Fully-Healthy Jason Nolf Still Has History To Make For Penn State Wrestling
Jason Nolf understates his own talent.
The Penn State senior comes into the season as the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound wrestler in the country coming off back-to-back national titles at 157 pounds.
The most recent of those triumphs came after an injury layoff that put the repeat hopes in jeopardy — a feat that left head coach Cael Sanderson, who’s now led the Nittany Lions to seven team titles and 22 individual titles, searching for superlatives.
“[Nolf] returning and winning a national title under the conditions that he did last year was nothing short of a miracle in my mind,” Sanderson said.
Yet for everything he’s accomplished in his three seasons with Penn State and the status he holds heading into this final season as potentially the best in college wrestling, Nolf isn’t willing to divulge anything outside of his consistent focus.
Even after a title that’s lauded as one of the great comebacks of the NCAA Championships.
“It’s definitely a bit of adversity, but I just did what I had to do and stayed focused just like everybody else on the team,” Nolf said. “I just had different tasks to do, and just getting healthy and doing what I needed to do to get back out there.”
The knee injury occurred during the Rutgers dual last January. Missing the final three matchups of the season, Nolf returned for the opening day of the Big Ten Championships five weeks later, picking up a pair of wins before withdrawing prior to the semifinals.
Not fully fit, the Yatesboro, Pa., native was forced to take a more cautious approach to his bouts — contrary to the aggressive style that’s allowed him to collect 45 pins in his collegiate career.
There are takeaways from an experience like that when you’re not 100 percent, but there’s no question pre-injury Nolf will be back collecting bonus points for Penn State.
“At nationals I couldn’t wrestle as crazy. I had to wrestle a little bit more baseline, but I’m back to 100 percent so I’m feeling good,” he said. “I had to be [more conservative], but not anymore.”
Those quick victories and sheer dominance are what we’ve come to expect from Nolf.
As it stands, he’s already placed himself in unique company with two national titles. A third this season would match him for most in program history alongside Ed Ruth and Zain Retherford, and a fourth trip to the NCAA finals bout would make him the second Nittany Lion to accomplish that feat, alongside recent World Champion David Taylor.
Couple that with the fact he’s on pace to become Penn State’s all-time pins leader, just eight off the record 53 falls that Retherford completed last season.
But ask around the program and that’s only part of the reason why Nolf will be remembered for a long time to come.
It all goes back to the understated aspect, the “do what I need to do” example he sets, which will cement his place among Penn State’s all-time best.
“He’s a great leader, just a tremendous individual,” Sanderson said. “He’s just one of those guys who’s like an Ed Ruth, or a David Taylor, or a Quentin Wright, that you’re just dang happy they came to Penn State.”
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