Ryan Solomon repeats state title

HERSHEY There was a hint of hesitation in Ryan Solomon’s voice, almost as if he wasn’t completely satisfied.

It’s the life of a perfectionist. The Milton senior capped his career with his second consecutive state title Saturday at the Giant Center on the same weekend he broke Bobby Crawford’s career wins record. And to boot, Saturday was also his birthday.

He dominated Chartiers-Houston’s Garrett Vulcano in the 195-pound Class AA championship match, winning 7-0. He was the only one of three local wrestlers in the finals Saturday to capture a state championship.

Muncy’s Troy Hembury became the Indians’ third three-time state placewinner, but fell, 3-1, to Burrell’s Dakota DesLauriers in the 182-pound final. Lewisburg’s Brandon Smith won his second state medal, but lost to Saucon Valley’s Ray O’Donnell, 2-0, in the 220-pound final.

In all, only two of the six District 4 wrestlers in the finals won. Benton’s Zain Retherford (138 pounds) joined Solomon in winning his second state title.

Saturday’s win was the 142nd of the Pitt-bound Solomon’s career. It culminated as dominant a season as there was, not just in District 4, but in the state. He finished 40-0 for the season with wins against a handful of nationally-ranked wrestlers, including two against O’Donnell.

Solomon’s 7-0 win over Vulcano, a first-time state medalist, continued that trend of dominance. He finished on top in all three periods after recording a takedown and finished the postseason without giving up a point.

“This means a lot. One’s not better than the other,” Solomon said of his two gold medals. “They both hold a special place to me. Repeating as a state champion is a special feeling.”

Solomon’s state title may have been as forgone a conclusion as there could be in the always precarious state tournament. He was the lone returning state placewinner in a field of 13 seniors and three juniors.

He was so dominant this season that after beating O’Donnell in the finals at the Beast of the East and Hurricane Classic in December, the Saucon Valley senior began his ascent to the 220-pound weight class. This wasn’t even the same Ryan Solomon who got into the state finals each of the last two years.

Gone were the days of the 2-1, rideout matches that left Milton fans with little to no fingernails. He supplanted those days with four wins in authoritative fashion. He won three of his matches this weekend by a combined 17-0, and the fourth was a 1 minute, 15 second pin in the semifinals Friday night.

Solomon is one of three state champions in Milton history, and all three have won multiple titles. Crawford won four for the Black Panthers, and Charlie Heller won two.

“I think I’ve just been getting after it in practice,” Solomon said. “I’ve got great coaches and great partners and they just keep pushing me. They constantly preach if I keep wrestling and open it up, good things are going to happen, and they happened. I know it feels a lot better on my parents and the fans.”

Solomon got sloppy early in his finals match Saturday, getting out of position as Vulcano made a valiant attempt at a takedown. It only seemed to energize the Milton senior, though. Just seconds later he gathered both ankles and kept his toes in bounds for his first takedown. He rode out Vulcano for the final 1:14 of the first period.

He picked up another takedown on the edge of the circle with 1:02 to go in the second period and rode out the remainder of the time on top. His third takedown, with 40 seconds to go in the third period, led to the start of a celebration in the stands. He finished with 2:56 of riding time.

But the takedowns on the edge set everything up. They were takedowns Solomon never seemed to get in the past in Hershey. Finally, Saturday he was asserting his will offensively.

“I definitely feel a lot better offensively,” Solomon said. “But a win’s a win.”

Smith struggled to find a rhythm during the 220-pound final. He fell into the things O’Donnell wanted to do. During the first period, in which he was hit for a stalling warning, he was constantly trying to work out of the tie-ups O’Donnell created.

And in the second period, O’Donnell rode Smith for the entire two minutes, something that hadn’t been done to Smith since he lost to Solomon in his second match of the year in December.

“He definitely controlled the match,” Smith said. “What I was doing was trying to get some one-on-one control. My plan coming in was to try and get some arm drags because he really likes to charge in. He really controlled the wrist control and the tie control.”

Smith seemed to get what he wanted to start the third period, getting to his leg ride. But when O’Donnell began to come out the side, Smith switched to a cross-body ride in a panic and O’Donnell was able to ride him out for the final 1:08 for his first state title. O’Donnell also beat Smith last year in the 195-pound consolation semifinals, 4-2.

“I wish I could have gotten my leg ride a little tighter there,” Smith said. “I probably would have stayed with the power half and stayed in better control. But I panicked All the credit to him.”

Hembury was attempting to become the Indians’ third state champion in as many years, but made just one mistake in a stellar 182-pound final against four-time state placewinner Dakota DesLauriers. After staying away from DesLauriers tie-ups for much of the match, Hembury took a shot late in the third period which DesLauriers countered and was able to re-shoot for a takedown with just 12 seconds left.

As the final seconds of the match ticked away, Hembury laid on the mat with his forehead on his forearm. The Columbia-bound senior finishes his career as Muncy’s career wins leader with 166, more than 20 ahead of second-place Aaron Fry.

He joined just Harold Hill and Larry Lauchle as the school’s only three-time state placewinners.