Nolf's lone career loss serves as catalyst for continued excellence
TribLIVE Sports Videos
HERSHEY — No participant in this past weekend's PIAA Class AA individual wrestling championships performed better than Kittanning senior 145-pounder Jason Nolf, who received the Outstanding Wrestler award out of 224 Class AA candidates.
Nolf, however, never has cared much about how he compares to the competition.
All that matters to the standout is whether his performance meets his idea of perfection.
Nolf finished just short of the perfection he sought, as he won by pinfall in the PIAA Class AA finals Saturday to conclude his career with three state titles and a 176-1 record. The Penn State recruit's only loss came in the 2012 PIAA semifinals to the eventual state champion.
“I guess it was pretty good,” Nolf said of his career minutes after pinning previously unbeaten Williamson junior Billy Barnes in the championship bout Saturday at Giant Center. “I lost, so it's not like I was undefeated.
“The loss might've been a blessing in disguise.”
Nolf (44-0 this season) brought up the sophomore-year loss, a 6-4 decision to then-junior 113-pounder Ryan Diehl of District 3's Trinity, unprompted. It's a moment that stung and shaped him.
While that setback left a lasting sour taste in Nolf's mouth, it also served as the starting point for the Kittanning star's transformation from a more methodical, controlling grappler into an unrelenting aggressor, one capable of scoring and pinning at almost any time and in any position — he stuck Barnes (42-1) in the first period as Barnes hung upside down off of Nolf's back.
“I think we both considered it a good loss because that just changed his whole style,” said Mike Nolf, Jason's father. “What he's done, it's amazing. I don't think it's sunk into him yet.”
In his final state tournament, Nolf had three pins and a 16-4 major decision.
He became the 13th WPIAL wrestler and 40th in the PIAA to finish his career with three state titles. Among the 40 three-timers, Nolf has the second-highest win percentage and is tied for third-most in total wins.
“Coach (Brandon) Newill, I give him a lot of credit, along with (the Mat Factory wrestling club's) Isaac Greeley and the (Young Guns wrestling club's) Strittmatters and coach (Rob) Waller,” Mike Nolf said. “If it wouldn't have been for any one of those four or five guys, this wouldn't have been possible. (Jason) just buys into everything those guys teach, 100 percent.”
For the second season in a row and just the second time in school history, Kittanning had multiple PIAA placewinners, as sophomore 220-pounder Jacob Robb also brought home a medal in his first state tournament appearance.
After losing twice Friday night to fall from the semifinals to the weight class' fifth-place match, Robb (43-9) regrouped Saturday and rolled to an 8-0 win against Conneaut Area senior Connor Overman (32-12).
“It was pretty bad (Friday),” Robb said. “I was just thinking I needed to bounce back and win. I didn't want to end the season with a loss.”
A top-five finish left Robb with a bittersweet sensation. He considered himself capable of more, a thought supported by the fact that both PIAA finalists at 220, Avella senior Jake Temple and West Branch junior Reynold Maines also came out of the PIAA's Southwest Region.
“I feel like I should work harder to live up to the reputation of our region,” Robb said. “I need to just keep getting better and better and better.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.