Nolf injured in Nittany Lions victory

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Team and individual winning streaks took a backseat Sunday to what could be a devastating injury for No. 1 Penn State in its 25-15 win over No. 18 Rutgers at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Defending NCAA 157-pound champion Jason 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 locker room, putting no weight on his right leg.

There was no initial diagnosis of the injury or prognosis for recovery immediately after the match.

“We’ll find out tomorrow. He’ll see a doctor in the morning. It’s pretty sore right now,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said by phone from the team bus.

Penn State won seven of 10 bouts in front of a RAC record crowd of 8,321 raucous fans and built a 39-13 edge in takedowns, but nothing came easy for the Nittany Lions in their 42nd straight win.

“They have a tough team. They had a great crowd, a lot of energy. I wouldn’t say we wrestled fantastically, but the guys had to dig deep a couple times,” Sanderson said.

As expected, top-ranked Nick Suriano kicked off the dual meet with a big win for the Scarlet Knights. The former Nittany Lion, who transferred at the end of the summer, is the first Rutgers wrestler to be ranked No. 1 in the history of the program. He scored nine takedowns on Devin Schnupp before turning him and pinning him in 6:41, bringing the first RAC sell-out crowd in program history to its feet.

Suriano admitted to feeling a little extra emotion facing his former team.

“I felt it a little bit, but it was the same preparation. It was just another match. I made sure I ramped it up and did what I had to do to get the fall,” he said. He also addressed Nolf’s injury.

“It’s tough to see. I went through it. I broke my ankle right on the mat. I had my whole season stripped. I feel for him.”

No. 19 Scott Delvecchio kept the momentum going for Rutgers as he evaded a tying takedown attempt from Corey Keener in the third period and then scored a counter takedown of his own for a 6-2 win at 133.

“It was a tossup at 133. If you want to be an All-American, you have to go win those matches,” Sanderson said.

Nick Lee finally got Penn State on the board with a 5-2 decision at 141. Lee used two first-period takedowns and an escape in the third to edge Michael Van Brill.

Penn State drew to within 9-7 after Zain Retherford scored a contentious 14-2 major decision over Eleazar DeLuca at 149. Retherford used four takedowns and benefitted from four penalty points for unsportsmanlike conduct by DeLuca to fashion the win.

That led to Nolf’s injury default and Rutgers led a shellshocked Penn State, 15-6, at the intermission. Penn State lost a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct on the bench following Nolf’s default.

“We were walking back and asking him (referee Nate Chapman) about the position. It was a dangerous position. We were hoping he would protect the wrestlers a little quicker. If you do call it, then someone else gets mad. It was just in the moment,” Sanderson said.

Penn State came out of the break facing a rare nine-point deficit and having to oversome the emotions of Nolf’s injury. While the Nittany Lions swept the final five bouts, it was a struggle emotionally and physically.

During the break, the coaches reportedly said little about the injury or how to rally from that and the deficit.

“It was more unspoken, nonverbal, a slap on the head and a ‘let’s go, let’s keep it going,'” 197-pounder Anthony Cassar said.

Vincenzo Joseph was first up. He scored two takedowns on No. 17 John Van Brill and added an escape, fighting off a late barrage of attempts to hang on for a 5-4 win.

“It sucks anytime a teammate goes down. You’ve got to focus on yourself. The best way to help the team is to worry about yourself. I just focused on my match. Jason’s going to be fine,” Joseph said.

Mark Hall followed a 24-9 technical fall in 7:00. He scored 10 takedowns on Joe Grello.

Sanderson sounded pleased with how his guys rallied and he singled out Joseph and Hall.

“It’s an individual thing. These guys have to be ready to go on their own. It’s a time you have to dig deep and go wrestle well,” he said. “It’s a tough deal wondering if he’s going to be OK and then have to turn around and go wrestle. They responded pretty well. Vincenzo looked pretty good and Mark did great.”

With Penn State within 15-14, Bo Nickal gave the Lions their first lead of the day with a tight 6-5 win over No. 12 Nicholas Gravina at 184.

Cassar, a New Jersey native who estimated he had 150 people in the stands to watch him, extended Penn State’s lead to 21-15 with a 16-5 win over backup Anthony Messner. Cassar recorded seven takedowns.

“It was awesome. It was one of my dreams, my goals this season. I embraced every moment of it. It was super fun,” he said. He admitted it took a while to get his mind right after Nolf’s injury.

“It definitely did. That was heartbreaking, especially since I’ve been through injuries. The coaches did a good job of keeping our heads on straight and coming back out and worrying about ourselves. That’s what he wants and that’s what everybody wants.”

Nick Nevills sealed the win for Penn State, scoring nine takedowns in a 21-7 major decision over backup Ralph Normandia.

Despite the loss, Rutgers coach Scott Goodale sounded pleased with the atmosphere.

“It’s good for Rutgers University, it’s good for Rutgers wrestling. This was our vision. I hope our New Jersey fans leave here going ‘Wow, that was exciting. I need to come back.’ This thing is going to get bigger and better. There’s no question about it,” he said.

Penn State returns to action at 8 p.m. Saturday night against Ohio State in the Bryce Jordan Center. It will be a battle between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country.

125: No. 1 Nick Suriano, RU, pinned Devin Schnupp, 6:41. 133: No. 19 Scott Delvecchio, RU, dec. Corey Keener, 6-2. 141: No. 7 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. Michael Van Brill, 5-2. 149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, PSU, maj. dec. No. 13 Eleazar DeLuca, 14-2. 157: No. 17 John Van Brill, RU, won by inj. def. over No. 1 Jason Nolf, 3:33.*

165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, dec. No. 11 Richie Lewis, 5-4. 174: No. 2 Mark Hall, PSU, won by tech. fall over Joe Grello, 24-9 (7:00). 184: No. 1 Bo Nickal, PSU, dec. No. 12 Nicholas Gravina, 6-5. 197: Anthony Cassar, PSU, maj. dec. Anthony Messner, 16-5. 285: No. 6 Nick Nevills, PSU, maj. dec. Ralph Normandia, 21-7.

Penn State bench deducted one team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Referee: Nate Chapman.

Attendance: 8, 319.

Takedowns: Penn State 39; Rutgers 13.

Records: Penn State 11-0, 7-0; Rutgers 5-5, 1-4.