Burrell’s Cooper Hornack gets back to PIAA wrestling finals where a fierce rival awaits

Friday, March 10, 2023 | 10:00 PM

HERSHEY —When Cooper Hornack reached the finals at the PIAA Class 2A wrestling championships in 2021, he didn’t realize how big of a deal it was.

Now he does, and he’s looking forward to a second trip to the finals at Giant Center on Saturday.

There the Burrell junior finds a familiar foe awaiting him in the 127-pound final — Bentworth junior Chris Vargo.

This will be the third time this season and fifth time in the past two seasons they will square off. They have split the previous four matches. Hornack won at the WPIAL finals 5-1 two weeks ago, and Vargo won the Southwest Regional final 1-0 last week.

Hornack (42-6) defeated North East sophomore Cyrus Hurd, 7-4, in the semifinals Friday night. Vargo (42-2) needed overtime to defeat Conneaut junior Hunter Gould, winning 8-3 in tiebreaker 2.

“I know what it means now to wrestle in the finals,” Hornack said. “I know how it feels to lose and he doesn’t. I don’t want that to ever happen again.”

Hornack dropped a 6-2 decision to Hickory freshman Louie Gill at 106 pounds in 2021.

Hornack got a takedown 15 seconds into the opening period Friday. An escape by Hurd made it 2-1 after one period.

“I knew I had to get that first takedown,” Hornack said. “I was able to control the match at my pace and ground him.”

Hurd tied the score at 2-2 with an escape early in the second period, but Hornack then got a takedown a minute into the second period to snag a 4-2 lead. He never looked back.

In the third period, Hornack took the bottom position and fought hard for an escape to push the lead to 5-2. Another takedown made it 7-2 with a minute remaining.

“I’m excited about the rematch,” Hornack said. “I get a chance at revenge from last week. He’s a great competitor and I’m going to take it to him, for sure.

“We’re 2-2 right now. I have to push the pace like I did last year. I have to keep attacking. He gassed out last year in the consolation semifinals.”

Hornack said he knew Hurd was good off the bottom, so he made sure to avoid some of his crazy stuff.

Hornack looks to become the Bucs’ 11th PIAA champion. Vargo hopes to be Bentworth’s third.

The last Bentworth champion was Francis Mizia in 2012 at 160.

Vargo said he hopes to follow Mizia’s path to a state title.

“Francis won it on Sheetz and that’s all I’ve been eating,” Vargo said. “Snack wraps, baby, snack wraps. So blame it on the Sheetz.”

Vargo and Gould were tied 1-1 heading to tiebreaker 1. Vargo was able to get a two-point near fall and a takedown after Gould escaped to grab a 5-2 lead. He added an escape and takedown in the second tiebreaker.

Hornack’s teammate, freshman Cam Baker, ran into a buzzsaw in Northern Lebanon sophomore Aaron Seidel at 107. Baker was pinned at 1:39.

Baker (40-10) came out aggressive against Seidel, the No. 1 seed. He nearly secured a takedown before Seidel took control and recorded a takedown. He then put Baker on his back, and despite a battle from the Burrell freshman, was able to get the mat slapped to end the match.

Baker, who already earned a Top 6 finish, faced Faith Christian Academy freshman Kole Davidheiser in the consolation semifinals and posted an 8-0 victory. He’ll wrestle for third place against Trinity (D3) freshman Will Detar.

Laurel senior Grant MacKay advanced to the finals with a 9-1 victory against Conneaut senior Collin Hearn. He’ll go after his second PIAA title against Grove City junior Hunter Hohman at 160.

Frazier junior Rune Lawrence didn’t let a sore ankle stop him from reaching the finals for third consecutive season. After a close 1-0 win in the quarterfinals against Saucon Valley senior Jacobs Jones, the two-time PIAA champion pinned General McLane junior Magnus Lloyd in 55 seconds.

Lawrence (44-2) will face Brookville senior Jackson Zimmerman in the 189-pound finals. Zimmerman upset Bishop McDevitt senior Jakob Gilfoil in the other semifinal.

Central Valley junior Brenan Morgan leaped into his coach’s arms after he rallied to defeat Girard senior Abe Keep, 4-3, at 215. Morgan will attempt to become Central Valley’s first state champion.

Fort Cherry sophomore Braedon Welsh came up short in his bid to reach the finals when he was pinned by Faith Christian Academy freshman Adam Waters at 172.

Burrell sophomore Isaac Lacinski missed becoming an all-state wrestler by one win. He fell in the third round of consolations.

Cavaliers place

The mark of a good wrestler is how he reacts after a tough loss. Kiski Area senior Ryan Klingensmith and sophomore Mark Gray each earned all-state honors by winning in the consolation round Friday.

Klingensmith, after a first-round loss, showed his mettle by collecting three wins, two on Friday. He defeated Upper Perkiomen junior Branden Rozanski, 3-0, and then handed Northampton freshman Trey Wagner a 6-1 defeat.

Gray pinned Mifflin County sophomore Avery Aurand and then blanked Wilson sophomore Blaise Eidle, 5-0, at 172 pounds.

Senior heavyweight Jack Crider was beaten in his first match of the day.

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

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