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Emerging From the Shadows: The Story of Nick Zanetta




June 13, 2014

Written by Danny Hoffman:

The Three Brothers.

In all the years of Major League Baseball, there have been more than 350 sets of siblings. However, only once in MLB history had there ever been one family of three brothers to all become All-Stars: the DiMaggio's. All three were center fielders, and all three had illustrious careers: Vince DiMaggio (the oldest) with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio with the New York Yankees, and Dom DiMaggio (the youngest) with the Boston Red Sox.

On a more local scale, another family of three brothers has dominated their field, or, more accurately, their mat. J.J., Anthony, and Nick Zanetta all excelled as wrestlers at Keystone Oaks High School. J.J. graduated from Mercyhurst University in 2007 and Anthony just finished at the University of Pittsburgh this past year, and both have become some of the greatest wrestlers ever at their individual schools. Nick, the youngest of the three brothers, will be entering his redshirt freshman year at Pitt after having participated in open competition during his first year in college.

Vince and Joe DiMaggio cast quite a shadow on their youngest brother, Dom, who was not only the youngest of the three brothers to play professional baseball, but also the youngest of the nine DiMaggio children. Despite being the baby brother of the famous Joe DiMaggio, Dom DiMaggio put up numbers in his 10 seasons of professional baseball that have stirred some discussion over why he has been left out of the Hall of Fame. During his career, Dom amassed 1,679 hits, more than any other player during that span, topping the totals of Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Pee Wee Reese.

Nick Zanetta watched both of his older brothers enjoy incredible wrestling careers, and can identify with the shadow cast over Dom DiMaggio.


 

 

"I grew up watching my brothers wrestle, so I was exposed to the sport very early," Nick Zanetta had said while he was in high school. "Seeing what they were able to accomplish during their high school careers made me work so much harder to match what they did."

Nick's oldest brother, J.J., posted a career record of 109-20 at Keystone Oaks High School, including 33-2 as a senior. He was named to the Dapper Dan WPIAL Team and was the Allegheny County Champion and Section Champion before going to wrestle for Mercyhurst University. At Mercyhurst, J.J. was an All-American as a junior and a senior, a three-time NCAA qualifier, and set the school record for wins in a season with 32. After his wrestling career ended at Mercyhurst and he graduated in 2007, he returned to Keystone Oaks High School to become the head wrestling coach, where he began coaching Nick.

Anthony, the middle Zanetta brother, was a two-time PIAA and WPIAL Champion at Keystone Oaks, amassing a 156-14 record over his career and going 46-1 as a senior. He was named the 2009 WPIAL Wrestler of the Year, an All-American, and a member of the Dapper Dan Pennsylvania Team. Anthony became a Pitt Panther in 2009 and just completed his senior season this past spring. He became the 18th member of Pitt's 100-win club, a 4-time NCAA qualifier, and a 3-time Eastern Wrestling League Champion.

Given his older brothers and their numerous accolades, Nick Zanetta has big shoes to fill. However, Nick has compiled his own list of accomplishments. During his reign at Keystone Oaks, he had a career record of 132-26, including 41-4 as a junior. Like both of his brothers, Nick was a member of the Dapper Dan WPIAL Team. Nick challenged Anthony's two-time stint as PIAA Champion with a run of his own, qualifying for states three times and becoming a two-time state runner up.

For Dom DiMaggio, being on the Boston Red Sox, while Joe starred for the Yankees, added the additional challenge of a sibling rivalry to one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time. During a game at Yankee Stadium in May 1946, Dom hit a ball to deep center field, but Joe raced after it and climbed the wall to make the catch. When the inning ended and the brothers crossed paths behind second base, Joe called out, "It's 32-21," referring to the number of times one of them had taken a hit away from the other. Despite the fact that Joe was the future Hall of Famer, it was little known that Dom was actually leading that competition.

Recently, Nick Zanetta has started making a name for himself beyond Keystone Oaks High School and beyond Pittsburgh. This past April, he finished eighth in the FILA Juniors Nationals Freestyle Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., which featured many of the best under-20 wrestlers in the nation.

Following his success in Las Vegas, Nick went to Madison, Wis. to compete in the 2014 FILA Junior World Team Trials, a competition to determine which wrestler gets the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2014 FILA Junior World Championships. After dropping his opening match to the eventual runner-up, Nick went on a tear, taking three-consecutive matches and claiming third place. Despite his success at the highest level, he was still hungry.

"I feel like I could have definitely made the finals just because I should have beaten that first kid that I lost to," Nick said. "I was winning 2-0 the whole match and then I made a stupid mistake towards the end and I ended up losing the match 2-2 [on a decision]."

His performances at some of the highest levels are telling of his talent, but Nick Zanetta's expectations for himself show his promise. He also has a strong support system in his corner, with two older brothers who have been through it all before. Back in high school, Nick's wrestling coach at Keystone Oaks was his older brother, J.J. At Pitt, one of his mentors was Anthony. Although Anthony recently graduated, Nick doesn't expect that his older brother has left him alone at Pitt.

"He'll be around," Nick said. "Whenever I ask him to come in and help me get a workout, he is always glad to help me out. He's a big part of my success, and sometimes I think he cares more about my success than his own."

In October 1949, Dom DiMaggio and the Red Sox arrived in New York to face the Yankees. Before this series, Joe was in the hospital with pneumonia, but he left his bed in time for the first game. It was Joe DiMaggio Day at Yankee Stadium, and Dom emerged from the Boston dugout to help him stand upright during the pregame ceremony. The big brother, for a moment, had to be supported by his youngest sibling. Although smaller than Joe DiMaggio in stature and in the baseball record books, Dom cast quite a long shadow himself.

Nick Zanetta has also begun to leave his own mark. His successes this season as a redshirt, in Las Vegas and in Madison show that he has a lot of wrestling still to do. And, if his brothers' legacies have given any indication, his career for the University of Pittsburgh's wrestling team is just getting started.

"I am definitely excited [for next year]," Nick said. "Last year was my redshirt year, so now I get the bump to compete and put on a Pitt singlet."