while the NCAA championships will take place from March 15-17 in Cleveland. That gives Nolf and the Nittany Lions five weeks before the postseason.