Kittanning junior wrestling standout nearly unbeatable

Written by Ken Wunderley on .

Jason Nolf has one goal every time he steps on the mat.

"I want to pin every opponent," said Nolf, a junior at Kittanning High School. "I want to get off the mat as soon as possible."

Nolf has done a great job of that since breaking into the Wildcats starting lineup as a 103-pound freshman. He enters this weekend's WPIAL Class AA tournament at Chartiers Valley High School with a 122-1 career record, which includes 77 pins and seven technical falls.

"Jason is always working for the pin, and he gets it most of the time," Kittanning coach Brandon Newill said. "But he is also capable of winning the close match, even though he doesn't have many."

Nolf has had only 23 bouts go the distance -- 21 regular decisions and two major decisions -- and he has lost only one.

"I think about it every once in a while, so I'm not sure I'll ever get over it," said Nolf, referring to the only setback in his career, a 6-4 loss to Ryan Diehl of Camp Hill Trinity in the 2012 PIAA semifinals.

Nolf won WPIAL, Southwest Region and PIAA titles at 103 pounds as a freshman. He moved up to the 113-pound weight class last season and claimed a second title in the WPIAL and Southwest Region tournaments. Diehl was a two-time West Virginia champion who transferred to Camp Hill Trinity.

"Jason made the mistake of being too concerned with what his opponent could do," Newill said. "He studied Diehl too much and let him dictate the pace of the match. It was such an uncharacteristic match for Jason."

Newill was impressed with how quickly Nolf rebounded from the loss.

"The toughest match for a wrestler to come back from is a semifinal loss at states," Newill said. "And in Jason's case, it was even tougher. It was the first loss of his career and it ended his goal of becoming a four-time state champion. He had less than an hour to get ready for the consolation semifinals."

Nolf rebounded with two wins in the consolation bracket to claim a bronze medal.

"Jason learned a lesson in that match," Newill said. "You have to be more concerned with what you can do, than what your opponent can do."

Nolf had a growth spurt since last season and is now competing at 132 pounds.

"It's not surprising Jason is going through a growth spurt," Newill said. "His dad is a big guy. He's about 6 feet 5 and 250 pounds."

It's rare to see a wrestler jump three weight classes from one season to another, but Newill wasn't concerned.

"As long as the wrestler continues to do the fundamental things well, he will do well in any weight class," Newill said.

Nolf is seeded No. 1 in the 132-pound weight class at the WPIAL tournament with a 35-0 record, including 28 pins. He qualified for the tournament by winning a third consecutive Section 3 title.

In the section title match, Nolf faced Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta, a senior who was a WPIAL and PIAA runner-up last season at 126 pounds. Only one point was scored in the bout, a third-period escape by Nolf.

"I was very disappointed with the title match," Newill said. "There was a lot of holding and not enough action. Jason should have been more aggressive. I would like to see him open up more when they meet again."

Nolf and Zanetta could meet again this weekend, as the two are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AA. In fact, they could be the two best 132-pounders in the WPIAL. Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, and Nolf beat him, 10-5, in the finals of the Powerade Christmas Tournament.

"I wouldn't be surprised if I face Zanetta again this week, maybe a couple more times," Nolf said. "But we are not the only two good wrestlers in this weight class."

Nolf and Zanetta are on opposite sides of the bracket so the two cannot meet until the finals. South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry (32-1) is also in Zanetta's half of the bracket.

"Nick would certainly welcome a rematch," said Keystone Oaks coach J.J. Zanetta, who is also Nick's brother.

With a 122-1 record, it's no surprise that Nolf has received numerous correspondances from college coaches all over the country.

"I really haven't thought about college that much," Nolf said. "I've begun looking at some schools, but I'm keeping an open mind about recruiting."

Nolf has made a few unofficial visits, including one to the University of Iowa last month.