HERSHEY, Pa. -- It took every last bit of effort, but J.J. Walker and Jake Temple will both get to wrestle for their first PIAA championships this afternoon.
Walker, a 160-pound junior at South Fayette, and Temple, a 220-pound senior from Avella, won their semifinal matches in the ultimate tiebreaker Friday night at the PIAA Class AA individual wrestling championships at Giant Center.
"It's been the conditioning I've been doing for hours after practice," Walker said. "I just told myself, 'It's just 30 seconds. Why am I breathing hard? I can do this.' "
Walker and Milton's Ryan Preisch entered the ultimate tiebreaker tied, 2-2. Because Preisch scored first in the match, he got the choice of position and chose bottom, having escaped twice already. But Walker not only rode him out, but he also got two back points at the very end for a 4-2 victory.
Like Walker, Temple entered the ultimate tiebreaker against Bethlehem Catholic's Andrew Dunn tied. But Temple scored first in his match -- an escape in the second period -- and thus got the choice to go on bottom. He scored a reversal midway through the 30-second period to advance to the final.
"It all started at the start of the second period when I won the toss," said Temple, who improved to 42-0 this season. "I knew I could get out and work my stuff from bottom. So it was just a matter of when I was getting out and if it was going to ultimate rideout."
Kittanning senior Jason Nolf didn't need any dramatics to reach the 145-pound championship.
Nolf, a two-time PIAA champion who is 43-0 on the season, led by double digits when he pinned Muncy's Dakota Nixon in the third of period of their semifinal match. He has pinned 11 of his 12 opponents since the start of the section tournament.
Burrell's Steve Edwards also advanced to championship match at 152 pounds, giving the Bucs a finalist for the fourth year in a row.
A controversial call ended the possibility of South Park 138-pounder Jake Wentzel becoming the WPIAL's fifth representative in the final.
With his semifinal match against Southern Columbia's Kent Lane scoreless near the end of the first period, Wentzel was scrambling after Lane got in deep in a leg, and ended up being upside down in a scramble with both his shoulders on the mat for at least a split second. The referee ruled both shoulders touched for long enough for it to be a pin.
"It was a questionable call and I think the ref just made what he thought was the right call," South Park assistant coach Jared Shields said. "I'm not going to agree with it, but in that situation, you're not going to get them all right."
Wentzel bounced back to win his consolation semifinal and will wrestle for third place today, as will Derry's George Phillippi, who lost in the 120-pound quarterfinals Friday morning, 3-1, to Joey Gould of Bethlehem Catholic. Phillippi was the 113-pound champion last season.
Phillippi wasn't the only defending state champion from the WPIAL to lose Friday, as Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith, the 132-pound PIAA Class AAA champion in 2013, fell to Nazareth's Chase Zemenak, 3-0, in the 132-pound quarterfinals.
But Smith is still one of six Panthers alive in the Class AAA tournament, with four -- Devin Brown (106 pounds), Spencer Lee (113), Michael Kemerer (138) and Josh Shields (152) -- advancing to this morning's semifinals.
Brown (35-0), who won the PIAA Class AA champion at 106 pounds for Saegertown, and Lee (47-0) remained unbeaten on the season with their quarterfinal wins.
Lee, a freshman, has recorded technical falls in both of his state tournament matches.
"He's wrestling very well and hopefully he can keep it rolling [Saturday]," Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said of Lee.
In addition to Brown, three more WPIAL Class AAA wrestlers -- Latrobe's Luke Pletcher (120 pounds), Hempfield's Sam Krivus (126) and Canon-McMillan's Solomon Chishko (145) -- kept their hopes for consecutive state championships alive.
The only semifinal rematch from last week's WPIAL Class AAA tournament is at 132 pounds, where Cameron Coy of Penn-Trafford will face Peters Township's Ty Buckiso. Coy beat Buckiso, 8-2, at the WPIAL tournament and in overtime at the Powerade Tournament in December.
But Coy won't overlook any opponent, especially after seeing his friend, Phillippi, lose Friday. "You never know what can happen up here," Coy said. "One bad match, one slipup, and it cost you a whole season's worth of work."