Just when you’ve thought you’ve seen everything with senior Jason Nolf, the two-time national champ pulls something new out of his bag of tricks.
In his second-to-last performance in a blue and white singlet at Rec Hall — during Friday’s 37-10 win over Michigan State — Nolf used yet another one of his “secret moves” when, from a seated position, he extended his right arm into a headlock and turned Jake Tucker to his back for the pin in 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
How exactly Nolf pinned his opponent is hard to describe, even for a seasoned veteran like head coach Cael Sanderson, who’s seen it all over his decades in competing and coaching on both the collegiate and international level. When it comes to Nolf, Sanderson said you never know what to expect.
“What you can expect is he’s going to go get after it,” Sanderson said. “He’s going to score points in a lot of different ways. I don’t know if we’ve seen that before. Maybe that was a first, but I think there have been a lot of firsts with Jason, so it’s not anything surprising.”
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When asked if he’s ever seen a wrestler as willing to experiment as Nolf, Sanderson replied without hesitation.
“I don’t think so, no,” he said.
But for Nolf, it’s all about having fun, whether it’s making up new moves on the mat or joking with the media that he, at 157 pounds, is the one guy that’s too heavy for heavyweight Anthony Cassar — who had just roughed up an opponent 49 pounds heavier — to throw.
“I’m just blessed and thankful to be out here and trying to compete at the highest level and give my best effort,” Nolf said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”
The pin marked Nolf’s 12th of the year, and 57th of his career, as the program’s all-time pins leader.
Vincenzo Joseph (165 pounds) and blue-haired Bo Nickal (197) also added to their pin totals on Friday night. Joseph built off the momentum from Nolf’s match, putting up a big first period with three takedowns and a four-point near-fall tilt before locking up the cradle for the pin in 3:48. Nickal’s bout was over in just 35 seconds after converting a quick takedown into a cradle.
“They’re two of the most creative guys in the country,” Michigan State coach Roger Chandler said of Nolf and Nickal. “The biggest thing is they overwhelm their opponents. They have a lot of tools, and they have a lot of weapons to score with. It’s a tall task to try to scout all of that stuff out and adjust for it. Credit to them; they’ve put together a strong arsenal of weapons and they utilize it every match.”
Of the seven bouts Penn State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) won Friday night in its 57th straight dual victory, all of them were with bonus points.
“I think our team has done a great job,” Nolf said. “We’ve had some matches where we didn’t compete to the highest ability, but I think we’re always giving the highest effort and attitude and wrestle fearless. So did a great job of that again tonight.”
The fearless effort started at 125 pounds, when Penn State’s Devin Schnupp (6-13) was able to get a takedown off on No. 7 Rayvon Foley, to the loud roar of applause from the crowd. However, Foley proved too much and downed the sophomore with a 14-5 major decision. Filling in for Roman Bravo-Young, who was at home in Arizona for a funeral, senior backup Scott Stossel also put a fight at 133 pounds in a 4-1 loss to Anthony Tutolo.
Penn State’s third loss of the night against Michigan State (9-7, 3-5) came at 184 pounds, where Mason Manville was wrestling up two weight classes to fill in for the still-sidelined Shakur Rasheed. The redshirt freshman was down 5-1 going into the third period, where he got a quick escape and takedown to pull within two of No. 15 Cameron Caffey. The Spartan won by decision, 6-4.
“That shows me he’s fearless and willing to do whatever he can to help the team,” Nolf said about Manville bumping up. “He goes out there and he wrestles as hard as possible and gives 100 percent attitude and effort.”
Penn State’s other wins came by way of takedown clinics by Nick Lee at 141 and Jarod Verkleeren at 149 — both earned major decisions — to go along with a technical fall by Cassar and a disqualification at 174 pounds when Mark Hall’s opponent got hit with five stall warnings.
“Michigan State is a team that’s been improving each week and has had some nice wins in the past couple months” Sanderson said. “But I think our guys wrestled well, and I think they’re going to keep wrestling better as we progress to national tournament.”
No. 1 Penn State 37, Michigan State 10
Friday at Rec Hall
125: No. 7 Rayvon Foley, MSU, maj. dec. Devin Schnupp, PSU, 14-5
133: Anthony Tutolo, MSU, dec. Scott Stossel, PSU, 4-1
141: No. 2 Nick Lee, PSU, maj. dec. Austin Eicher, MSU, 19-7
149: Jarod Verkleeren, PSU, maj. dec. Jaden Enriquez, MSU, 12-3
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, PSU, pinned Jake Tucker, MSU, WBF (3:50)
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, pinned Austin Hiles, MSU, WBF (3:48)
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, win by DQ over Drew Hughes, MSU, DQ (5 stalls)
184: No. 15 Cameron Caffey, MSU, dec. Mason Manville, PSU, 6-4
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, pinned Brad Wilton, MSU, WBF (0:35)
285: No. 3 Anthony Cassar, PSU, tech fall Chase Beard, MSU, 21-6 (TF; 6:06)
Records: Penn State (12-0, 8-0 B1G), Michigan State (9-7, 3-5 B1G)
Next match: No. 1 Penn State at #19 Illinois, 2 p.m. Sunday