Believing key for WPIAL Class AAA wrestlers at PIAA championships

Thursday, March 11, 2021 | 8:51 PM

Wrestlers who want to win a PIAA championship just can’t rely on their skills. They better believe.

That belief starts with hard work in practice — those grueling sessions when you give your best and then some.

It carries over into tight matches. Self-belief and executing what you’ve been taught over the years are essential.

Hempfield senior Isaiah Vance, junior teammate Briar Priest and Franklin Regional junior Finn Solomon had that belief at the PIAA Class AAA West Super Region on March 6 at Altoona.

The trio looked strong during the finals: Vance and Solomon in wins and Priest in a loss. Can they repeat it and improve?

Vance, Solomon and Priest along with 26 others from the WPIAL head to Hershey on Saturday looking for PIAA gold.

Latrobe sophomore Vinny Kilkeary, Hempfield senior Ethan Berginc, Franklin Regional senior Carter Dibert, Seneca Valley senior Alejandro Herrera-Rondon and Waynesburg senior Wyatt Henson know the feeling of standing atop the podium.

Vance showed quickness and agility that seemed to surprise Selinsgrove senior Nate Schon at the West Super Region. Vance used his weight advance and strength in a convincing 7-2 victory.

“When I saw that Nate was going to be at Altoona, it fired me up,” Vance said. “I worked hard in practice, and I know I still have room for improvement.

“I’ve been working real hard this year, and I want to stick with my training. Everything should be OK with me.”

Vance has been a different wrestler since his loss to Greensburg Salem junior Billy McChesney in the Section 2 finals on Feb. 20. He’s wrestled like someone on a mission.

“I knew Schon would be a tough guy, so I had to match that,” Vance said. “I had to be better than him on the mat. “

Priest lost to Seneca Valley senior Dylan Chappell in back-to-back tournaments, but in defeat, he gained confidence. He lost 7-6 to Chappell in the West Super Region and almost received back points in the final 10 seconds.

Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said Chappell was lucky the official didn’t see him signaling that he was injured or Priest would have received the winning points.

Priest was a lot stronger than Chappell at the end. Chappell was on the mat exhausted after the hard-fought battle.

“It was close,” Priest said. “I went out knowing that I already qualified for states, and I wrestled free. I dropped the nerves and I wrestled the best I’ve ever have. It gave me more confidence because it seemed to be more tired than I was.”

Solomon seeded to wrestle with a chip on his shoulder against Waynesburg junior Cole Homet. Solomon, who lost to Homet 4-2 in the WPIAL finals, dominated Homet this time, winning 12-1.

“I was better prepared mentally,” Solomon said. “At the WPIALs, I went in nervous and wanting to win. I changed my approach and tried to score as many points that I could.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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