Penn State Wrestling holds media day before the heat of the B1G Championships
NIVERSITY PARK — The big question swirling around the Penn State wrestling team — What is Jason Nolf’s status? — as the 2018 Big Ten Wrestling Championships approach was answered Wednesday, until it wasn’t.
Head coach Cael Sanderson was the first to meet the media at the team’s annual Big Ten Media Day and he was definitive in updating the defending NCAA 157-pound champion’s status a month after he suffered an apparent knee injury in a dual meet at Rutgers.
“He’s doing well. He’ll be wrestling on Saturday so we’ll see how things roll. He’s a tough kid and he’ll heal quickly so we’ll see him Saturday,” Sanderson said.
“He wouldn’t wrestle if he wasn’t cleared to go. He’s cleared and ready to go.”
When presented with a scenario that Nolf is closely monitored and perhaps even pulled out of the tournament if his injury flares up, Sanderson acknowledged that as a possibility.
“I think that would be a smart decision but right now the plan is to get him out there and let him compete and we’ll go from there,” he said.
So, Nolf has been cleared and is ready to go?
“He’s a tough kid but he’s been wrestling hard for awhile now so it’s not like he’s just drilling. He’s been working hard,” Sanderson said.
“He’s had a great attitude and he’s anxious to get on the mat.”
As the media session was wrapping up and practice was about to start, the media horde was moved outside of the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex wrestling room to wait for the last interview — Nolf.
He walked down the entranceway to the LWC with barely a limp and what appeared to be a brace on his knee under his sweatpants.
“Everything’s doing good,” Nolf said of his injury.
That’s when what had seemed clear became less so as Nolf was asked about when he had been cleared to compete.
“I don’t know if I’ve been cleared yet,” he said.
Then, when asked when he knew he was going to be competing in the Big Ten tournament, he offered another quizzical response.
“I didn’t know that was happening yet either,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Whether Nolf wrestles at Big Tens shouldn’t affect his ability to qualify for the NCAA championships on March 15-17 in Cleveland. Penn State found that out last year when Nick Suriano, who had broken his ankle in the final dual meet of the season, injury defaulted his first match at Big Tens and then medically forfeited. He still received a No. 3 seed at the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think he’d have to wrestle any matches,” Sanderson said. “We found that out last year with Suriano. That’s not going to be the same deal as this year for us. We want him to wrestle. He’s qualified now. He could get to the national tournament now.”
Nolf was tied for the No. 1 seed at 157 pounds with Iowa’s Michael Kemerer when the Big Ten announced the pre-seeds for the tournament earlier this week. That tie will be broken at the coaches’ meeting on Friday in East Lansing, Michigan.
The tournament starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and wraps up Sunday in Michigan State’s Breslin Center.