Nittany Lion Jason Nolf out for meet against No. 2 Ohio State

UNIVERSITY PARK — The bad news is Penn State 157-pounder Jason Nolf, the defending NCAA 157-pound champion, won’t be able to help the No. 1 Nittany Lions in their battle with No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday.

The good news is he could be available to help Penn State pursue its third straight NCAA championship and what would be its seventh in the past eight seasons.

“I’d say he’s in good spirits. He’s optimistic. He just naturally gets ahead of schedule. He’s a tough, tough kid. He’s optimistic. We’re optimistic,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said Wednesday in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex.

Nolf injured his right knee and had to injury default in the Nittany Lions’ 25-15 win Sunday over No. 18 Rutgers.

Nolf, leading No. 17 John Van Brill 5-4, was engaged in a scramble when his right knee got torqued, leading to a stalemate. Nolf took injury time and could not get up from a seated position. After the coaches spoke to Nolf and trainer Dan Monthley examined the knee, Nolf injury defaulted at the 3:33 mark.

Nolf was helped off the mat and then carried into the lockerroom, putting no weight on his right leg.

Sanderson was elusive when asked Wednesday to specify if his injury was to his knee.

“It was elbow, shoulder, neck, I don’t remember,” he said, eliciting laughter from the assembled reporters.

“Regardless, he’s doing well; he really is. The scare initially was tough just because people care about him a lot, obviously, and we want to see him be successful. And he’s obviously a big part of our team. Luckily we’ve got some time right now. It helps.”

Sanderson said Nolf recovered quickly from the initial shock of the injury, clearly shown on his face during the live Big Ten Network broadcast.

“He wanted to wrestle the match. When we were taking him back to the center, he was saying ‘let me take top and I’ll pin him.’ I was looking at him like ‘I don’t know if you’re serious but we’re not going to wrestle you,'” Sanderson said.

“He’s just a tough kid. He’s very, very mentally strong. Injuries don’t really affect him a whole lot. We just want to get him back and give him a chance to be as strong as possible. He’s got time to do that.”

Nolf’s loss ended his personal streak of 46 consecutive wins. Before Sunday, his last setback dated back to his NCAA finals loss to Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in the 2016 NCAA Championships.

Nolf was not at practice during the media availability on Wednesday.

Sanderson said it was fair to say that Nolf’s replacement would be either redshirt freshman Luke Gardner or redshirt freshman Bo Pipher.