Kiski Area’s Miller finishes decorated career with state wrestling title

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Saturday, March 9, 2019 | 10:52 PM


HERSHEY — Darren Miller brought a companion to the top of the podium Saturday night: a 5-pound Hershey’s milk chocolate bar.

What it took to get there was even sweeter.

In the final match of his record-setting Kiski Area wrestling career, Miller beat Franklin Regional’s Colton Camacho, 6-5, in a thrilling 126-pound championship bout at the PIAA Class AAA tournament at Hershey’s Giant Center.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Miller said. “I was able to live my dream. … This was just a miracle to me.”

Miller, the third PIAA champion in Kiski Area history after Matt McCutcheon (2012) and Isaac Reid (‘18), went from not qualifying for the state tournament as a junior to capturing the title a year later.

The all-time winningest wrestler in Kiski Area history with 164 victories, Miller also avenged a 4-2 loss to Camacho in the WPIAL finals earlier this month.

“Not being able to come last year pushed me to the next level,” Miller said. “I realized I had to get in the room. I was training every day. I knew at that moment I wanted to be on top the following year.”

In the WPIAL final March 2, Camacho got two early takedowns and held on late. Before that loss, Miller beat Camacho twice this season: at the Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament and the Section 1-AAA tournament.

Miller changed his gameplan Saturday, getting to his offense and scoring a takedown with 8 seconds remaining in the first period. Camacho took the lead in the second with an escape and a takedown, but Miller tied it with an escape of his own.

A reversal to begin the third period allowed Miller to retake the lead, but Camacho tied it with a reversal of his own. Miller escaped again with 1 minute, 7 seconds remaining, and he held off Camacho’s takedown attempts to win.

Camacho dove for a takedown as the buzzer sounded, but it was in vain. It was Miller time. The usually soft-spoken Miller flexed to the crowd and thumped his chest three times, roaring “Let’s go!” to the Kiski Area fans.

“It was just full emotion coming out at once,” said Miller, who wrestled much of the last round half-blind after taking a shot to his eye. “I wasn’t able to control myself, but it was just an amazing feeling.”

Miller, a Bucknell recruit, will graduate as the most decorated wrestler in school history thanks to his record-breaking win total and PIAA title.

“I’m just glad that he was able to win the last match up here and become a state champ,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “We’ve never had a lightweight state champ. I’m really happy for Darren. He’s really worked hard for that.”

His title highlighted Kiski Area’s best performance at the PIAA championships. The Cavaliers finished with four medalists, the most in school history.

Senior Cam Connor had a chance to win a state title, advancing to the championship match at 152 pounds before suffering a 10-2 major-decision loss to Daniel Mancini of Owen J. Roberts in a rematch of a bout from the PIAA team tournament in February. Mancini won the first meeting 8-1.

Connor, a Penn recruit, finished his career with 162 victories, second in school history, and two WPIAL individual championships, tied for the most in school history.

“(I’ll remember) things like brotherhood and leadership with my teammates, just memories I’ll never lose, that kind of thing,” Connor said. “It just (stinks) that it was my last match. It was a crappy way to end it.

“I just didn’t really wrestle my best. I couldn’t get to my offense or anything. But he’s tough. I just have to bounce back and hit the practice room and the weights. It’ll motivate me to improve.”

Junior Jack Blumer got a measure of revenge by beating Bethlehem Catholic’s Luca Frinzi, 4-2, in the third-place match at 160 pounds. Frinzi beat Blumer in the quarterfinals Friday, but Blumer avoided the nearfall points that cost him in that bout.

Earlier Saturday, Blumer, who earned a state medal for the first time, broke Kiski Area’s single-season record for falls by pinning Strath Haven’s John Crawford in the consolation semifinals. He had 34 this season, one more than the previous record held by Chad Kuhn.

“I felt like I should have won the first one (against) Frinzi, so just coming back and getting that second one just felt good,” Blumer said. “It feels amazing just being here and wrestling in this atmosphere. Especially to place here.”

Junior Nick Delp also earned his first PIAA medal, placing eighth at 170 pounds after an 8-4 loss to Dillon Keane of Bradford in the seventh-place match.

All four Kiski Area wrestlers who came to Hershey earned medals, and the Cavaliers finished fourth in the team standings.

“It’s amazing,” Miller said. “Just the guys coming here, us as a whole, we’re breaking records. … It’s undescribable.”

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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