Kittanning's Nolf looks to become just 23rd wrestler to win 4 WPIAL titles
When Kittanning senior Jason Nolf walks into Chartiers Valley High School's gymnasium for the first evening of the WPIAL Class AA individual wrestling championships Friday, conceivably every other grappler in the building will know of him and his reputation for dominance.
Long gone are the days when Nolf, a 145-pounder with a 166-1 career record, existed in relative obscurity — not that the Penn State recruit cares about the attention he receives now or the lack of notoriety he had early in his freshman season.
Piling up the wins and PIAA titles is all that's ever mattered to the quiet, self-assured Nolf.
Don't expect much extroversion or emotion at the WPIAL tournament from Nolf, who intends to become the 23rd wrestler in WPIAL history to claim four championships. Matches begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and the tournament will continue through Saturday.
“They're just another step, like I pretty much always say — just another step to states,” said Nolf, a two-time PIAA champion who is 34-0 with 22 pins this season.
As a freshman in 2011, Nolf encountered people who questioned how he stacked up against WPIAL Class AA's best 103-pounders.
“I remember people asking me about (South Allegheny senior) Russ Losteter and if I thought I could beat him,” Nolf said. “And I was just like, ‘Yeah.' ”
Nolf pinned Losteter in the third period of the WPIAL finals to claim his first title and went on to complete an undefeated freshman season. Those early achievements served as the foundation for a resume that has earned him the No. 1 spot in Flowrestling's national rankings for 145-pounders and the No. 2 spot in Intermat's rankings this season.
Seven other wrestlers aim to add to their WPIAL title collection this weekend, including South Fayette junior 160-pounder Jared Walker (34-1), who is favored to win his third. His previous championships were at 160 in 2013 and 152 in 2012.
Looking for their second titles are: Burgettstown junior Austin McDermitt (113), Derry sophomore George Phillippi (120), Valley senior Patrick Dewitt (126), South Park sophomore Greg Bulsak (152), Avella senior Jake Temple (220) and Burrell junior Allan Beattie (285).
McDermitt (33-2) is in a weight class that also includes Southmoreland junior Austin Griffiths (28-2) and Jefferson-Morgan junior Brendan Howard (28-6). McDermitt, who won the 106 pound title in 2013, and Griffiths are returning PIAA placewinners.
Last season, Phillippi (31-4) won the 113 title; Bulsak (29-2), at 126; Temple (33-0), at 220; and Beattie (36-5), at 285.
Dewitt (33-0) grabbed his gold medal as a 106-pounder in 2012. To claim his second championship, he'll possibly have to go through Jefferson-Morgan senior 126-pounder John Demaske (31-0) — no other weight class includes two unbeaten wrestlers.
South Fayette sophomore Mike Carr (31-0 at 132) is Class AA's only other undefeated wrestler.
The Class AAA section tournaments will be held Saturday at Gateway (1), Baldwin (2), Fox Chapel (3) and Moon (4), and a few notable wrestlers have moved weight classes.
Hempfield junior Sam Krivus (32-2), the returning WPIAL and PIAA 120-pound champion, had been competing at 132 but dropped to 126 pounds, joining Canon-McMillan senior Dalton Macri (30-2), Waynesburg junior A.C. Headlee (29-3) and North Allegheny senior Dom Forys, making it four returning PIAA placewinners at one weight.
Krivus defeated Macri, 3-1, in the PIAA finals in 2013, and Headlee and Forys split meetings at 113 pounds in 2013.
Kiski Area sophomore Tyler Worthing (25-1) moved out of the crowded 195-pound weight class to 220 pounds. Worthing will let returning WPIAL 182-pound champion, Norwin sophomore Drew Phipps (17-0), battle it out with Montour senior Cole Macek (26-0) and North Allegheny junior Zach Smith (30-6). Phipps has missed much of the season with an ankle injury.