NCAA Tournament Preview: Jason Nolf Looks to Cap an Outstanding Career

By Rob Dougherty on March 19, 2019 at 9:15 am
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

For our NCAA Tournament preview series, we are analyzing the paths for all nine of Penn State's NCAA qualifiers. On Monday, we reviewed Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Brady Berge's NCAA Tournament paths. Today, we are looking at Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall's projected NCAA Tournament matchups. Through 149 pounds, I have predicted Penn State to have 24 team points. Last year, Nolf accounted for 23 team points, can he account for even more this time around? 

No. 1 Jason Nolf - 157 pounds

Potential Path

  • First Round - No. 32 Alexander Klucker (Lock Haven) or No. 33 Ben Anderson (Duke)
  • Second Round - No. 16 John Van Brill (Rutgers) or No. 17 BC LaPrade (Virginia Tech)
  • Quarterfinals - No. 8 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) or No. 9 Christian Pagdilao (Arizona State)
  • Semifinals - No. 4 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan) or No. 5 Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State)
  • Finals - No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska)

A weight class with this much depth would be fascinating if Jason Nolf didn't exist. The problem for the rest of the field is he does. Nolf has been far ahead of the field since Isaiah Martinez moved up to 165 pounds in 2017, and he is poised to grab another NCAA title. There is some legitimate talent at this weight, but it doesn't really matter considering how good Nolf is. He comes into the NCAA Tournament with 59 career pins, and could easily end up over 60, and put his record out of reach for teammate Bo Nickal. 

His first round opponent is going to be the winner of the pigtail round between Alexander Klucker and Ben Anderson. Nolf's not only going to be favored to win, he will be favored to get a tech fall or pin. Neither of them are on Nolf's level.

The most interesting second round matchup possibility will be if he faces John Van Brill. He picked up an injury default win over Nolf last season during a controversial dual at Rutgers. They have not faced each other all season, so it would be an added storyline for fans if these two wrestle. Nolf would get to close a chapter on his only other loss. 

The quarterfinals and semifinals will likely be against familiar opponents. Among Nolf's potential quarterfinal opponents, he pinned Luke Humphreys, and beat Christian Pagdilao by major decision earlier this season. Alec Pantaleo has never beaten Nolf, even if he got close in one match against him last season in Ann Arbor. Nolf beat Hidlay in the NCAA final last season. He would be favored against all four, or anyone else who gets in the way. There is no standout darkhorse out there that seems likely to prevent Hidlay or Pantaleo from getting to the final. 

I think almost everyone wants to see Tyler Berger get one more crack at Jason Nolf in the final, however. Mainly due to a tweet he sent out after he lost 10-4 to Nolf earlier this season. 

Berger added more fireworks with what he said after their Big Ten final last week as well, adding "one more! one more!" as Nolf was getting his hand raised after winning by major decision. Berger is at least confident, the problem is he isn't Jason Nolf, and it's hard to see a match between these two go any other way than a Nolf win. Here's the scoring breakdown between Berger and Nolf during their matches in their NCAA careers:

Nice. Sometimes you're the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. Jason Nolf is a bear, and Tyler Berger is not. Expect another Nolf win, and it may even be by bonus one more time. 

Prediction - First place, 25.5 team points contributed with lots of bonus points and Berger not getting a scalp

Team Total Points After 157 - 49.5

This is the start of where Penn State is going to separate themselves from the field. Nolf essentially begins their murderers' row of wrestlers seeded either first or second. Nolf is that far ahead of the field that it almost seems unfair. Berger is doing all the talking, Nolf is doing all the walking, and do not expect that to change on Saturday night.