All week long, the question was whether or not Jason Nolf would be healthy enough to wrestle for Penn State at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
Well, the question was answered Saturday morning when Nolf stepped onto the mat — leg brace and all — to earn bonus point victories over his first two opponents. Nolf moves onto the semifinal round, along with seven other Nittany Lions.
Joining Nolf in the semifinals are Nick Lee (141 pounds), Zain Retherford (149), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), Bo Nickal (184), Shakur Rasheed (197) and Nick Nevills (285). Carson Kuhn (125) and Corey Keener (133) each remained alive in their respective weight classes’ consolation bracket.
Penn State went 15-2 in the morning session with 11 bonus-point victories. Nolf, Lee, Joseph and Hall were the lone Nittany Lions with multiple extra-point victories.
Nolf opened with a pin in 2:33 of the Spartans’ Jake Tucker. He followed that with a 15-2 major decision over Minnesota’s Jake Short.
Lee had identical 10-point victories. The first came in a 12-2 win over Rutgers’ Mike Van Brill and the other was a 13-3 quarterfinals’ victory over Indiana’s Cole Weaver.
Joseph pinned Northwestern’s Mike Sepke in 3:39 to open his day. In the quarterfinals, he had to fight off his back twice in an 18-10 major decision over Minnesota’s Nick Wanzek.
Hall pinned both of his opponents. He opened by sticking Michigan State’s Logan Ritchie in 5:33. He followed with a 47-second fall of Wisconsin’s Ryan Christensen.
Retherford and Nickal each had first-round byes and made their first victories count with bonus.
Retherford came up two points shy of a technical fall over the Golden Gophers’ Steve Bleise in a 14-1 win. Nickal, who followed Hall’s quick pin, made short work of Minnesota’s Brandon Krone in a 1:25 fall.
Nevills was the only other winner’s bracket wrestler to score bonus points.
Nevills opened with an 11-3 major decision over Illinois’ Duece Rachal and followed with a 5-0 shut out of the Wildcats’ Conan Jennings.
Rasheed, who was making his Big Ten Championships debut, struggled in his opener with 0-12 Jake Kleimola of Indiana. He ended up beating the Hoosier 8-4, and tacked on an 11-8 win over Northwestern’s Zack Chakonis in the quarterfinals.
Keener suffered a 9-4 defeat to Minnesota’s Mitch McKee in his first match of the day, which was in the quarterfinals. He then didn’t have to wrestle until Saturday night.
Kuhn faced off with Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello in the first round and lost 21-6 in 5:52. He rebounded nicely with a 12-3 major decision of Nebraska’s Mitch Maginnis.
The Buckeyes lead the team race by four points over Penn State (85.5-81.5). Ohio State has nine semifinalists. Michigan is third with 64.5 team points and seven semifinalists. Iowa (39) and Illinois (29) round out the top five.