Led by Kittanning's Nolf, 3 locals win Class AA state wrestling titles
HERSHEY — A force on the mat like few to ever come through the WPIAL, Kittanning senior Jason Nolf showcased one of his other great talents — understatement — as he spoke about wrapping up a career that included three PIAA Class AA titles and a 176-1 record.
“I guess it was pretty good,” Nolf said minutes after pinning his opponent, previously unbeaten Williamson junior Billy Barnes, in the 145-pound weight class' title bout Saturday afternoon at Giant Center. “I lost (sophomore year in the PIAA semifinals), so it's not like I was undefeated.”
Describing his career as something other than or even less than special — a trademark of his since his undefeated freshman season — Nolf capped a fine four years and earned Class AA's Outstanding Wrestler award to highlight an afternoon in which only two other WPIAL Class AA wrestlers, Avella senior 220-pounder Jake Temple and Burrell senior 152-pounder Steve Edwards, claimed gold medals.
In the only final featuring two undefeated wrestlers, Nolf (44-0) needed just 1 minute, 42 seconds to pin Barnes (42-1), who ended up inverted and hanging off of Nolf's back when Nolf leaned back a bit to execute a quasi-defensive pin.
“I was trying to just get him out of position so I could take him down, but I got the pin,” said Nolf, who had three pins and a 16-4 major decision in the tournament. “I really haven't pinned anybody like that.”
Nolf is the 13th WPIAL wrestler to finish his career as a three-time state champ. Among the three-timers, Nolf has the second-most wins and the second-highest winning percentage.
Edwards (46-4), a friend and training partner of Nolf's, became the sixth Burrell grappler to win a PIAA title, as he won the only title bout that went to overtime.
Tied or trailing during all three periods, Edwards, a first-time finalist, scored a takedown with 30 seconds left to prevail 7-5 over Southern Columbia sophomore Blake Marks (35-6).
“Our coaches like to talk about Mr. Murphy and Murphy's Law — where everything that can go wrong will go wrong,” Edwards said. “And I think, definitely, at points in that match, it seemed certain to take a turn for the worse, but I just kept staying positive and telling myself I was going to win.”
Early offense paid off for Temple (43-0), who delivered the Eagles their first PIAA title since 1988. Matched up against West Branch junior Reynold Maines — the same opponent he beat last week in the Southwest Region finals — Temple scored a takedown late in the first period and leaned on defense to prevail 3-1.
“Really then and there, I knew I was in a good spot to win that match,” Temple said of the takedown. “I wanted to be in a position where I knew he'd have to keep coming after me.”
Temple is Avella's fourth PIAA title winner.
“Twenty-six years, that's a long time to go without having a state champ,” Temple said. “So, I'm putting Avella back on the map with that.”
South Fayette junior 160-pounder J.J. Walker (43-2) was the WPIAL's only other finalist. He lost 9-3 to Coudersport senior Kyle Bova.
Led by Edwards, Burrell placed fifth in the team standings with 53 points, the highest finish of any WPIAL team. Bethlehem Catholic ran away with the team title, tallying 138.5 points.
Sixteen WPIAL wrestlers medaled in Class AA.
Burrell junior 285-pounder Al Beattie, who placed third, had the most pins in the least amount of time, securing three in 6:14.