With newfound confidence, Kiski Area’s Sammy Starr is seeing success

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020 | 5:56 PM


Kiski Area’s Sammy Starr came away from the 67th annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament with an individual title in hand.

With the type of talent that filled out the 152-pound bracket this weekend at Kiski Area, some may have been surprised by how Starr worked his way through the tournament with big win after big win.

Kiski Area coach Chris Heater wasn’t.

“I thought it was the deepest weight class in the tournament and those six guys are really good wrestlers,” Heater said. “But I’m not a little bit surprised that he won it. I think he’s wrestling maybe the best I’ve seen him since he was smaller and he was on a tear. He seems to be getting back into that zone.”

Starr, a junior, is 16-3 with 10 pins and three decisions. In three high school seasons, he has an overall record of 59-36, but so far, this season has arguably been his best.

Of his three losses, two came at the Powerade tournament against some of the toughest wrestlers in Pennsylvania. No. 1-seeded Ed Scott from Dubois beat Starr by a 5-3 decision and Connor Kievman from Wyoming Seminary beat him by a 5-2 score.

They were tough losses, and Starr said he’d like an opportunity to have both of them back, but he ultimately learned from them and they have helped him improve.

“Those kids were both legit for sure, so I didn’t hang my head after those at all,” Starr said. “But it was definitely a learning experience. There are always little things to improve on, so I’m just gonna keep working and keep building.”

Heading into the Powerade tournament, Starr had found a new sense of confidence about himself and his abilities. He said there was a key moment when the Cavaliers faced off with Canon-McMillan at the Kiski Area Quad Meet in December that really gave him momentum.

Starr was up 4-0 in his match against Tanner Rohaley and came away with a pin at the 3:42 mark. It was a big moment in the match and in Starr’s season.

“That was huge for me. That’s when I really knew,” Starr said. “I’m pretty sure they had Rohaley at one or three in the WPIAL. So after that, I felt like I could beat whoever I wanted to beat when I really put my mind to it.”

Fast forward to the WCCA tournament this weekend and Starr was already feeling motivated. Then he learned he was given the fourth seed in his weight class.

“That lit a fire under me,” Starr said. “I felt disrespected a little. So I went out there and knocked off the one and two seeds. I feel like I proved my point.”

Starr pinned Belle Vernon’s Jerome Gilliam in 1 minute, 40 seconds in his first match and then earned an 11-4 decision over No. 5 seed Trevor Verkleeren from Hempfield.

His second victory set up a match with No. 1 seed AJ Corrado from Burrell, and Heater said he knew the two wrestlers would put on a show.

“I knew we were gonna have to beat him (Corrado) to win the tournament or beat him in the semis now,” Heater said.

That’s exactly what Starr did as he pulled off a 2-1 win with an escape in the second tiebreaker.

“I figured with AJ, he’s kind of a defensive wrestler, so I figured it was gonna go into overtime and I was gonna try to win in ride out,” Starr said. “By the time it got to the third period, though, I knew I was going to win in ride out.”

Starr’s confidence showed throughout the weekend and now, with his team chasing a fourth straight WPIAL title, the lengthy junior is looking to help solidify the top of the lineup even further.

“Even with Enzo (Morlacci) at 147 too, I think we can try to be lights out from 47 up,” Starr said. “I think we have kind of always been like that.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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