Now wrestling at a more appropriate weight, Hempfield’s Priest eyes states

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 7:10 PM


Hempfield junior Briar Priest easily could have been a two-time PIAA qualifier and possible placewinner.

He was one victory away from earning a trip to Hershey for the Class AAA tournament the past two seasons.

Priest (64-15, 34-5) competed at 106 pounds those seasons and, admittedly, battled a weight problem that sapped his energy.

But Priest has changed things over the summer. He didn’t let the current pandemic stop him from working out and getting stronger.

“He’s a lot stronger, that’s for sure,” Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. “You can see he put in the time to make himself better.”

Priest plans to compete at 132 pounds this season, which is jump of five weight classes.

He began the season by winning the North Allegheny Invitational on Saturday, pinning Burrell’s Nick Salerno in the second period. He went 3-0 — all via fall.

Priest said he won numerous tournaments over the summer and fall, which helped his confidence.

“The past two years, I was cutting more weight than I should have,” Priest said. “This year, I’m up a few weights. I’m still cutting some, but this year I’ll be more healthy and have more energy at 132.”

Priest’s goal is to make to place at states.

Even though athletics were shutdown at times by Gov. Tom Wolf, Priest said he always found time to practice.

Priest went 5-0 in the West Penn duals, won the Backyard Brawl and also won during a couple of events in Maryland.

“I was wrestling what I weighed, and it gave me confidence. That should help me,” Priest said.

One thing Priest did to keep in condition was do “Cross Fit.” He also lifted during the quarantine.

“I got a lot stronger,” Priest said. “Cross Fit was crazy. It was like a wrestling workout with lifting. It helped me out a lot.”

DeAugustine, who coached at Norwin the past two seasons before returning to Hempfield, said he is learning a lot about Priest.

“Briar had an opportunity the last two seasons, but the weight cut was too much for him,” DeAugustine said. “He has a really good skill set. I’m looking forward to some big things from him. He’s a hard worker, and he’s the kind of kid who can compete at a high level.”

DeAugustine said it is hard to compare him the last two seasons because he was at Norwin.

“He definitely hit the weight room hard, and it’s showing,” DeAugustine said. “He had a good week at North Allegheny. He has to make a few adjustments, and we talked about them. He’s the type of kid who will grind out a practice and get better.”

DeAugustine said he will work with Priest on his training and put him in situations he could face in big matches.

“The big thing we preach here is to trust us,” DeAugustine said. “In past experiences with us, we’ve been able to get wrestlers over that hump. Once he buys into our philosophies, it will become pretty routine for him.

“The goal is to put yourself in that situation in the practice room. If your feel you can’t go anymore and there is 1 second left on the clock and I need that takedown, you have to put yourself in that situation every day so it becomes second nature.”

And if Priest does that, reaching Hershey might be in the cards.

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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