PSU winning streak in jeopardy with Nolf out

Commentary

This Saturday’s 8 p.m. clash between Penn State and Ohio State at Rec Hall has been highly anticipated among wrestling fans for a long time.

Depending upon what polls you follow, they are either first or second in all of them.

Some had been predicting the Buckeyes would be the team that would snap the Nittany Lions’ winning streak, which stands at 42 after Sunday’s 25-15 emotional victory over Rutgers.

And now with likelihood of not having returning NCAA champion Jason Nolf, who suffered what looked like was a serious knee injury against the Scarlet Knights’ John Van Brill in the second period, the Lions will have to be at their very best.

Who would replace Nolf? That is anybody’s guess right now, and coach Cael Sanderson probably will not be announcing that in advance. Nolf has stayed healthy in his career, so Sanderson hasn’t had to use a substitute for him.

There is speculation that, at least for this match, two-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford could move up to 157 and face No. 5 Micah Jordan. That would leave 149 open, so moving Nick Lee up from 141 to face No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes, pulling the redshirt of freshman Jarod Verkleeren or inserting another backup.

Verkleeren, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation as a senior at Hempfield, originally committed to Iowa State before changing his mind and picking Penn State. He’s 9-2 wrestling in open tournaments at 149, won the Bearcat Open and took eighth at the Southern Scuffle.

Ohio State is coming off of a 35-7 win over Purdue. The Lions defeated the Boilermakers, 43-6, but that was with Nolf in the lineup.

I’m giving the edge to the Buckeyes, but it should be interesting.

D6-2A Duals begin tonight

The District 6 Class 2A Duals wrestle-in doubleheader round begins tonight at three locations — Huntingdon, Forest Hills and Westmont Hilltop. West Branch will host on Wednesday night.

The top-seeded Bearcats, who have won four straight District 6 Duals titles, will take on either eighth-seeded Central or ninth-seeded Glendale. Central and Glendale wrestle at 6 p.m. at Huntingdon, and the Bearcats face the winner at about 7:30.

Sixth-seeded Penn Cambria faces 11th-seeded Marion Center for the chance to wrestle third-seeded Forest Hills. The Panthers lost to Forest Hills, 37-31, on Dec. 21.

In the bottom bracket, seventh-seeded Central Cambria takes on 10th-seeded Juniata. The winner wrestles second-seeded Westmont Hilltop. The Hilltoppers beat the Red Devils, 54-15, on Jan. 9.

Fourth-seeded West Branch will face the winner of 12th-seeded Bishop McCort and fifth-seeded Mount Union.

The winners move on to Saturday’s semifinals at 10 a.m. at Tyrone High School, and the championship and consolation will follow at around noon.

Only the top four Class 3A teams qualified for the Duals, and no area teams made the field. Philipsburg-Osceola, Altoona and Hollidaysburg were fifth through seventh in seed points. Bald Eagle Area is the top seed, followed by Central Mountain, Mifflin County and Bellefonte.

Chestnut Ridge is heavily favored to win its sixth straight District 5 Duals title. Ridge will host the Duals again, with the semis at 11 a.m. and the championship at 1 p.m.

Todd Irwin can be reached at tirwin@altoonamirror.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1.

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