“Really, it’s not as bad as we feared.”
Those words from Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson, in regards to a knee injury suffered Sunday by returning national champion Jason Nolf, were music to the ears of Penn State wrestling fans.
While it appears, at least according to Sanderson, that Nolf will be held out the rest of the regular season, the Nittany Lions hope to have Nolf back at least in time for the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland Mar. 15-17.
It may even happen that Nolf wrestles two weeks prior at the Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Michigan. Though that would be rather surprising as both Nolf and Penn State have bigger fish when it comes to pursuing another national team title.
Sanderson wouldn’t dish on specifics of the injury, stating only that :it’s going to be some time before we get him back in: and adding that they will likely won’t try to use him in any dual meets, including the massive dual this Saturday against No. 2 Ohio State.
In all likelihood, Nolf will return to the mat in East Lansing and medically forfeit out of both matches, similar to Nick Suriano last year, making him eligible for an NCAA wildcard selection that he will surely receive should that be the case.
Unlikely Suriano, Nolf does not appear to have any broken bones and any structural instability can at least be improved by wearing a brace should it be necessary and should he so choose.
It would not be at all surprising to see Nolf back to full strength in six weeks, but even if he’s not we’ve seen wrestlers have success on balky knees, most recently with current Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee who wrestled the 2017 on a fully torn ACL, finishing as the runner-up to current Drexel wrestler Austin DeSanto.
Should Nolf have to brace up the knee, it will be a matter of pain management than anything, though it will be interesting to see if he has his trademark pace and nonstop movement after sitting out a substantial period of time.
Hopefully for Nolf and Penn State, this is just a speed bump on the way to second-consecutive NCAA championship at 157 pounds and a third-consecutive team title.