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Kittanning hoping to get more than one wrestler to states

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review - Kittanning's Taylor Jack picks up Freedom's Boe Bonzo during the 152-pound title bout of the WPIAL Class AA individual championships Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at Chartiers Valley. Bonzo won, 6-3.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review</em></div>Kittanning's Taylor Jack picks up Freedom's Boe Bonzo during the 152-pound title bout of the WPIAL Class AA individual championships Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at Chartiers Valley. Bonzo won, 6-3.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review - Kittanning's Zac Croyle pins Ellwood City's Bard Grinnen at 1:48 during their 195-pound match in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 22, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review</em></div>Kittanning's  Zac Croyle pins Ellwood City's Bard Grinnen at 1:48 during their 195-pound match in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 22, 2013.

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Tough time

A majority of Kittanning's wrestlers watched their seasons end at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament the past two winters. Third-year coach Brandon Newill believes the Wildcats will send more than one representative to states this season. The top five finishers in each weight class advance to the PIAA championships, which begin Thursday in Hershey.

Name (weight class) Record in regional tournament

2011

Jarek Dudek (140) 2-2

Jason Nolf (103) 3-0

Wes Schmidt (215) 1-2

Stephen Stapp (125) 0-2

2012

Zac Croyle (170) 0-2

Christian Emminger (132) 0-2

Taylor Jack (145) 0-2

Jason Nolf (113) 3-0

2013

Zac Croyle (195) TBD

Taylor Jack (152) TBD

Jason Nolf (132) TBD

Top high school sports
Friday, March 1, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
 

Kittanning wrestling coach Brandon Newill accumulated plenty of fond memories during his time in Johnstown where he became a three-time NCAA Division II All-American and brought a national title to the local Pitt campus.

Newill continues to wait for the season when his wrestlers will mention Johnstown and joy in the same breath.

The third-year coach hopes more than just one Wildcat finishes in the top five at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament in Johnstown to advance to the PIAA individual championships this winter. In the past two seasons, excluding standout Jason Nolf, Kittanning wrestlers have hit a wall in the regional round; the combined record of Kittanning's six other regional qualifiers in the past two seasons was 3-12.

Nolf, a junior and two-time champion, is the favorite in the 132-pound weight class at the regional, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday and continues Saturday at the Cambria County War Memorial. Seniors Zac Croyle (195 pounds) and Taylor Jack (152) return after winless debuts last season.

“I feel that if they wrestle like they can, both have the ability to move on,” Newill said of Croyle and Jack. “It's my job to convince them it's just another match, it's just another mat, it's just another tournament.

“We basically want to get them to the level where they're wrestling to the best of their abilities without thinking about it.”

The spectacle of the regional tournament, held at a fairly sizable hockey arena, is not the sole reason for the Wildcats' struggles, Newill said. But he believes the magnitude of the event might contribute.

Past experience makes Croyle and Jack better prepared for the second go-round.

Jack is one week removed from placing second in the WPIAL tournament.

“I'm at the level where I should be going past regionals,” Jack said.

Working with Blairsville sophomore Andrew Doak at Young Guns Wrestling Club practices for the better part of the past year has given Jack a good idea of where he stands in the region. Doak, a returning finalist at 152, is the No. 1 seed in Jack's weight class.

“I know it'd be a close one,” Jack said of a possible match against Doak, which would occur in the semifinals.

Croyle, meanwhile, placed third in the WPIAL championship. An 8-2 loss to South Fayette's Zach Walker in the semifinals sparked his motivation for a rematch; they're situated on the same side of the regional bracket and would meet in the semifinals.

“I've practiced all week just in case I get to wrestle him again,” Croyle said. “I think I should be in the finals.”

Nolf made clear that he'd like some company at the PIAA tournament, which begins Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. The past two seasons, a teammate joined him strictly to serve as a practice partner.

“They better make it,” he said.

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