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March 2, 2014

Richland wrestler rebounds

JOHNSTOWN — Dried blood clung to Nick Naglic’s lip.

A cut to his right eyebrow had finally stopped bleeding but was in need of some stiches.

And the Richland wrestler had a huge grin on his face.

Such is the life of someone who loses his first match at the Southwest Regional Class AA Wrestling Tournament and then comes back to win four consecutive matches and earn a spot in Hershey for the state tournament next weekend.

Naglic did just that, capping his run with a 3-1 victory over Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver for third place at 145 pounds on Saturday. The Richland senior is one of 23 wrestlers from The Tribune-Democrat’s coverage area that placed to qualify for the state tournament.

Naglic also qualified for the state tournament last season, but after losing to South Fayette’s Brett Beltz on Friday afternoon, a return trip was a long shot. Locked up in a tie match with District 5 champion Trent Crouse of Chestnut Ridge in the closing seconds of a win-or-go-home bout on Friday night, Naglic tried a dangerous throw. He tied up his opponent’s arms and fell onto his own back in an attempt to launch Crouse to his. At first, it didn’t look like it worked, but eventually Naglic forced Crouse to his back for a takedown and the victory.

“I knew I had to do something. It was either then or the first minute of overtime. I had it locked up and I like that throw, so I went for it,” Naglic said.

From there, he picked up momentum.

“Today I knew I had the pressure, I had to come out. I knew if I lost my first match I was done,” Naglic said. “I wouldn’t get back to Hershey.”

He scored a major decision over Mount Pleasant’s Austin Mears, then pinned Marion Center’s Isaac Stewart – the same wrestler who beat him in the District 6 tournament two weeks ago – to ensure a spot in the top four and a return trip to Hershey.

“This season, I’ve had some troubles,” Naglic said. “Coming out last year and being a state qualifier – nothing’s easy, but I thought I could come out and dominate a little more this year. But I had to come out and wrestle my best. I had a whole lot of guys that were very good.”

Arguably, none is better than Oliver. The freshman entered the tournament with a 34-1 record and the District 6 title. But Naglic frustrated him from the neutral position – when the match wasn’t being stopped for the bleeding from the cut above his eye – and held on for the victory.

“I like to go and grind on him,” Naglic said of trying to wear out his opponent. “It was hard to get him tired. We both got breaks the whole time.”

Richland’s Nico Pecora also qualified for the state tournament by placing third at 170 pounds. Adam George fell just short, placing sixth at 126 pounds.

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