Burrell’s Joe Makara giving back to sport; three from A-K Valley earn medals

Saturday, March 9, 2024 | 8:34 PM

HERSHEY — Even though Burrell didn’t have a wrestler in the PIAA wrestling championship finals, it did have a former two-time PIAA champion roaming the mats as an official.

Joe Makara, who won consecutive titles in 2002 and 2003, was on the center mat for two girls finals: 130 and 190 pounds. It was the first time Makara has worked the three-day individual tournament. He worked the PIAA team championship in 2022.

“This is a lot different,” Makara said. “It’s fun. When I got started I didn’t think where I would go with it. When I had the opportunity to move up and do junior high and high school tournaments, I thought it would be really cool to come up here and ref the state tournament when I wrestled in it. It would be pretty cool.”

Makara has been officiating for seven years, and he’s received high marks.

“He’s one of the best up here,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “I’d want him on any big matches. He does a great job.”

PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi said he would like to see more former wrestlers officiate.

“I’ve had a few return to the sport,” Lombardi said. “Because they’ve wrested, they know the rules and can anticipate situations.”

Makara said it’s his chance to give back to the sport he loves.

“I coached as long as I could,” Makara said. “Family kept me from coaching. I wanted to give back and be around the sport, and official provides that.”

Makara recalled his time as a wrestler.

“Here, everyone is good,” Makara said. “You have to be on your game. They are all the best. It’s Pennsylvania. Super tough wrestlers. They are all tough.”

3 finish 6th

Two wrestlers from Burrell and one from Kiski Area earned PIAA sixth-place medals.

Burrell sophomore Cam Baker reached the semifinals and finished with three consecutive losses at 107.

“I’m still happy,” Baker said. “There were a lot of tough wrestlers in my weight class. I know what I have to do to get higher on the podium. I have to keep improving on my feet and work on my attacks.”

Baker placed third in 2023.

Cooper Hornack earned his fourth PIAA medal, but it wasn’t the one he was hoping for. The returning state champion was aiming for a repeat but came up short at 139.

“I made some stupid mistakes, and it cost me,” Hornack said. “I still feel I left everything on the mat. I gave it my all.”

Kiski Area’s Cooper Roscosky said he is disappointed how things ended. But he said things will be different next year.

“I want to be a leader,” Roscosky said. “I saw what it takes to be a champion. I’m going to work hard on my strength and get with my trainer.”

5 from WPIAL win

Frazier senior Rune Lawrence and Central Valley senior Brenan Morgan won Class 2A titles.

Lawrence became the 14th four-time champion and seventh from the WPIAL to do so when he defeated Muncy junior Austin Johnson, 6-3.

Lawrence (33-1, 145-8) took control of the match with an escape and takedown in the second period for a 3-0 win. After Johnson, the returning 215 champion, got an escape to start the third period, Lawrence put the match away with another takedown.

Morgan became the first Central Valley wrestler to win a state title, and he joins his dad, Bruce, as a state champion. His dad, formerly of Connellsville, won his title in 1990 at Cameron County.

Morgan defeated Berks Catholic senior Brody Kline, 6-4.

The three Class 3A winners were Norwin freshman Landon Sidun at 114, Thomas Jefferson junior Maddox Shaw at 139 and Pine-Richland junior Vaughn Spencer at 172.

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.

Tags: ,

More High School Sports

With ‘perfect’ combination of speed, stamina, Laurel sprinter wins 400-meter gold
Senior triple jumper wins East Allegheny’s 1st PIAA track gold medal
Westmoreland high school athlete of the week: Norwin’s Brookelyn Kotch and Penn-Trafford’s Brandon Roher
A-K Valley high school notebook: Deer Lakes’ Cochran named section MVP
Butler’s Drew Griffith breaks PIAA championship record in 3,200, but national mark must wait