No. 1 Penn State vs. Buffalo: Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf's Senior Day

By Rob Dougherty on February 22, 2019 at 1:11 pm
Mar 15, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wrestler Jason Nolf competes against Wisconsin Badgers wrestler Andrew Crone during the NCAA Wrestling DI Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

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The final dual of Penn State's season is upon us. This Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in Rec Hall, No. 1 Penn State (13-0, 9-0 B1G) will put their 56 dual match winning streak on the line against a solid Buffalo (11-4, 4-2 MAC) squad. Penn State will be hosting senior day, and Nittany Lion fans will be forced to say goodbye to Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf, two all-time greats for Penn State. Shakur Rasheed and Nick Nevills are other notables set to be recognized. 

However, most of the focus will be on Nickal and  Nolf. They also happen to be the frontrunners for the Hodge Trophy, and the rest of the field isn't particularly close. Penn State has been incredibly fortunate to see these two blossom into the talents they have become. 

Nickal is the current favorite for the Hodge Trophy, and who has come up bigger when a team has needed them than him? He's a three-time finalist, two-time NCAA champion, and two-time Big Ten champion. He's had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Many will remember when Myles Martin threw Nickal to his back and beat him at Madison Square Garden for a national title. That was probably the lowest point of his college career. He of course gone on to achieve so many great things, like beating Gabe Dean (Cornell) for a national title and pinning the aforementioned Martin for a team and national title last year. Nickal has epitomized Penn State wrestling, and has brought a much appreciated swagger and confidence. Nickal is the most dangerous man in college wrestling. 

Nolf is in a similar boat. Despite not being the top choice for the Hodge Trophy at this moment in time, no one can doubt his dominance. Outside of an injury forfeit loss, Nolf's only career losses came to two-time national champion Isaiah Martinez. Nolf has been dominating quietly for his entire career, and he looks set to become a four-time finalist and three-time champion at 157 pounds. He has wowed the wrestling world with his creativity and ability for four seasons. He will likely leave Penn State as the all-time pin leader, and he will go down as one of the all-time greats. 

Shakur Rasheed and Nick Nevills will also be honored. There is a chance that Shakur Rasheed could be eligible to wrestle due to a medical redshirt next season. However, it's unknown what the NCAA will decide at this time, and his case for a medical redshirt is not as strong as Anthony Cassar's.

Rasheed has had an interesting career at Penn State if Sunday is indeed his final dual. He began his career making a harsh cut down to 165, but couldn't hold the weight effectively, ultimately losing out for that spot to Geno Morelli. He then got lost in the Nickal and Mark Hall shuffle at 174 and 184 in 16-17, before popping up at 197 pounds in 17-18, despite being the third stringer there for the first half of the season. Rasheed went on to earn All-American status at 197 pounds. This season has been marred with injury and Rasheed has not been able to compete as much. However, he's going to be an All-American contender in March if he's right, perhaps even a potential finalist. 

Nevills will take the Rec Hall mat as a Penn State wrestler for the final time as well. Nevills has been a two-time All-American, and really came up big in some spots for Penn State in the past. In 2017-18 against Lehigh, with their dual streak on the line, Nevills was able to get a third period ride out against Jordan Wood, and cement the win for Penn State. Against Ohio State that same year, facing all-world Kyle Snyder, Nevills pushed the Olympic and World champion before losing by a decision. A result which secured that dual for Penn State. Despite being passed by No. 3 Anthony Cassar as a senior, Nevills has represented the Penn State program very well, and provided some memorable moments. It would be cool to see Nevills compete at Rec one final time, but with a ranked matchup on hand, we could very well see Cassar again. 

No. 2 Nick Lee vs. No. 15 Bryan Lantry is one of the two potential ranked matchups. Lee has really gained some confidence and notoriety with his win over No. 3 Joey McKenna, so it will be interesting to see how Lee wrestles just two weeks out from Big Tens. No. 5 Mike Carr (Illinois) very well may have locked up the No. 1-seed at Big Tens by not wrestling Lee last weekend. So, Lee will look to at least help his national seeding, and another ranked win would certainly do that. 

Projected Matchups 

Weight Matchup (Penn State in bold)
125 Devin Schnupp (6-14) vs. Kyle Akins (13-9)
133 No. 11 Roman Bravo-Young (16-2) vs. Derek Spann (17-2)
141 No. 2 Nick Lee (23-1) vs. No. 15 Bryan Lantry (9-1)
149 No. 11 Brady Berge (15-2) or Jarod Verkleeren (15-6) vs. Jason Estevez (7-11)
157 No. 1 Jason Nolf (22-0) vs. Alex Smythe (10-5)
165  No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (20-0) vs. Troy Keller (14-6)
174 No. 1 Mark Hall (22-0) vs. Jake Lanning (4-12)
184 No. 2 Shakur Rasheed (15-0) vs. Logan Rill (8-13)
197 No. 1 Bo Nickal (21-0) vs. Brett Perry (15-8)
285 No. 3 Anthony Cassar (20-1) or Nick Nevills (8-2) vs. No. 15 Jake Gunning (14-4)
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