Kittanning's Nolf, Keystone Oaks' Zanetta face off for 4th time in 4 weeks in state wrestling final

Bill West
| Friday, March 8, 2013, 11:27 p.m.

HERSHEY — Months ago, Kittanning junior Jason Nolf uttered the name “Nick Zanetta” when asked who he expected to wrestle for a PIAA Class AA title.

The kid knows his stuff.

For a fourth consecutive week, Nolf and Zanetta, a Keystone Oaks senior, will grapple for gold in the 132-pound weight class. Nolf won the three previous meetings. He likes his odds in the state finals, which begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Giant Center.

“I didn't know who'd win it,” Nolf said of the semifinal between Zanetta and Hanover junior Ian Brown, who lost, 5-1, in the overtime tiebreaker. “But I figured (before the tournament) it'd be one of them.”

Nolf had time to watch both wrestlers after he pinned Pius X sophomore Michael Comunale midway through the second period of their semifinal. He actually wanted to wrap the match up even earlier.

“I wanted to get a quick takedown and then pin him, but he got out of my cradle the first time,” said Nolf, who took Comunale to the mat 24 seconds into the first period.

Said coach Brandon Newill: “That was definitely the way he needs to wrestle. He controlled the tempo. He basically did whatever he wanted to do.”

Zanetta, a PIAA runner-up last season, looks forward to his final shot at Nolf, a state champ in 2011 and a third-place finisher last year.

“Every match I'm getting closer,” said Zanetta, who has lost 1-0, 3-0 and 8-6. “Whoever wants (the title) more is going to get it. … We've both been there before, so I don't think we're going to hold anything back or stall.”

Said Newill: “I don't think there's anybody that can script how things play out down here, especially when the guys are that close.”

Nolf advanced to the semifinals with an 8-2 win over Annville Cleona sophomore Jeff Inman.

Senior 195-pounder Zac Croyle made certain he would medal, as he advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 win over Chestnut Ridge senior Dan Albright — Croyle escaped with 14 seconds left in the third period to secure the win.

Milton senior Ryan Solomon, the defending champion, dropped Croyle into the consolation bracket with a first-period pin in the semifinals. Then came a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to Moshannon Valley senior James Stodart, who escaped with two seconds left in the ultimate tiebreaker period.

“I think both guys wrestled to not lose rather than to win,” Newill said. “It's a match where if you win, you get in for third and fourth, and you're like, ‘Well, I don't want to make any mistakes.' And I think that's what happened with both guys. And then it's the flip of a coin.”

Croyle will wrestle Bethlehem Catholic senior Josh Alpha for fifth place.

“I think that (him) placing still is amazing,” Newill said. “Is he upset that he's not going for third and fourth? Of course he is. But we've got a match tomorrow, and hopefully he can come through in that match and go out on a high note.”

Two Redbank Valley wrestlers also will go home with hardware after going 1-2 Friday. Junior Willie Gruver (113 pounds) squares off with Bentworth junior Jake Rothka for seventh.

Gruver lost a quarterfinal bout, 6-1, to Derry freshman George Phillippi and rebounded with a 4-0 win over Wyomissing senior Alec Torres in his consolation bout. But then Ligonier Valley junior Justin Patrick pinned Gruver 33 seconds into their consolation match.

Senior Cole Shirey (160) matches up with South Fayette sophomore Jared Walker for seventh.

Shirey exited the winner's bracket after a 9-3 loss to Forest Hills senior Cody Law. He defeated Montgomery junior Isaiah Bobotas, 8-5, in a consolation bout, then lost for a second time this season to Fort LeBoeuf senior Taylor Fox.

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

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