Iron sharpens iron for Franklin Regional state title hopefuls Dibert, Solomon

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Friday, February 14, 2020 | 7:43 PM


At every practice in the Franklin Regional wrestling room, Finn Solomon and Carter Dibert are paired. When they wrestle, it typically becomes a spectacle.

“When we go, everyone is watching us, because they want to see what happens,” Solomon said. “It’s so intense. It almost feels like the state finals every time we wrestle.”

Dibert is a defending state champion. Solomon was a PIAA runner-up last year, and they make each other better in their practice battles with the goal of getting back to the state finals.

That road starts with sectionals Feb. 22 at Kiski Area.

Dibert (113 pounds) and Solomon (126) are good friends off the mat and have been for a long time. Along with teammate Garrett Thompson, they went as the Three Musketeers for Halloween in their elementary days.

They also trained together in their youth and still get the most out of each practice bout they have.

“Training with someone like Finn is a great experience,” Dibert said. “We push each other to the max. I get to go up against a really good wrestler, and I think it helps me because he’s a little bigger than me.”

Dibert and Solomon were section champions last year. Dibert is 30-2 this season, and Solomon is 22-5.

Solomon lost a 10-5 decision to Seneca Valley’s Alejandro Herrera-Rendon in the state final last year. Needless to say, that has provided motivation.

Solomon has a picture of a PIAA gold medal as the lock screen on his phone. Every time he opens his phone to read a text or answer a call, that PIAA gold is there to greet him as a reminder of what his goal is.

“I look at it all the time,” Solomon said. “It’s in my head every morning. It’s been my goal ever since I was young to be a state champion, and after I came so close last year, I want to get back.”

Dibert topped Seneca Valley’s Dylan Chappell, 7-2, to win PIAA gold last year a week after losing to Chappell in the WPIAL final.

They won’t face each other this year because they are in different weight classes. Dibert would like to complete the set and get WPIAL gold, but he isn’t looking too far ahead.

“It’s definitely on my mind, but right now, I want to take it one match at a time,” Dibert said. “First, it’s sections. Hopefully, I’ll get gold there and keep building from that and, hopefully, get gold at WPIALs and then gold at states.”

Franklin Regional has three other wrestlers who have eclipsed 20 wins this season: Thompson, Mason Spears and Nathan Stone.

Thompson, a junior, is another practice partner for Solomon and Dibert. He is ranked fourth in the WPIAL in Class AAA at 132 and should be a factor at sectionals and beyond.

“We’re excepting big things out of Garrett,” Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe said. “He’s been a steady three-year guy for us that’s won 20 matches every year. He’s been in the mix of being one of the top six to eight guys in the WPIAL, so we’re confident that this is the year that he can get over the top.”

Spears (145) is a senior and is looking to make the state tournament for the first time. He placed third at sectionals last season.

“You can’t hide from the fact that it’s his last time, but for Mason, it’s not about being a senior,” Lebe said. “It’s about the fact that he’s prepared really hard by working his butt off and doing the right things. The emphasis for us is that Mason deserves to be at the state tournament and have an opportunity to get on the podium or be a state champion. He’s worked hard and had a great career.”

Stone, Gavyn Beck, Travis Hall and Justin Bass highlight a freshman class that has been strong. Junior Dalton O’Neil (15-6) also has had a good season.

Franklin Regional has had a representative in the state finals 11 consecutive years. Dibert, Solomon and the rest of the Panthers would like to keep that streak going.

“One of the vivid memories I have is when Mikey Kemerer finally won his state title, and Josh Shields winning and (Josh Brown and Spencer Lee) winning all in the same year (in 2015),” Solomon said. “I just remember saying to myself that I wanted follow them and do what they did.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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