Kittanning wrestler Nolf wins 4th WPIAL individual crown
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The crowd of at least 1,500 at Chartiers Valley High School roared louder than at any other point Saturday night as the PA announcer rattled off Jason Nolf's career accolades. The Kittanning senior never flinched as he stood atop the WPIAL Class AA individual championship's medal stand.
Nolf, owner of a 169-1 career record, two PIAA titles, three PIAA Southwest Regional crowns and now four WPIAL championships, apparently never breaks from focusing on the next opponent he intends to dominate.
On the mat for just one minute, 22 seconds in his 145-pound title bout, top-seeded Nolf (37-0) pinned Beth-Center sophomore Tony Welsh (32-4) to become the 23rd wrestler in WPIAL history to claim four individual championships.
“It felt pretty cool when everybody started cheering,” said Nolf, who will wrestle at Penn State. “It's still just another step, though.”
Of his four WPIAL finals appearances, his last ended with the most authority — likely one reason he went home with the tournament's Most Outstanding award.
“My goal is to pin everybody,” Nolf said. “I wanted to pin (Welsh) as soon as I took him down. Then he got an escape, so I had to take him down again.”
Two other wrestlers might follow in Nolf's footsteps in the next two seasons. South Fayette junior J.J. Walker (37-1) became a three-time WPIAL champ with his second-period pin of Jefferson-Morgan senior Ryan Zalar (30-5) in the 160-pound final. Derry sophomore Mickey Phillippi (34-4), a returning PIAA champion, won his second title in as many tries with an 18-3 technical fall over Freedom freshman Kody Komara (29-6).
The lopsided result set a different tone than the 1-0 win Phillippi had against South Fayette's Seth Carr in the finals a season ago.
“Coming in, I guess I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Phillippi said. “Last year, I was a freshman, and I was nervous. I worked real hard all summer and kept it going. I think it's a mentality. I think I, as a person, am more mentally strong. I believe in myself a lot more this year.”
Other second-time champions included Burgettstown junior 113-pounder Austin McDermitt (36-2), Avella senior 220-pounder Jake Temple (36-0) and Burrell junior Al Beattie (37-5).
In the only final featuring two unbeaten wrestlers, Jefferson-Morgan senior 126-pounder John Demaske (37-0) claimed gold with a 6-0 decision over Valley senior Patrick Dewitt (36-1).
Jefferson-Morgan, Valley, Burrell, South Fayette and South Park each had two champions.
Two Valley wrestlers never had claimed WPIAL gold in the same season. But seniors Terrell Fields and Marcus Davenport — brothers by way of adoption — went back-to-back with wins at 182 and 195.
Fields (30-1) pinned West Greene senior Dalton Wildman (24-4) midway through the first period of his bout. Davenport (31-3) pulled off a takedown with no time left in the third period to win the 195-pound title match 5-3 over Ellwood City senior Brad Grinnen (30-3).
“He's lost so many matches by one point, and we really worked this year on just finishing and getting out from bottom,” Fields said of Davenport, whose previous best finish was sixth. “He puts so much pressure on himself, so I have to calm him down every day in practice.”
The top seven finishers in each weight class advanced to the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament, which begins Friday in Johnstown. Burrell had a tournament-high nine regional qualifiers. Jefferson-Morgan followed with eight, and Bentworth had seven.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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