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Lions eyeing postseason return for injured NCAA champion Nolf

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Jason Nolf. - AP

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State wrestling will be without NCAA champion Jason Nolf for potentially all of the remaining duals this season, but Cael Sanderson said Nolf's knee injury is not season ending.

"He got in and got an MRI and X-ray and all that good stuff," Sanderson said Monday night on his weekly radio show. Trainers examined Nolf's right knee when he limped off the mat Sunday afternoon against Rutgers. "We knew there was something there, obviously. Jason’s a tough kid. Really, it’s not as bad as we feared, but it’s gonna be some time before we get him back in — just to play it safe and try to get him back as close to 100 percent as we can before the postseason. So we probably won’t even try to put him in a dual meet. We’ll just try to get him ready for the postseason."

Sanderson said Nolf's flexibility in his joints -- which was on full display as he tried countering a shot but ended up with his knee bent awkwardly -- likely helped make this injury not as severe as initially thought. Sanderson said Nolf is "week to week" but added that he will not need surgery.

With No. 2 Ohio State coming to town Saturday for an 8 p.m. showdown against the top-ranked Nittany Lions in Rec Hall, Sanderson and staff will need to figure out who will take Nolf's place on the mat. The coach said they'll "need a little magic" at that weight class without Nolf out there.

"We have a handful of guys who are in those weight classes who can step in and wrestle,” Sanderson said. “We’ll find out who will give us the best effort and that fighting spirit.”

If Nolf would've been gone for the season then Penn State would've pulled Brady Berge's redshirt, Sanderson said. Berge went 145-0 during his three year high school wrestling career in Minnesota.

With Ohio State, Iowa and Buffalo still on the schedule the date to keep in mind for a potential Nolf return likely would be March 3 when the Big Ten tournament begins in East Lansing, Michigan.

CHANGES COMING? 

Help could be on the way for the Lions' 125-pound weight class.

Carson Kuhn, who spent three seasons wrestling at Boise State before transferring to Penn State, could wrestle Saturday night. Many have been waiting for Kuhn, Penn State's 25-year-old husband and father who joined the team earlier this month as a graduate transfer, to make his debut.

He's had to pass all the NCAA transfer requirements and ultimately Sanderson's eye test before he'll compete. Kuhn left Boise State after the program eliminated wrestling last April.

"Yeah, there's a chance," Sanderson said of Kuhn wrestling on Saturday. "He just needs to be ready to go and we need to all be on the same page but he's been working hard and he's been wanting to go the last couple of matches but we just haven't felt like he was quite ready to go, but as soon as he's ready we'll throw him out there. We just want to see where he's at. We don't know and obviously you have (Nathan) Tomasello or (Rutgers' Nick) Suriano or Minnesota you had (Ethan) Lizak, (Iowa's) Spencer Lee, but he just wants to get out there and compete as soon as he's ready and if he's ready he'll be wrestling."

The Sandy, Utah native went 13-8 overall, wrestling at both 125 and 133 during his time with the Broncos.

DECISION COMING AT 197? 

Sanderson will have to make a choice at 197 pretty soon and this past weekend didn't give him much clarity between Anthony Cassar and Shakur Rasheed. Cassar had a 16-5 major decision against Rutgers on Sunday while Rasheed had a pin in just 55 seconds Friday night against Minnesota.

"You guys see what I see," Sanderson said. "I think they both were true to character this weekend. Shaq has the ability to go out there and pin guys and Cassar scored a lot of points. We're kind of back and forth. I really do believe both of them (if you) throw them in the bracket I think they could both be All Americans, but at some point here we need to wrestle them off or make a tough decision."

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