Kiski Area’s Sammy Starr is feeling confident heading into state tournament
Thursday, March 11, 2021 | 7:54 PM
One year ago, Kiski Area wrestler Sammy Starr found himself at the state tournament for the first time.
He lost his first-round matchup to Nazareth senior Nathan Stefanik in a close 4-3 decision. Then, after winning two matches in the 152-pound consolation bracket, Starr fell to Pine-Richland’s Cole Spencer, 8-3, ending his junior year.
A week before that, Starr had lost to Spencer, 2-1, in the WPIAL finals.
“That was honestly the biggest punch that I had ever received, but I honestly think I needed it,” Starr said.
“That has driven me so much. Since two weeks after states last year, I was like, ‘I really don’t want to sit around anymore,’ and I got right back to it. I started lifting like crazy, and I started writing ‘state champ’ all over my house.”
Starr said he wrote ‘state champ’ on every window and mirror he could find in his house to use as motivation for his final season. He’ll finally have his chance to accomplish that goal Saturday when he travels to Hershey for his second state tournament and the final wrestling tournament of his high school career.
“All I’m looking at now is that state title,” Starr said.
As a senior, Starr has put together the best season of his high school career. He’s 37-4, and two of his four losses have come by a point.
He also lost to Frazier freshman Rune Lawrence at the annual Powerade tournament, 5-2. This past weekend at the PIAA Class AAA West Super Regional, Starr forced overtime against top-seeded Trey Kibe of Mifflin County in the semifinals but was pinned 18 seconds into the first extra period after getting caught in a tough situation.
Now, the lone Kiski Area representative at states is feeling the best he’s felt all season long.
“I’m feeling actually really good, and I’m feeling really confident,” Starr said. “I think things are starting to come together really good right now.”
Since last year’s state tournament run, Starr has bumped up two weight classes and started to fill out more. He said he’s a lot stronger than he was a season ago, and the product he’s put on the mat this season has shown that. Twenty-five of his 37 wins have come by pin, and he’s also recorded four major decisions and one technical fall.
What it’s come down to for Starr has been the close matches and tight matches against the likes of Waynesburg’s Luca Augustine and Kibe. Starr lost to Augustine earlier in the season at the Cavalier Duals and again in the WPIAL Class AAA championship. While those losses were difficult to handle, they helped Starr round out his game heading into this weekend.
“Those matches really just showed right where I’m at with those guys, and I think it’s really going to be a toss-up between all three of us I think,” Starr said. “But I think it’s just going to be who shows up, who’s feeling the best, and who’s feeling the most confident. I think that guy is going to be me because I’m feeling so good right now.”
Starr isn’t the only wrestler from the A-K Valley heading to Hershey for the Class AAA tournament. Apollo-Ridge’s Logan Harmon also qualified with a third-place finish at the Super Regional this past weekend.
Harmon, who wrestles as part of a co-op agreement with Armstrong, has gone 18-2 this season and placed second in the WPIAL tournament, losing to Belle Vernon’s Cole Weightman, 7-0. The two were set for a rematch last weekend in Altoona, but Weightman medically defaulted out of the third-place match.
A year ago, Harmon entered the state tournament and won his first match in the preliminary round before matching up with eventual state champion and top seed Luke Stout from Mt. Lebanon. Harmon was pinned in 4 minutes, 22 seconds and then lost to Jason Henderson from Delaware Valley after recording a pin in his first consolation bracket match.
Now, Harmon will have another shot at Henderson as the two are set to face off in the first round Saturday as the third and sixth seed, respectively.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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