Kiski Area’s Sammy Starr goes out on top with pin in 5th-place match at states

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Saturday, March 13, 2021 | 10:10 PM


HERSHEY – Kiski Area senior Sammy Starr ended his high school career with a pin and a fifth-place finish at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championship Saturday.

It was Starr’s 27th pin of the season. He finished the season 39-6 and 113-46 for his career.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Starr said. “I’m happy to finish fifth, but disappointed that I lost to a kid I beat 12-2 last week.”

Starr began and ended his day with pins of La Salle’s Regan Loughney. In between he dropped a 4-2 decision to Mifflin County’s Trey Kibe in the semifinals and fell 5-3 to State College’s Lance Urbas.

“This tournament is definitely not the easiest to win,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “I thought Sammy wrestled his best last week at Altoona. This week was different. You had to be strong every match.

“Overall, Sammy made a lot of improvement from last year when he came here and didn’t place. I’m proud of what he achieved.”

Armstrong senior Logan Harmon ended up fourth in the 215 class. The Apollo-Ridge student who wrestles at Armstrong as part of a co-op dropped a 3-1 decision to Ryan Catka of Sun Valley in the third-place bout.

Harmon won his first match, but dropped a 3-1 decision to Wilson’s Josh Harkless in the semifinals. He edged Central Bucks East’s Quinn Collins, 7-6, to reach the third-place match.

Meanwhile, two WPIAL wrestlers who didn’t even qualify for last year’s tournament found themselves atop of the podium.

Hempfield junior Briar Priest and Franklin Regional junior Finn Solomon captured PIAA gold with convincing victories.

Priest won the 132-pound title by blanking Seneca Valley senior Dylan Chappell, 6-0, and Solomon used a third-period takedown to edge Waynesburg junior Cole Homet, 7-5, to take the 138-pound title.

“I can’t believe it,” Priest said after scoring all his points in the second period. “I didn’t expect to win. I was hoping top four.”

Priest, who lost to Chappell in the WPIAL and West Super Region finals, prevented the Seneca Valley senior from scoring in the opening period.

He started on the bottom in the second period, avoided Chappell’s tilts and finally got free for a point with 1:21 left. He then countered a Chappell takedown attempt by stepping over him and catching him for a takedown and a three-point nearfall. He rode Chappell out for the final 35 seconds of the second period and the entire two minutes of the third period.

“When I got him on his back, I couldn’t believe it was happening, honestly,” Priest said. “I was shocked myself. After that I, stayed calm and relied on my endurance.”

Priest came up short in 2020. He lost a blood-round match.

So he went to work, gained weight and strength. He did CrossFit training and ran a lot. The hard work paid off.

“When Briar starts believing in himself, things like that can happen,” Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. “His technique is phenomenal. He started believing himself the last two times he faced Chappell. The more shots we got at him, the more confident I felt.”

Solomon, who placed second at 113 pounds as a freshman in 2019, also lost in the blood round. He said the loss motivated him for this season.

He and Homet hooked for the third consecutive week and the match was a physical battle.

Waynesburg ran away with the team title. It had five wrestlers in the finals and three champions — sophomore Mac Church (120), Wyatt Henson (145) and Luca Augustine (172). Seneca Valley 152-pounder Alejandro Herrera-Rondon also won a state title, his third.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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