Six weeks after suffering an unspecified leg injury, Penn State wrestler Jason Nolf greeted reporters Monday afternoon and said he finally feels 100 percent.
“I think I’m 100 percent,” he said in the hallway at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex. “I know I’m at 100 percent. I’m feeling better than ever, and I’m excited to compete.”
Nolf competed in the Big Ten championships March 3 — his first time wrestling since his injury Jan. 28 against Rutgers — and, although he appeared tentative at times, he still wrestled like a defending national champ with a fall and a major decision. After those two bouts, he medical forfeited out of the tournament.
The junior said he wanted to compete throughout the conference tournament, but the coaching staff told him his health was paramount. They overruled his desire to stay on the mat — and coach Cael Sanderson said Monday that plan “went as well as it could have.”
“You saw the longer he wrestled, the more confident he got,” Sanderson said. “He was playing around a little bit more. His speed was great, his shots looked really good, and that’s what we wanted him to discover.”
Nolf beat up on Michigan State’s Jacob Tucker in the opening match, pinning him in 2:34 before coming up just short of a technical fall against Minnesota’s Jake Short in a 15-2 victory. Nolf’s draw at the NCAA championships will obviously prove to be much more difficult, however.
In fact, the Nittany Lion could face one of the 157-pound favorites as early as the quarterfinals. With Iowa’s Michael Kemerer drawing a surprising No. 6 seed, the two could face one another in the third round Friday morning.
Kemerer was on pace to be the top seed with Nolf’s injury, but the Hawkeye suffered a stunning loss in the Big Ten tournament semifinals and then medical forfeited. That dropped him considerably in the NCAA seedings.
But Nolf wasn’t concerned — “It doesn’t really bother me,” he said — and he’s not spending the next few days panicking over some tough matchups. He said he’s out to win, period — and he doesn’t care what path he has to take to get atop the podium.
“I looked at the bracket just to see what was going on, but I don’t focus on it,” he added. “I don’t daydream on it. I look at it, and now I know what I got to do.
“And I’m ready to go.”