Robb relatives a major reason for Kittanning's wrestling success
Perhaps boys with the surname Robb elsewhere in this country prefer to play basketball or swim or skate on a rink during the winter months.
In Kittanning, Robbs wrestle. And they do it well.
Two are among the grapplers with the most wins for the Wildcats this season, and a third likely would be there if not for a shoulder and chest injury that might keep him out for the entire season. Senior Nate's misfortune saddens the trio and the rest of the team, but there's solace in the fact that freshman Jacob and sophomore Logan, a cousin to brothers Jacob and Nate, have prospered.
“I think they've almost exceeded my expectations,” coach Brandon Newill said of the two younger Robbs. “But it's hard for me to say something like that, because we haven't had sections yet, and we haven't had WPIALs yet. I'm always looking forward to what's the goal. … I can say that they've definitely done a good job up to this point.”
Nate set the standard for his younger relatives as a freshman, when, as a 103-pounder, he won 31 matches and placed fifth in the WPIAL Class AA tournament to qualify for the PIAA Southwest regional round.
Because of injuries, Nate's potentially even brighter future never came to fruition. As a sophomore, he tore ligaments in his right shoulder midway through the season. As a junior, he went 29-8 before a season-ending knee injury in the semifinals of the WPIAL's 120-pound weight class.
Ligament damage in his right shoulder and upper chest have prevented Nate, slated to be a 126-pounder, from wrestling even one match this season; doctors identified the injuries just before the start of the schedule. The senior continues to hold on to hope for a late-season recovery — doctors deemed it possible — so he partakes in the team's cardio exercises.
“It's been my life for the past 11 years, and I couldn't see myself doing anything else,” Nate said. “I don't know where I'd be without wrestling. It's really shaped my outlook and who I am as an individual.”
Jacob, a lanky 170-pounder, appears to have taken the torch from Nate. However, his true tests await in February, when the individual postseason begins.
“I want to make it to regionals and try to place in the top eight,” said Jacob, who, prior to Tuesday night's match at Pine-Richland, had a record of 12-7, the third-most wins on the team.
Jacob's wrestling style, once more reliant on scrambling, has become more comparable to Nate's, which involved leg manipulation that allowed him to thrive when on top.
“I think if I just had good hips (at the junior high level), I'd be able to scramble out of positions and get on top and turn people,” Jacob said. “It's a huge step up (to varsity). … I think everybody is stronger, and they're more technical.”
Physicality is the forte for Logan, a 220-pounder with a 10-8 record in his first year as a varsity wrestler.
As a sixth grader, Logan briefly chose not to wrestle and tried basketball instead. But he quickly learned how deep his roots sank into wrestling's soil.
“I just tried it, and I fouled out pretty much every game,” Logan said. “I regret that a lot.
“I really wasn't that good as a wrestler until about eighth grade. I don't know what happened, but stuff started kicking in.”
Logan called it stuff. Others might go with genes.