Burrell’s Cooper Hornack backs his guarantee with Class 2A state wrestling championship

Saturday, March 11, 2023 | 8:36 PM

HERSHEY — Sometimes guarantees don’t come true.

But Burrell junior Cooper Hornack made sure he delivered on his guarantee.

Hornack (43-9, 112-19) used a takedown with a minute left in the 127-pound finals to defeat Bentworth senior Chris Vargo, 2-1, in the PIAA Class 2A wrestling championships Saturday at Giant Center.

He became the 10th Burrell wrestler to win a state title. A win in 2024 would tie him with Joe Makara as a two-time champion.

After his victory, he leaped to his feet and held up his arms to celebrate. He jumped into coach Josh Shields’ arms and then pinned assistant coach Isaac Greeley on the corner of the mat.

This was the fifth time in their careers and third consecutive weekend the two have met on the mat. Vargo (42-3, 92-9) won the PIAA Southwest Regional, 1-0, and Hornack won the WPIAL title, 5-1.

After he won his semifinal- round match Friday, Hornack predicted he’d win.

He hit a merkle and head shrug on the edge of the mat to secure the winning takedown. Then he rode Vargo out for the final minute.

“It was a 50-50 call,” Hornack said. “I was hoping he called it. I don’t know if I full had it locked. It went my way.

“Obviously I was a little concerned heading into the third period. I didn’t have any points yet. But I knew I wanted it more than him. I knew I had to take him down no matter what.”

Hornack was in the PIAA 106-pound finals as a freshman. He said he knew what it felt like to lose in the finals, and he didn’t want that feeling again.

“When I took him down, I worked on putting in my leg and don’t get a stalemate and come up with the win,” he said.

The victory brought tears to the eyes of his coach.

“I knew he took that loss hard as a freshman,” Shields said. “I knew how he felt because I lost in the finals. For him to come back … he didn’t have the best of years. He didn’t place at the King of the Mountain at the start of the year and didn’t place at Powerade.

“He’s a true definition of a gamer. At the biggest moments, he’s at his best. He did everything right. I’m so happy for him.”

Hornack joins an exclusive club at Burrell: Joel DesLauriers (1997), Joe Makara (2002, 2003), Jordan Shields (2007), Travis McKillop (2011), Dakota DesLauriers (2013), Steve Edwards (2014), Al Beattie (2015), Damon Greenwald (2016) and A.J. Corrado (2021) won titles.

Hornack’s teammate, freshman Cam Baker, placed fourth at 107 pounds.

Shields said Cam had a good tournament and will learn from his experience.

“Good things will come for him,” Shields said.

Laurel senior Grant MacKay (48-1, 166-19) claimed his second PIAA title by defeating Grove City junior Hunter Hohman, 5-0, in the 160-pound final.

He said afterwards that he dedicated the season to classmate and best friend Colin Bartley, who saw his season end after a hunting accident in December. Bartley and MacKay were hunting together at the time of the accident.

“I’m his best friend. Colin is like a brother to me,” MacKay said. “Seeing how easily his senior season was taken away from him, it gave me a different perspective. This entire season was for him. I tried to be his support.”

MacKay cruised to his win and didn’t take many chances against Hohman (42-2, 91-9).

“I knew I had to score to stay away from an overtime match,” MacKay said. “I knew I’d get some opportunities, and I had to take them or it would have been a lot closer.”

Frazier junior Rune Lawrence (44-3, 111-7) didn’t waste much time becoming the school’s first three-time champion. He pinned Brookville senior Jack Zimmerman (38-4, 90-24) early in the second period.

“It’s a good feeling. I’m one step closer to my goal,” Lawrence said. “I’m three-quarters of the way there now. It’s another big leap.

“It was nice to have fun like that in the finals. My opponent came out and wrestled. It makes the match more entertaining, and it’s better for everyone.”

Lawrence and Wyoming Area senior Jaden Pepe, who won the 133-pound title, became the 56th and 57th three-time champions in the PIAA history. Lawrence has a shot in 2024 to become the 13th four-time winner.

Central Valley junior Brenan Morgan (38-5, 70-12) will have to wait another year to become his school’s first state champion. He dropped a 10-7 decision to Muncy sophomore Patrick Sparks in the 215-pound final.

In Class 3A, four WPIAL wrestlers won titles including Latrobe senior Vinny Kilkeary, who won his third.

Winning their second titles were West Allegheny senior Ty Watters (152), Chartiers Valley senior Dylan Evans (160) and Waynesburg senior Rocco Welsh (172).

Kiski Area had two seventh place finishers in senior Ryan Klingensmith at 121 and sophomore Mark Gray at 172.

Klingensmith pinned Wilson junior James Garcia and Gray pinned J.P. McCaskey junior Kevin Olavarria. It was Olvarria who defeated Gray in the first round, 9-6.

WPIAL placewinners

The WPIAL had 35 Class 2A wrestlers qualify for the PIAA wrestling championships and finished with 11 placewinners.

First: Cooper Hornack, Burrell (127); Grant MacKay, Laurel (160) and Rune Lawrence, Frazier (189).

Second: Chris Vargo, Bentworth (127) and Brenan Morgan, Central Valley (215).

Third: None

Fourth: Cam Baker, Burrell (107), Nico Fanella, Indiana (114), Braedon Welsh, Fort Cherry (172), Vitali Daniels, Bentworth (215).

Fifth: None

Sixth: Antonio Boni, Central Valley (107) and Joey Baronick, Burgettstown (285).

Seventh: None

Eighth: None

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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