Kiski Area’s Miller, Connor earn spots in PIAA Class AAA semifinals

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Friday, March 8, 2019 | 7:54 PM


HERSHEY — Darren Miller didn’t make it to the Giant Center last March, the victim of an upset in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament. So the Kiski Area senior appreciates the value of even wrestling in the state wrestling championship, let alone earning a medal.

Miller and teammate Cam Connor both secured their second career state medals Friday afternoon after they advanced to the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA tournament. Both will go into Saturday — the final day of their high school wrestling careers — with a chance to win their first PIAA titles, Miller at 126 pounds and Connor at 152.

“Not being here last year, just being able to medal is great,” said Miller, who will wrestle Patrick Gould of East Stroudsburg in the semifinals, which begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. “But I’m still going to be aiming for higher goals.”

Starters since the first match of their high school careers, Miller and Connor came to Hershey as two of the most decorated wrestlers in Kiski Area history. Miller, a PIAA third-place medalist in 2017, set the school’s career wins record last week and has 162 after his 10-0 major decision over Altoona’s Matt Sarbo in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Connor, a two-time WPIAL champion, stands one career victory behind Miller after his quarterfinal pin of Carlisle’s Colton Zimmerman.

“All in the end, I just want to be a state champ,” said Connor, who placed seventh at last season’s PIAA tournament.

Juniors Jack Blumer (160 pounds) and Nick Delp (170) both earned their first state medals, bouncing back from quarterfinal losses to win in the third round of the consolation bracket — the “blood round.”

Miller, who won by pin in his first-round match Friday, overcame a slow start offensively in his match against Sarbo. But after getting a late takedown in the first period, he took control of the match, getting another takedown in the second and an escape, takedown and nearfall in the third for a 10-0 victory.

“I feel like I’m wrestling pretty good,” Miller said. “I feel like I could take more shots, create more openings, but I can worry about that tomorrow. As soon as I started getting warmed up, he got tired. I was able to move him and take more shots.”

Franklin Regional’s Colton Camacho and Canon-McMillan’s Kenny Hayman also made it to the 126-pound semifinals. Miller wrestled Camacho three times this season, winning the first two before a loss in last week’s WPIAL finals. A fourth match looms in Saturday’s state finals if both win in the morning semifinals.

Connor experienced the difficulties of the state tournament Thursday, when he took a head butt in his first-round match against Waynesburg’s Luca Augustine and needed overtime to emerge with a win.

Friday, Connor had it a bit easier, even if he was sporting a “battle wound” from his encounter with Augustine in the form of a black eye. Connor took Zimmerman down midway through the first period, turned him to his back for three nearfall points and got his pin after another takedown in the second period.

He appreciated the chance for some extra rest.

“Every match here is just going to be tearing your body apart,” Connor said. “You come back sore every day. Getting a one-match break might not seem like a lot, but it’s a big deal. You come into tomorrow morning a little more rested up.”

Both Blumer and Delp needed to bounce back quickly from their losses, with losses in the blood round at last season’s tournament providing plenty of motivation for them.

Blumer squared off with Waynesburg’s Colby Morris in a rematch of the WPIAL semifinals, winning 3-2 on the strength of a 3-2 decision.

“Last year, losing in that round, I didn’t want that feeling ever again,” said Blumer, who lost in the quarterfinals to Becahi’s Luca Frinzi. “This win meant so much to me. I give all my respect to Colby because he’s tough. He should be on the podium, too. It’s just we ended up wrestling each other in the blood round.”

Delp bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to Stroudsburg’s Lenny Pinto to earn a 3-2 decision of his own over Spring Grove’s Anthony Hinson, overcoming a pair of stalling calls in the third period that gave Hinson two points.

“Going into this round I was pretty nervous, especially since I was in the same spot last year,” Delp said. “Same everything: I remember the match perfectly … so was starting to get psyched up for that one. But all I had on my mind was trying to win so I could get on that podium.”

For Blumer and Delp, Saturday becomes about reaching as high on the podium as they can: Both can get up to third place.

Meanwhile, Miller and Connor can join Matt McCutcheon (2012) and Isaac Reid (2018) as the only PIAA champions in Kiski Area history.

“(Saturday will) be amazing,” Miller said. “Last high school weigh-in, last high school tournament. It’s hard to believe.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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