Frank Molinaro doesn’t like to lose, and he definitely doesn’t like to be told he can’t do something.
But when his dreams of becoming a national champion are in jeopardy, he will do whatever it takes to achieve those goals — even if it means being told he can’t practice or compete for the time being.
Molinaro is out for an undetermined amount of time with an injury he suffered at wrestling practice on Sept. 16 that the Penn State Athletic Communications office could not disclose because of competition issues. With wrestling being a one-on-one sport where grapplers look for their opponent’s weaknesses, the team kept specifics of Molinaro’s injury under wraps.
The Barnegat, N.J. native is a returning two-time All-American and was ranked the No. 3 wrestler by WIN Magazine in the 149-pound weight class for the upcoming season. After finishing fifth at nationals last year and eighth as a 141-pounder in 2009, as well as finishing fourth in the Big Ten last year, Molinaro is considered a legitimate contender for the title this season.
Assistant Communications Director Pat Donghia said the wrestler visited a team doctor earlier this week and the injury will not require any surgery.
“It’s really nothing too serious,” Molinaro said in an e-mail. “As long as I keep doing the things the medical staff tells me, my time out will be minimized. Right now, I’m still lifting and doing as much cardio as I can. Overall, I’m not worried because I’ll be in shape and ready to win when I come back.”
The redshirt junior has been doing hand bike workouts, as well as lifting weights to keep himself in the best shape possible while he waits to be cleared to return to competition.
His coaches and teammates know Molinaro will do whatever it takes to get back on the mats.
“Absolutely I know he’s frustrated right now, but I know he’s also accepted it,” former teammate and Nittany Lion Club coach Dan Vallimont said. “He’s in practice every day and he’s going to keep doing as much as he can until he’s ready to fully wrestle again. He loves to be out there and I know he can’t wait to get back.”
And with Molinaro’s preseason goal to be a national champion, he will do what he can to make a speedy recovery.
His mom, Michele Molinaro, said her son is already focusing on when he can get back on the mat, saying he has a countdown going on his Blackberry for when he is hoping to return to action.
“He’s very driven,” she said. “He set very high goals for himself this season and he works hard to reach those goals. He won’t let anything get in the way of that. This won’t deter him from trying to win the national championship.”
Molinaro finished the 2009-10 season with a 33-7 record, remaining undefeated through his first 21 contests. In those 33 wins, 12 were by major decision, one fall and one technical fall.
The 149-pounder said with his success in recent years he knows what it takes to be at his best in March for both the Big Ten and NCAA championships. And while most people would be frustrated with having a setback, Molinaro is trying to find the good in his situation.
He said he is certain he will be in prime condition by the end of the season, not being as worn down as he might be otherwise.
“I may be a little behind where I was but I'm going to peak, as we call it, a little later in the season, which will benefit for March,” Molinaro said in a telephone conversation. “Also my body will be fresh unlike some kids who may get a little worn down during preseason. That's my take on it.”
That doesn’t mean Molinaro was content with the injury from the get-go.
When he realized something was wrong last week in practice after standing up from a drill, he said he freaked out a bit. However, after letting the injury sink in, he realized it wasn’t as big of a deal as he was making it out to be.
“At first I was really dramatic about it,” Molinaro said. “I immediately thought I couldn't win Nationals in Philly, which is like my dream. I was so wound up I couldn't think straight. But I had great support from our trainer and school doctors so they are keeping me positive along with my family, girlfriend, friends, coaches. Everybody has been awesome in keeping me positive.”
And rightfully so as now neither he nor his coaches, teammates or family are concerned that this injury will act as a setback to the wrestler.
“He’s in a better place now with it and he’s already focusing on the endpoint,” Michele Molinaro said. “And just like coach Cael Sanderson told him, ‘I really think this will make you better in the long run.’”