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Penn State wrestling: 3x National Champion Jason Nolf shines in MMA debut

Penn State wrestling great Jason Nolf won his professional combat sports debut in style on Sunday. Could a full-time transition to MMA soon be coming for the three-time NCAA Champion?



Penn State wrestling, Jason Nolf, grappling
Apr 19, 2024; State College, Pennsylvania, USA; Jason Nolf reacts after winning by default 3-0 over Jordan Burroughs (not pictured) in a 74 kilograms challenger tournament final match during the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials at Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Former Penn State wrestling star Jason Nolf started his mixed martial arts career on a high note, defeating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) fighter Andrew Simmons by submission in his professional grappling debut on Sunday evening. The three-time NCAA Champion generated a significant amount of buzz with his win over the much more experienced Simmons at the Paradigm Open 3, a victory that could help propel the ex-Nittany Lion into a full-time career in combat sports.

Jason Nolf wins pro grappling debut

Jason Nolf pulled off an electric victory Sunday night at the Paradigm Open 3 in Houston, Texas, taking down BJJ fighter Andrew Simmons by submission. Paradigm Combat Sports announced last month that the former Penn State wrestler would compete in the event.

Nolf’s debut made headlines both in the combat sports and wrestling communities. The ex-Nittany Lions’ opponent, Andrew Simmons, is an experienced grappler who trains with the B-Team in Austin, Texas, considered one of the top grappling organizations in the world. Like Jason Nolf, Simmons also has experience in college wrestling, both as a two-time All-American in the NAIA and as a Division II coach.

In short, the victory was no fluke. Nolf won via arm-triangle choke, the video of which made the rounds on social media.

Could the former Penn State wrestling star be considering a full-time move to the MMA?

Jason Nolf had a highly decorated Penn State wrestling career, going 117-3 in his four seasons as a starter. Setting the program’s career pins record with 60, Nolf won NCAA Championships in 2017, 2018, and 2019 after finishing as National Runner-Up in 2016.

The former Nittany Lion has seen a successful start to his freestyle career, marked by Gold Medals at the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 and 2024 Grand Prix Zagreb Open. However, sharing the 74 kg weight class with NLWC teammate Kyle Dake has prevented Nolf from reaching the pinnacle on the international stage.

Penn State wrestling, Jason Nolf, grappling

Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With that in mind, it’s possible that Jason Nolf may be using grappling as a jumping-off point into MMA full-time. This would follow a similar pattern to that of another Penn State wrestling great, Bo Nickal, who went 0-1-2 in his short grappling career before transitioning to the UFC.

At this time, we don’t know if the Paradigm Open 3 was a one-off for Nolf, or if more grappling bouts are in the works. But if Nolf were to follow Nickal and continue to succeed in combat sports, it could open a new door for more Nittany Lions once their Penn State wrestling careers are finished.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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