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Kittanning teammates Nopf, Croyle reach regional semis

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 11:48 p.m.
Kittanning senior Zac Croyle looks to escape from Moshannon Valley senior James Stodart during a 195-pound quarterfinal bout at the PIAA Southwest Regional wrestling tournament Friday, March 1, 2013, at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

To sit back and watch while other wrestlers grappled to keep their seasons alive struck Kittanning senior Zac Croyle as “different.”

Croyle, however, can get used to the perks that come with qualifying for the semifinals in a two-day tournament.

The 195-pounder is one win away from the finals in the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional championships at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown. A third-place finisher in the WPIAL a week ago, he will wrestle Chestnut Ridge senior Dan Albright on Saturday in the semifinals.

“I'm not really there a lot,” Croyle said of his upcoming round.

Croyle, who went 0-2 at the regional tournament as a junior, started hot and didn't slow in his second visit to Johnstown. He topped Somerset's Jacob Nickelson, 9-3, in the first round and then defeated No. 2 seed and District 6 champion James Stodart of Moshannon Valley, 8-4, in the quarterfinals.

“I thought I'd beat him by one or two points,” said Croyle, who lost, 8-6, in overtime to Stodart in mid-January. “I wrestled smarter, not harder. … Before, I didn't know who he was, and I just went after him to pin him.”

Coach Brandon Newill agreed with Croyle about the approach to the rematch.

“That guy was really pressing him, so rather than go force to force, he used one of his strengths, which is his speed,” Newill said. “He's got to keep that up in the semifinals.”

No stranger to the semifinals, junior 132-pounder Jason Nolf returns after winning regional titles the past two seasons. The No. 1 seed in his weight class, Nolf received a bye and then defeated South Park freshman Jake Wentzel, 12-4, in the quarterfinals.

Nolf will meet Southern Huntingdon senior Brennon Shields on Saturday.

Senior 152-pounder Taylor Jack hoped to join his teammates as a semifinalist, but another Taylor stood in his way.

Conemaugh Township's Taylor Cahill defeated Jack, 6-5, in the quarterfinals.

Jack, who won his first-round bout, 6-0, recovered with a 5-1 win over Beaver's Kurt Struwe in their consolation bout. The match was scoreless after two periods, but Jack escaped from bottom early in the third and then went to work on offense.

“I needed more points,” Jack said. “It's (unacceptable) to win, 1-0.

“I planned on getting past Day 1.”

Jack will begin Saturday with a consolation bout against South Fayette's Grant Fetchet, whom he beat, 2-0, in overtime in the WPIAL semifinals.

With a top-five finish, Jack will qualify for the PIAA championships beginning Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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