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Experience and Youth Lead the Way to the Postseason

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Heading into the Big Ten Championships this weekend, the Nittany Lions will rely on both their oldest and youngest wrestlers as the program seeks its fifth conference championship under head coach Cael Sanderson.

Having one more go-around, Nico Megaludis is excited that he still has one final chance to go out and win the 125 title. Coming so close in his last Big Ten Championships appearance where the senior finished runner-up, Megaludis doesn't think about that match too much and instead looks to the future and what he can control.

"I don't dwell on that. It's a new year, and obviously I want to win, so being in the past doesn't affect my wanting to win it any more or less," said Megaludis.

Megaludis compares wrestling in the toughest conference in the country to being in a high school state championship match week in and week out because of the level of competition that the Big Ten produces at each school. Having to constantly be at your best every week is something that Megaludis relishes in because he knows that experience is the biggest thing that prepares him for the postseason.

The conference tournament also provides an opportunity for wrestlers to see each other again and become familiar with each other's styles. With this knowledge, some wrestlers could come up with different game plans on attacking their opponent, which is something that Megaludis doesn't mess too much with.

"I just keep my own strategy," said Megaludis. "I mean, there's no reason to really change anything. You have to be smart if they have something crazy, but you just have to wrestle your own style."

For Bo Nickal, the regular season also allowed the freshman to become familiar with his competition, as he has already wrestled six of the 14 grapplers in the 174 bracket. Having a sense of knowing what to expect doesn't change the approach or mindset of the Allen, Texas, native, who keeps the same approach every time.

"No. Just stay the same strategy, just one match at a time and wrestle everybody the same, so it doesn't really matter if I wrestle him one time or one thousand times," said Nickal.

With the sensational performances of Jason Nolf and Nickal this season, Megaludis doesn't feel the need to provide advice for these freshmen about what to expect in the postseason because of the confidence they already carry with them.

"They are as experienced as you can get. They know what to do," said Megaludis. "We all just know what to do and it's pretty cool that you know that the [freshmen] know that they are the best."

With guys like Megaludis and Morgan McIntosh getting ready for their final Big Tens appearance, Nickal he is excited to get after his first Big Ten Championships appearance and is ready to compete. Having a full season of dual matches under his belt, Nickal's preparation for this upcoming weekend won't include much feedback from the dual season and instead, the freshman is just trying to focus on himself and how can get better.

The biggest lesson that McIntosh has learned throughout his years at the tournament is managing your body. The senior says each guy has to know they are going to feel tired and have to deal with little injuries throughout the weekend.

"It's important to know how your body's going to feel and you are going to be tired and you are going to get little injuries that you have to deal with and I guess that's one thing that I would want these guys to know that you are going to be hurting and it's going to feel like a little bit of a grind because the Big Ten Tournament is a tough tournament and you're going to wrestle tough guys. Every match is going to be a good match," said McIntosh.  

Confidence has been a big key for this group throughout the year, which has led to the whole team being loose. Staying relaxed has also allowed this team not to get fatigued at this point in the season, which is something that McIntosh credits to his coaching staff as well for keeping the whole team fresh all year.

"Yea I think we have a lot of confidence and we're just really enjoying the year. We try to have fun and just enjoy the whole process," said McIntosh. "Our coaches have a good system of peaking us for this time of the year and we are ready to go and we are excited and still having fun and we are not worn out at all."

Even though the outside pressure certainly ramps up during this time of the year, McIntosh and his teammates take each match with the same mindset. Facing big crowds before and constantly being the hunted throughout the season has helped this team not feel the pressure and instead, treat the Big Tens like just another match.  

"I think on a match-by-match basis, we shouldn't take it any differently," said McIntosh. "The atmosphere is definitely different and you have all of those different sections of the Big Ten teams cheering and getting loud and it's exciting, but we've had crowds like that and bigger at the Bryce Jordan Center, so I think we are used to an intensity level like that. We shouldn't be wrestling any differently because it's the Big Tens.

Being able to close out his career as a Big Ten champion one more time is the biggest goal for the senior. Winning his second would be pretty special.

"It would mean a lot," said McIntosh. "It's what I've wanted to do and just have fun with it and enjoy every last little bit of time I have left here."

VIDEO: Big Ten Championships Preview with Cael Sanderson (3/1/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team has reached the best month in the sport.

The Big Ten and NCAA wrestling champions will be decided in the next three weeks. First, the 14 wrestling teams representing the Big Ten will congregate in Iowa City on Saturday for the 2016 Big Ten Championships. The two-day tournament will crown the 10 individual Big Ten champs and the team champ in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Action begins on Saturday at 10 a.m. CT on Saturday. Penn State finished its regular season with a 16-0 record in duals and will head into the postseason with three wrestlers earning a No. 1 pre-seed for the Big Ten Championships. Penn State and Iowa shared the Big Ten regular season crown, with both teams finishing at 9-0 in conference duals. will be on-site in Iowa City throughout the weekend. Stay tuned for extensive written, video and photo coverage from the 2016 Big Ten Championships.

Leading up to Penn State's trip to Iowa, spent time with head coach Cael Sanderson.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Capture National Dual Meet Title

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a palpable buzz in Rec Hall in anticipation of the top two teams squaring off, top-ranked Penn State continued to roll as they downed the Cowboys of Oklahoma State to capture the first ever NWCA National Dual Championship Series title.

With the main focus from day one being Big Tens and Nationals, it is easy to put a match like this on the backburner and focus on the postseason that's just two short weeks away. For Sanderson, the match was big for two reasons. Winning every match is always the goal, but even more importantly, the sixth-year coach believes his guys are wrestling at their best.

"This is a big deal to us. We want to win the dual championship, but it's more about getting ready as we are moving forward getting into Big Tens and Nationals," said Sanderson. "I think our guys are where we want them to be at this point."

Earning the national dual championship is something Sanderson is proud of when you look at the season his team had, going undefeated in the dual meet schedule for the first time since 1972. The 9-0 Big Ten record is also the second time in Penn State history that the team has not lost or tied a conference match.

"I think these guys had such a great year dual meet wise, dual meet after dual meet," said Sanderson. "You want to go out there and finish strong and if you don't finish strong, I think that's no fun, but they did a good job. I think they have to be happy moving forward."

The coaching staff was confident coming into the season of the talent that was on this roster. Receiving a boost with the return of Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford along with the success from a couple of freshmen were the biggest keys to the unblemished record. The biggest takeaway in going undefeated for the first time in Sanderson's tenure was that the team kept grinding towards the end of the season when the schedule ramped up.

"I think we were confident with the team we had coming in. It seems like the last eight weeks, it was just tough team, tough team, tough team," said Sanderson. "It takes a lot of strength and character to continue to step up and wrestle well and not have a bad match here or a bad match there, so that's a real testament to these guys up here and the rest of the team."

Bonus points, just as they have all season long, played another big role in helping the Nittany Lions notch their 16th victory of the season. Tallying three pins on the afternoon allowed the Blue and White to make up for the fact that they allowed a technical fall as well as giving up six points due to an injury default.

"I think pins are huge in a big dual meet like that. Bonus points are huge, but more than that, I always say it's more about the attitude," said Sanderson. "If you are wrestling with some fire in your bones, bonus points will come and I think our guys are wrestling with some fire and they enjoy what they are doing out there and the result is going to be bonus points."

Starting off the bout for the very last time at Rec Hall was Nico Megaludis, who was able to close out his wrestling career at Rec Hall the same way he started it five years ago.

"I mean I don't like to show emotion, but I guess I did a little bit. It was my last match and it's pretty cool," said Megaludis. "I haven't been the biggest pinner in the world, and my first match here, it was against Bloomsburg my freshman year, I pinned the kid and then go out like this, that's kind of special."

The pin was just the redshirt senior's 17th career fall and his sixth in dual meets at Rec Hall. The pin came at such a rare time, it caught teammate Jordan Conaway off guard, who was forced to rush to get ready to wrestle.

"I was getting ready, but still had my clothes on and everything and everyone was going nuts and [Nico] somehow pinned him, so I had to hurry up and get ready to go," said Conaway.

Like all new events, there are always things that can be changed and ideas to make the championship the best it can be. Sanderson likes the idea of a dual championship meet and thinks the format of just one match compared to a tournament is better because it isn't as taxing on the grapplers by the time the postseason comes around. One thing this dual series does do is that it allows teams that don't usually matchup to get a chance to wrestle each other, which provides the extra excitement for the fans.

For Morgan McIntosh, it was special to be able to win the first ever dual meet national championship at Rec Hall in front of the Nittany Lion faithful, but the senior, like the rest of the team, realizes that this was not the ultimate goal and still have their eyes set on the big prize.

"It's exciting, but nothing like winning a team national title," said McIntosh. "It's exciting and we are happy and we are wrestled hard today and we wrestled to win and we are happy to get that win, but I think it doesn't really compare to the team tournament."

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Oklahoma State (2/20/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind three pins, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (16-0, 9-0 Big Ten) won the NWCA Dual Championship series title with a 29-18 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State (13-3) inside sold out Rec Hall on Sunday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions claimed victories in six of the 10 bouts, including four wins featuring bonus points. Penn State tallied three pins - Nico Megaludis, Jason Nolf and Morgan McIntosh, and one technical fall - Bo Nickal en route to the dual national title.

With the dual season now complete, the Nittany Lions scored an undefeated season (no losses and no ties) for the first time since the 1971-72 season. Now, the team shifts focus towards the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City (March 5-6). Take a look at highlights from Sunday's win and hear from the Nittany Lions in the post-match press conference.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lions Set to Host Oklahoma State For Dual Championship

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11703891.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Oklahoma State will square off this Sunday to determine who is the best dual meet team in the country in the first-ever NWCA Dual Meet Championship Series.

The first dual meet series pits the top eight Big Ten teams against the eight highest ranked conference winners. The winner of Sunday's dual match will be deemed as the 2016 NWCA Dual Meet Champion, as the Nittany Lions and the Cowboys are the highest ranked teams.

For the 21st time, the Nittany Lions and Cowboys will meet on the mat. While Oklahoma State owns a 13-6-1 edge in the series, the two have split the last two meetings, with Oklahoma State winning a tight match last season 21-18. Being unsure of who head coach Cael Sanderson's squad would be wrestling until Monday, Sanderson knew that whoever the opponent was, the team had to wrestle their best they have all season.

"They are all great times whether it's Oklahoma State or North Carolina State or Missouri," said Sanderson. "They are all great teams and we have to wrestle and be at our best regardless of who it is."

Having a chance to avenge their loss from last season, Sanderson is excited for this opportunity and is also thankful to be in this position where his team has a chance to be named the best dual team in the country.

"Oklahoma State has a great team. We wrestled them the last two years and we split with them. It's a very good team," said Sanderson. "We are excited for the opportunity obviously and grateful for the opportunity. Our guys really had a great year and they earned the opportunity to wrestle in the national championship dual, so that's the first of its kind so that's exciting and something that we are looking forward too."

Having a postseason dual like this has also brought up many other discussion questions, including the one of having a Big Ten dual championship. Splitting the regular season Big Ten championship with Iowa, the talk of having a regular season championship has been thrown around. Sanderson believes wrestling should model the conference split like football does, with an east and west division and having the winner of each wrestle for the title of Big Ten dual champion.

"Obviously, we need to a legitimate Big Ten champion and I don't think anybody wants to share a championship, but it's easier said than done," said Sanderson. "We meet every year and we talk about the same things every year as the coaches in the Big Ten."

The biggest risk in doing this is just extending what is an already long season. With wrestling being a different sport than football in regards to wrestlers trying to manage their weight, Sanderson believes this idea is easier said than done.

"The season is already long enough and when you start adding more and more dates, that's kind of the issue. You don't want a championship season to be two months long either," said Sanderson. "You don't want a Big Ten championship, then the dual championship, then the other Big Ten championship, at least that's my opinion. It's easier said than done when you're just adding more and more competitions."

Another tricky situation about having the dual championship is how close the match falls to Big Tens and Nationals. It is tough to move it up earlier because then you start to eliminate non-conference matches in November and December, which is something that Sanderson does not want to give up as his teams have wrestled some of the best teams outside of the Big Ten in the country. While the goal is to win the dual meet championship this weekend, Sanderson also has his sights set on the overall goal of the program, which is to be wrestling their best at Big Tens and Nationals.

"The main goal is a Big Ten championship for us and the national championship," said Sanderson. "This week is a real tough training week for us and next week is a real tough training week for us as we are getting ready for the Big Ten's and Nationals, but we want to be at our best and we want to finish this season strong with the dual meet championship and we have an excellent team coming in that's hungry and wants the same thing we want."

Oklahoma State enters Sunday with nine potential wrestlers ranked in the top 20. The Cowboys have two grapplers ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes, led by two-time national champion Alex Dieringer at 165 and All-American Dean Heil at 141. With the rotation of Shakur Rasheed and Geno Morelli at 165, Sanderson has a big decision to make not just for Sunday, but for the rest of the season as well. 

"Dieringer is pretty good and two-time national champion, so it's a challenge for anybody that wrestles him," said Sanderson. "We are still playing with that weight class, but we are getting close, but it could be something we decide a week before the conference meet."

The biggest key for the Nittany Lions is confidence. Sanderson preaches to his team that you have to build confidence first before anything else and if you wait for confidence to come to you, you will get in trouble on the mat. If his team can go out and wrestle with confidence throughout the postseason, the sixth year coach is confident in the results that should come.

"Well if you go out and wrestle and do what you do everyday, it can build your confidence," said Sanderson. "You don't have to wait for everything to clear out and you just do what you know is right, and confidence comes. My encouragement would be just do what you know is right, do the right thing, wrestle the way you know and hustle and attitude and effort and confidence comes after that." 

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Nick Nevills (2/16/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (15-0, 9-0 Big Ten) will host No. 2 Oklahoma State (12-2) in the 2016 NWCA Dual Meet Championship Series title event on Sunday at 5 p.m. inside Rec Hall (BTN). caught up with freshman Nick Nevills this week to talk about his first two matches for the Nittany Lions. Nevills went 1-1 over the weekend and is now ranked No. 16 at 285 pounds.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Seniors Spark Big Ten-Clinching Win Over Spartans

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the final time in their regular season dual meet careers, Nico Megaludis, Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh took to the Rec Hall mat in their blue and white Penn State singlets on Saturday.

For head coach Cael Sanderson, this group has meant a lot, as the trio has combined for 297 wins, seven All-American laurels and three national championships.

"They are all special in their own way, but I mean they are all just very consistent and quality all the way around. Guys that obviously we are going to miss," said Sanderson. "They've continued to get better and have continued just to do great things. They've had a lot of success in their careers as a team and as individuals."

Megaludis started the festivities off strong, tallying six takedowns in his 17-5 major decision over Mitch Rogaliner. The redshirt senior has set the tone for the Nittany Lions this season, which is something that Megaludis has done so well throughout his entire career.

"Nico, we talk about Nico all the time. From the first match to the last match, he's the same," said Sanderson. "He's going full speed ahead and has been a tremendous leadoff guy for us. All three, especially Nico, is a 3.5 plus student and going to be very successful in life."

Following the major decision, Conaway brought the capacity crowd to arguably the loudest it would be all night, pinning Garth Yenter at the 5:59 mark. The pin was just the second this season for the senior and the fifth of his Nittany Lion career. While Conaway is not a pinner, Sanderson isn't surprised by the outcome because the Abbottstown, Pa., native is peaking at the right time.

"I don't know if I was surprised. He's wrestling really well right now and he doesn't get a lot of pins, but we like him to get more, especially in this last month," said Sanderson.

For Sanderson, Conaway has been one of his favorite guys to coach because of the attitude the senior approaches every match with. Calling him a gamer, Sanderson says how Conaway doesn't get frustrated when a match doesn't go to plan and instead of panicking, he just keeps wrestling his style.

"If he gives up a takedown, he doesn't get frustrated and he just keeps wrestling. If things don't go perfectly as planned, he doesn't get frustrated and he just keeps wrestling," said Sanderson. "Those are the guys that are obviously the most fun to coach. Just a big heart and he's meant a lot to the program, but it's nice to see that big pin."

When looking at the past four years, Sanderson raves about Conaway's character and even went as far as saying if he had a daughter, she would want him to date a person like Conaway.

"Conaway is just a great kid. If you have a daughter, you want her to date him," said Sanderson. "He's just a great kid and works hard everyday and has had a lot of success and we are glad he came to Penn State."

The Nittany Lions hit their groove after the Conaway pin, as Zain Retherford tallied a 24-9 technical fall and Jason Nolf put the match away with a first period pin, his second in two days. McIntosh brought the sold out Rec Hall crowd to their feet one more time, pinning Jacob Cooper at 4:22. For McIntosh, the pin was extra special because he finally nailed a half, something that he's been working a lot on in practice.

"A half was always one of my favorite moves growing up, but I never really narrowed it down and got it to the point where I could do it to anyone, but it's something I've been working on and coach Cael has a great half series and he's been working with me on it," said McIntosh. "I'm just looking forward to Big Ten's and Nationals, where I can use those turns there and score bonus points for the team."

For the Santa Ana, Calif., native, one of the biggest things he will miss about wrestling for Penn State is the fan support the team receives every match. The most impressive part of the fan base for McIntosh is how far they travel to watch the Nittany Lions wrestle, which he attests is due to the style of wrestling the coaches preach to the team. 

"It's pretty cool. I don't think I could say enough about the fan base that we have. Growing up in California, we have great high school wrestling out there but no big programs like this, so I was never able to go to a big match like we have here and see the type of fan base that throughout our programs like this," said McIntosh.

For Sanderson, having McIntosh on the team has meant a lot to him, realizing the senior traveled across the country to wrestle for his squad.

"Morgan, he came all the way from California to wrestle at Penn State and was all the way across the country from his family and that means a lot to us," said Sanderson.

With the Big Ten Championships and Nationals just a few weeks away, McIntosh has his eye on the true prize and is happy to be on a team as talented as this one for his last go around. Being on a rebuilding team last season, the drive is even higher to win a national championship with this team this season.

"I am very grateful to be on a team like this for my senior year and I think we are going to win the title and I think everybody on the team is on the same page and they think so too," said McIntosh. "It's pretty cool to know that it's not over this year and it's going to get better and better after I leave. It's going to be fun to watch in these next couple of years."

VIDEO: Wrestling Highlights and Interviews vs. Michigan State (2/13/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a packed house inside Rec Hall, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (15-0, 9-0 Big Ten) clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a dominant 41-3 effort against Michigan State (1-13, 1-8 Big Ten) on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions claimed victories in nine of the 10 bouts, including six wins featuring bonus points. Penn State tallied three pins - Jordan Conaway, Jason Nolf and Morgan McIntosh, two technical falls - Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal, and a major decision - Nico Megaludis.

Penn State's three seniors shined in on Senior Night to help fuel the Lions to a share of the conference crown. Take a look through highlights from seniors Megaludis, Conaway and McIntosh and all of the team's pins, in addition to post-match remarks from the media room.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Senior Day to Honor Nittany Lion Wrestlers

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By Ryan Hickey, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With senior day Saturday against Michigan State (7 p.m.), this Nittany Lion wrestling senior class, including Nico Megaludis, Jordan Conaway and Morgan McIntosh, has been integral in a tremendous run of success.

While this class, especially Megaludis and McIntosh, has been a part of three national championship teams, head coach Cael Sanderson labeled that what they bring off the mat as their biggest contributions.

"This is a real strong class. Not only our superstar guys, but just a great class of kids, great students," said Sanderson. "Our team GPA, we've been in the top 10 pretty much every year in the nation and that's a reflection of them and they are just good kids that come from good families. It's tough to think they are seniors and we won't have them again."

The trio has combined for 292 career wins and seven All-American nods. Given all of the success, it is tough for the seniors to leave the place that has made them so successful. With a match as emotional as senior day, Conaway is still taking Saturday's match against Michigan State just as he would any other match.

"Excited as always. Can't believe it's already coming to a close here, but I'm going to treat it as any other match and just go out there and have fun," said Conaway.

For McIntosh, Saturday isn't a day he's been thinking about too much because the thought of leaving this team is a depressing thought for the senior.

"Honestly, I'm trying not to think about it a whole lot because I know it will make me kind of sad," said McIntosh. "I'm trying to look forward to it and just trying to enjoy every minute that I have left."

Senior day is more than just about celebrating the senior class and what they have accomplished during their time in a Penn State singlet, as it also has a big impact on the underclassmen as well. For redshirt freshman standout Jason Nolf, he's losing not just a great teammate, but a friend and mentor off the mat.

"[Morgan's] been a great role model for me and he's been there for me if I ever needed anything," said Nolf. "It's been awesome living with him."

While still looking for his first individual national title, leading his team to its sixth national championship is the ultimate goal for the Santa Ana, Calif. native.

"Ultimately I want to win a national title for our team and to win it this year in my last year going out with a bunch of young guys like this would be awesome," said McIntosh. "I just know that this is a really special team and there's not a lot of teams out there that can have guys like this, young guys come up and step right up and automatically be in the hunt for an individual national title, so it would be great."

While the senior is still working on soaking in every last moment of his time here, McIntosh still plans on sticking around after graduation and perfecting his craft.

"As of right now, that is my plan to stick around and wrestle freestyle," said McIntosh. "I don't think there's any other better place to do that than here. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to do that and looking forward to making the transition into freestyle. Right now, my plan is to go down to 186, but we will see."

Before the festivities of senior day begin at Rec Hall on Saturday night, the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions will travel to Bethlehem, Pa. to grapple with the 14th-ranked Lehigh Mountain Hawks Friday night. With the back-to-back matches, Sanderson believes that his team shouldn't be tired because of the intensity they bring to practice everyday.

"You hope they come back out there with that fire and a lot of that is going to come down to the individuals and the consistency that they choose to bring to practice everyday and to every match," said Sanderson. "We have a team that just likes to compete, but we certainly want to make sure that they are excited and fired up because your next match is always your most important match of your career. This Lehigh match is a big match for us and we want to go in there and wrestle well."

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Jason Nolf (2/9/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lion wrestling team (13-0, 8-0 Big Ten) returns to action on Friday for a sold out dual against No. 14 Lehigh. Penn State hosts Senior Day on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. caught up with freshman Jason Nolf this week to talk about his season to date. Nolf is 23-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


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