Burrell’s Cam Baker, Cooper Hornack advance to quarterfinals in PIAA Class 2A wrestling

Thursday, March 9, 2023 | 8:54 PM

HERSHEY — You can never tell how a wrestler will perform the first time he competes during the PIAA individual championships at Giant Center. The venue can be intimidating even for the seasoned wrestlers.

It didn’t hurt that Burrell freshman Cam Baker got to compete here a month ago at the PIAA Class 2A team championship.

Baker and junior teammate Cooper Hornack didn’t let the bright lights and environment bother them during Day 1 of the three-day event Thursday.

Both had strong performances in the opening round and easily advanced to the quarterfinals scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.

Baker (39-9) pinned Corry freshman Steven Willis at 3 minutes, 28 seconds at 107 pounds. Baker had built a 9-0 lead at the time of the pin.

“I was nervous until I stepped on the mat,” Baker said. “At Burrell, you train for these types of matches every day. I felt good, and I was confident in myself. I was ready. I just had to stay calm and keep focused.”

He will face Muncy freshman Gage Swank (38-9), the fourth seed, in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t know much about my next opponent,” Baker said. “I’ll just rest and get ready for my next match. I don’t look too far ahead.”

Hornack (40-6) defeated Bermudian Springs freshman Hayden Yacoviello-Andrus, 6-1, at 127. The junior took control of the match with a three-point nearfall in the second period.

The junior was a state finalist in 2022.

“I had a lot of nerves before the match,” Hornack said. “You have to be ready for every match because everyone here is good. There are no easy matches.

“I thought Cam wrestled well. He’s a crazy wrestler. It’s good to get a win.”

Hornack will face third seed Matthew Smith (36-6) of Midd-West in his quarterfinal match.

Senior Niko Ferra and sophomore Isaac Lacinski are still alive in the consolation round. Both won their preliminary-round matches but lost in the first round. They will wrestle in the second round of consolations.

Ferra (139) pinned Schuylkill Valley sophomore Ian Vitalo and then dropped a 5-0 decision to the No. 2 seed, Chase Hontz of Faith Christian.

Lacinski won a 7-3 decision against Berks Catholic junior Gabriel Davis, then lost to the No. 2 seed, Connor McChesney of Fort LeBoeuf, 5-0.

Tough going for the Cavaliers

Kiski Area’s trio of wrestlers won’t be bringing home gold medals this season, but they are still in the running to get on the podium in Class 3A.

Senior heavyweight Jack Crider and sophomore Mark Gray (172 pounds) picked up pins during the preliminary round but lost to seeded wrestlers in the first round.

Crider (32-11) was pinned by No. 1 seed Sean Kinney of Nazareth, and Gray fell 9-6 to No. 2 seed Kevin Olavarria of J.P. McCaskey. Olavarria used two first-period takedowns to build a 4-1 lead.

Senior Ryan Klingensmith, the WPIAL champion at 121, gave up a four-point move in the opening period and dropped an 8-3 decision to Warwick senior Marco Tocci.

Klingensmith dropped into the first round of consolations. He pinned Northwestern sophomore Elijah Hewitt in 27 seconds.

“It wasn’t a bad first day,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “We had a couple tough draws right off the bat.

“Ryan’s match against (Marco) Tocci was listed as one of the top first-round matches in the tournament, and Jack got the returning state champion. Mark was in his match. The reversal at the end of the second period proved costly.”

Crider and Gray advanced to the second round of consolations because of their wins in the preliminary round and will wrestle at 2:15 p.m. Friday.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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