Kittanning gets 2 PIAA medalists for 1st time in program history
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HERSHEY — Most other wrestlers who win PIAA titles drop to their knees, jump into their coaches' arms or at least smile and throw their hands in the air moments after the big match, but Kittanning junior Jason Nolf sees no need for a show.
For Nolf, clinching a championship — to complete an undefeated season, nonetheless — apparently is the norm.
Ever stoic in the midst of success, he became Kittanning's first two-time state champion Saturday afternoon with a 4-2 win over Keystone Oaks senior Nick Zanetta in the 132-pound weight class finals of the PIAA Class AA Individual Championships at the Giant Center.
A winner at 103 pounds as a freshman, Nolf added his second gold by edging Zanetta for the fourth time in four weeks. He completed his season with a 45-0 record and improved his career mark to 132-1.
“I kind of felt better about (this title) because I lost last year,” said Nolf, who placed third in 2012 at 113 after a 6-4 setback to eventual champion Ryan Diehl of District 3's Trinity in the semifinals. “I just didn't want to lose again.”
Zanetta, who previously lost by scores of 1-0, 3-0 and 8-6, again tested Nolf for all three periods. The Pitt-bound senior hit a takedown — his first in their four meetings — 28 seconds into the first period to go ahead, 2-0.
“He took me down, so I had to have the same mindset that I did last week, whenever he caught me on my back: Just get up and get points,” said Nolf, who escaped 11 seconds later.
Nolf took the lead with a takedown that came just two seconds before the end of the first period. He added another point with an escape early in the second. Then, showcasing impressive leg strength, he rode out Zanetta, who chose the bottom position, for the entire two minutes in the third.
Just as he did two years ago, Nolf remained businesslike in the minutes that followed his match.
Asked if he has ever jumped into his coach's arms, Nolf acknowledged an instance: In 2006, when he won a bout to qualify for the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state tournament.
“I was just so happy I made it to states, and then I ended up winning (the PJW state title),” said Nolf, whose coach at the time was his dad, Mike.
Mike Nolf described his son's ability to win a second PIAA title Saturday as “amazing.” But he knew Jason would skip a celebration and casually walk off the mat.
“He expects to win every match,” Mike Nolf said. “And it's not a surprise that he won — not to himself.”
For the first time in Kittanning's history, two Wildcats went home with medals. While Nolf left Hershey with a championship, senior 195-pounder Zac Croyle departed as a first-time place-winner.
On the tough end of a heartbreaker for a second straight match, Croyle finished sixth, as he lost his medal match to Bethlehem Catholic senior Josh Alpha, 2-1, in the tiebreaker period of overtime.
Croyle, who lost 4-3 in an ultimate tiebreaker Friday night, was on bottom for the first half of the tiebreaker period and failed to escape. Alpha earned his escape six seconds into the latter half, and Croyle came up short in his efforts to score a takedown.
Though he desired a better finish, Croyle admitted his final season exceeded all of his expectations.
“I didn't even think I'd make it to states,” he said. “It was a lot different. I was really nervous through the whole thing. I feel I should've been in the top four.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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