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After 1st loss, Kittanning's Nolf is only looking ahead

| Thursday, March 15, 2012

No longer able to become an undefeated four-time PIAA champion, Kittanning sophomore wrestler Jason Nolf aims to achieve what he considers the next best thing.

Asked whether that means finishing his career with three state titles and one loss, the standout answered, "Exactly."

A loss Friday in the PIAA Class AA semifinals at 113 pounds ended Nolf's career winning streak at 85 and eliminated his chances of earning a spot on the list of four-time champions, which now has 10 members. But it failed to break Nolf's faith in himself.

"I don't want to just be the best in the WPIAL," said Nolf (86-1), who declined interviews over the weekend but agreed to answer questions Wednesday. "I want to be the best in the state."

Trinity junior Ryan Diehl stood in Nolf's way. Diehl, who won two West Virginia state titles as a freshman and sophomore, knocked off Nolf, 6-4, and then claimed his first PIAA title with an 11-5 win Saturday.

Diehl said he considered Nolf the most difficult opponent of his high school career. But Nolf, who ultimately placed third, didn't want to hear such praise. Even yesterday, he declined to discuss that semifinal match.

His eyes are solely on the future.

"I want to learn from the loss and get better at what I didn't do well -- mostly on my feet," Nolf said.

Kittanning coach Brandon Newill has no plans of taking time off. Preparation for offseason tournaments awaits.

"We've got to keep training," Newill said. "We've got to get better on our feet. We've got to stay active. We've got to put more shots together. We've got to re-attack. We're just going to continue to get better. ... Hopefully next year, we'll be at the top of the podium, because that's our goal every time."

Nolf's aspirations for his final two high school seasons aren't unreasonable. Two WPIAL wrestlers lost just once in their careers. In time, both considered the setback a blessing in disguise.

"I'm kind of glad it happened, to be honest," said 2011 Franklin Regional graduate Nico Megaludis, who lost as a freshman in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals. "I think I would've been pretty nervous if I had to go into every big match knowing that if I lost, it'd be over."

Megaludis finished his high school career with a 170-1 record and three state titles. Now a freshman at Penn State, he is the No. 10 seed in the 125-pound weight class at the NCAA Championships, which begin today in St. Louis.

"It made me a better wrestler," Megaludis said of his lone high school loss. "At the time, of course, I was ticked off, and it kind of felt like the end of the world, but I had to start focusing on the matches I had coming up."

His advice to a wrestler in Nolf's position: "Just have fun. ... Everyone comes up to you and asks, 'What's your record?' But honestly, they can't tell much from that."

Ty Moore, a 1990 North Allegheny graduate who lost in the WPIAL final as a junior, echoed Megaludis' sentiments.

"My senior year, I don't think I would've had the same type of season," said Moore, who finished 146-1, won four PIAA titles and continued his career at North Carolina. "It was all about going out and having fun and just wrestling."

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