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Kittanning's Nolf 1 win away from 3rd PIAA title

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 12:04 a.m.

HERSHEY — Required to return to his corner to deal with blood trickling from his nose during his semifinal-round bout in the PIAA Class AA individual wrestling championships Friday at Giant Center, Kittanning senior 145-pounder Jason Nolf glanced at the next mat over to check on Burrell senior Corey Falleroni, a friend and training pal, in the weight class' other semifinal bout.

“I kind of wanted him to win,” Nolf said.

Like in so many of his 174 career wins, Nolf operated with coolness in the second-to-last match of his high school career.

A pinfall win over Muncy junior Dakota Nixon earned Nolf a spot in the state finals for the third time. Nolf (43-0) will try to complete his third undefeated season Saturday; the Class AA title bouts and all other medal matches begin at 2 p.m.

“I'm pretty excited — as excited as I usually am for the state finals,” Nolf said.

The two-time PIAA champ's final high school match will pit him against Williamson junior Billy Barnes (42-0), who beat Falleroni, 5-3, in the semifinals.

Nolf advanced to the semifinals with a 16-4 major decision over Brookville senior Zach Vroman in the quarterfinals Friday morning.

That result, though decisive, apparently soured Nolf's last hurrah at Hershey.

“I'm mad because I didn't get a pin,” Nolf said. “I came in expecting to dominate more than I usually do (in the state tournament). I guess that's about the only difference.”

In addition to Nolf, sophomore 220-pounder Jacob Robb advanced to the semifinals with a quarterfinal-round pin of Canton's Connor Route in the quarterfinals.

Robb, whose freshman season ended in the WPIAL tournament, nearly became a second finalist for Kittanning, but in the semifinals, he dropped a 3-1 decision to West Branch junior Reynold Maines, who also beat Robb, 5-6, in the regional semifinals.

Robb and Maines went into the tiebreaker portion of overtime tied at 1-1. While on top, Maines scored a questionable two-point nearfall with a cradle just before time expired.

Robb's family and coaches took more of an issue with Maines' lack of offense earlier in the match, though, with cries of “Stalling!” raining from the stands during the bout.

For Nolf, who has served as a mentor for Robb this postseason, the critique seemed fair. But few understand that, at the state tournament, stalling must be overcome with better offense rather than pleas for penalty points more than the senior standout.

“I'm not going to make up excuses for him and say it was all the ref's fault,” Nolf said. “You've got to score points. I'm not bashing him or anything, but you can't leave it up to the ref to make those calls.”

Robb lost his ensuing consolation bout by pinfall, so he'll wrestle for fifth place Saturday.

Redbank Valley senior 120-pounder Willie Gruver will wrestle for seventh place. Gruver, who placed seventh at 113 last season, is matched up with Tri Valley junior Caleb Bordner, who Gruver beat 4-1 in the first round.

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

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