Kittanning's Croyle wins PIAA wrestling debut
His eyes open wide and his heart pounding, Kittanning senior Zac Croyle seemed vulnerable to a case of stage fright as he prepared for the first PIAA Class AA individual championships match of his career Thursday morning at Giant Center in Hershey.
Yet when crunch time arrived in his first-round bout against Williams Valley senior Jonathan Rummel, Croyle came across as “cool about it” to coach Brandon Newill.
The senior 195-pounder delivered under pressure in his PIAA debut as he scored a takedown with five seconds left in the final period to win, 7-6.
“I was nervous. This is a lot bigger than anything else I've ever wrestled in,” Croyle said. “It wasn't my best wrestling; I felt like I was still a little nervous.”
Croyle finds comfort in the fact that a familiar opponent awaits in the quarterfinals, which begin at 9 a.m. Friday. He'll wrestle Chestnut Ridge senior Dan Albright, who lost to Croyle, 5-3, Saturday in the Southwest Region semifinals.
“I think that I'll make it to the semis and I'll wrestle that Solomon kid, and he's a beast,” Croyle said, referring to Milton senior Ryan Solomon, a defending state champion. “But I'll place at that point, no matter what. I just want to place.”
Junior Jason Nolf advanced to the quarterfinals after a 6-2 win over Bethlehem Catholic freshman Lee Todora.
“First-round matches, guys are tight, and they basically try to keep it close,” Newill said of Nolf's match. “A win is a win right now.”
Redbank Valley also has two grapplers in the quarterfinals.
Junior Willie Gruver (113 pounds), in his second appearance at the state level, scored a takedown with six seconds left to defeat Tri Valley sophomore Caleb Bordner, 4-3, in the first round. Gruver trailed, 3-1, through two periods but cut the deficit to one 20 seconds into the third period.
“The kid was strong, and all he had to do was stay away, but Willie got it done,” Redbank Valley coach Mike Kundick said. “We tried to tell him when he went out to be ready to start fast, and he just didn't get out there and didn't get it done right away.”
Senior Cole Shirey (160) started strong and held on late for an 8-4 win over Fairfield junior Nick Mort, who narrowly avoided a second-period pin by asking for injury time to address his shoulder.
“It throws you off your game because you're up in the clouds at that moment,” said Shirey, who watched his 6-0 lead dwindle to 6-4 after the pause in action.
“It's the state championships, so I can't say I blame him for calling injury time. What do you have to lose? It's your last chance. But I was really upset. His hand was (waving to the ref), and I just wanted to grab his hand and bring it down.”
Senior 182-pounder Aaron Hook's PIAA debut ended with disappointment; he lost his first bout, 3-2, and then dropped a 2-1 decision to Boiling Springs junior Kyle Taylor.