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Mon Valley trio going for PIAA gold

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi (top) pins Laurel's Harley Peterson at 3:52 during their 138-pound match in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 22, 2013. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Belle Vernon Area's Adam Nickelson will carry the banner for his school in the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships.

Three area wrestlers will carry the banner for their schools and the Mid-Mon Valley when they go for gold at the PIAA individual wrestling championships at the Giant Center in Hershey starting today.

In Class AAA is Belle Vernon Area's Adam Nickelson, while in AA are Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi and Bentworth's Jake Rothka.

Nickelson (37-2), a senior, is hoping to become the first state champion in BVA's history.

The Leps have had two runners-up in Aaron Olzewski (2001) and Jason Weslager (2005) and two fourth-place finishers in John Jolley (2000) and Donnie Tasser (2008).

“I think Adam has what it takes to win it,” said BVA coach Jack Jolley. “He has the ability and he's a hard worker. He has everything necessary. It's just a matter of him having a good weekend. He has to do everything crisp.

“When you get this far, you have 16 of the best wrestlers in the state there. Everyone is a good wrestler. But I think Adam has a lot going for him.”

Nickelson, wrestling at 182 pounds, will face Gordon Bolig (45-5) of Owen J. Roberts. Both wrestlers were in the state championships a year ago. While Bolig, a senior, did not place, Nickelson finished eighth.

Nickelson, who was second in the WPIAL championships, should not be feeling any pressure his second time around in the state tournament.

“He's been there before. He is already signed (with Pitt-Johnstown). So there should be no pressure,” Jolley said. “He just needs to let loose and wrestle. He's ready for this.”

Nickelson and Bolig wrestle today in a first-round bout.

Gavazzi (34-2) is also making a return to the state tournament. The Charleroi junior is hoping to make up for a disappointing result in the AA Southwest Regionals last week, where he finished fifth for a second straight year.

He went into the WPIALs unbeaten, but lost in the semifinals and then again in the consolation semifinals before coming back to win an elimination bout.

Gavazzi will be wrestling at 138 pounds against Ryan Todora of Bethlehem Catholic.

Todora (43-6), a senior, finished fifth in the state a year ago at 145 pounds.

Charleroi coach Chad Alexis thinks losing in the regional could benefit Gavazzi in Hershey.

“I think it could be a blessing in disguise,” Alexis said of the two tough defeats. “He is really excited and determined (going into the state tournament).

“I'm excited, too. I think he's good enough to win.”

Gavazzi is making his second trip to the state championships after just missing out on placing a year ago.

Gavazzi and Podura were scheduled to meet in a preliminary round match at 9 a.m. The winner is off until Friday and the loser will wrestle again today.

Rothka (39-10) will be wrestling at 113 pounds.

He made a strong run in the Southwest Regionals coming out of the consolation bracket to finish fifth. He lost his first match and then won four straight bouts to qualify.

Rothka faces a tough test in Korbin Myers of Boiling Springs.

Myers is 42-1 on the season.

Like Gavazzi, Rothka was scheduled to wrestle at 9 a.m. in a preliminary round match.

The AA quarterfinals are slated for Friday at 9 a.m., with second-round consolations starting at 10:45 a.m. Third-round consolations and semifinals are set for 6:45 p.m. Friday.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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