HERSHEY — Jacob Ealy was hunting history in Hershey, and he didn’t let the opportunity pass him by.
Ealy became Hopewell’s first state wrestling champion, winning a 7-5 decision over Saegertown’s Kenny Kiser in the 138-pound final of the PIAA Class AA tournament Saturday afternoon at Giant Center.
“I’m happy to have that under my belt,” Ealy said. “There will always be that. There’s never going to be another first, so it just feels really good.”
Ealy became the first of three WPIAL wrestlers to win state Class AA titles Saturday. He was quickly followed to the top of the podium by Frazier junior Thayne Lawrence, who defended his state title with a 7-2 decision over Kane’s Alec English in the 160-pound final, and Mt. Pleasant freshman Dayton Pitzer, who claimed the 182-pound title with a 3-1 decision over Freedom’s Bryson Miller.
Lawrence found himself in Ealy’s shoes last season when he became Frazier’s first state champion in any sport, and he added to that legacy Saturday.
“It means a lot not only for me but for everybody that came and watched me up in the stands, my parents and everybody back at school,” Lawrence said. “That’s important to me and all around the town.”
Pitzer won Mt. Pleasant’s first PIAA wrestling title since Donnie Ament in 2005 and became just the second freshman in a weight class above 160 pounds, joining Solanco’s Thomas Haines (2011).
“I have great coaches that help me so much, great teammates,” Pitzer said. “We push each other in the practice room and just like wrestling.”
Ealy finished fifth at the PIAA tournament in 2018, when Hopewell wrestled at the Class AAA level. He dominated the Class AA level this season, winning Outstanding Wrestler at the WPIAL tournament and claiming the title at the PIAA Southwest Regional, as well.
He completed the championship trifecta in Hershey, culminating with another win over Kiser. He beat the Saegertown junior by major decision in the finals of January’s Fred Bell Memorial Tournament at Grove City High School, and in the rematch Ealy took a 4-0 lead with a takedown and two nearfall points in the first period and never looked back.
When the final buzzer sounded, Ealy clapped twice, did the raise-the-roof gesture to Hopewell’s fans and embraced his coaches.
“I always have thought that it’s possible, but this year I thought about it a little extra,” Ealy said. “I really wanted to accomplish it this year.”
Lawrence controlled his match throughout, taking a 5-0 lead after a pair of takedowns and an escape and getting a third takedown in the final seconds of his match. Although he didn’t get the pin he sought, he ended up on top in more ways than one.
“I prepared all season for this, and I just went out there with the mindset I was going to win the thing and put points on the board every match,” he said.
Pitzer wrestled Miller for the third time in less than a month. After Pitzer had an 11-5 win and a pin of Miller in the semifinals at the WPIAL and regional tournaments, Miller countered with a more defensive game plan Saturday.
A takedown late in the second period gave Pitzer the lead for good, and an escape in the third provided the final margin.
“I felt good,” Pitzer said. “I knew if I hand-fought hard and pushed the pace, I knew he’d break. And he couldn’t do anything in the end.”
The WPIAL had seven wrestlers in the state finals. In addition to Miller, Freedom 152-pounder Trent Schultheis, McGuffey 170-pounder Christian Clutter and Derry 220-pounder Dom DeLuca finished as runners-up. Schultheis lost by 20-5 technical fall to Ryan Vulakh of Pope John Paul II, Clutter went down by an 8-2 decision to Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill and DeLuca fell 6-2 in sudden-victory overtime against Jacob McMaster.
The WPIAL finished with 19 Class AA medalists.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .