Eight years ago, the all-time record at the Dapper Dan/Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic between the Pennsylvania All Stars and the USA All Stars was 19-18 in USA’s favor. As high school wrestling coverage becomes more widely available online, and results from various tournaments are conveniently catalogued and researched, identifying the best seniors from around the country is easier than ever. Not to mention, with increased club funding and participation, the best high school wrestlers are better than ever before.
Team USA is on an eight year win streak after winning 29-18 on Friday, the longest in Classic history, and now leads the series 27-18. The last time Team PA won was 2011; Team WPIAL shut out Team Michigan that year 42-0, so it was obviously a strong class from the Keystone State. In ’13, ’16, and ’18 Team PA was just one match from winning. The WPIAL is 3-5 since 2011, which includes this most recent 25-18 loss to New York, bringing the all-time WPIAL advantage to 28-16 over the rotating states.
The first six matches went in USA’s favor at the 44th Classic, but PA won four of the last seven. It tends to be a cyclical event, with its competitiveness largely determined by the arbitrary strength of PA’s class. Regardless of who wins, it is always an enjoyable event and showcases the best wrestlers in the country in front of a packed Fitzgerald Fieldhouse crowd.
A quick look at the historical results reveals just how incredible the competition has been at the “Rose Bowl of Wrestling.”
Barry Davis, Dave Schultz, Nate Carr, Kenny Monday, Kurt Angle, Cary Kolat, Cael Sanderson, Steve Mocco, Henry Cejudo, Kyle Snyder. And those are just some of the Olympians! A list detailing the NCAA Champions/All Americans would consume this entire article. Check it out here:
The best match of the night was saved for last, with Carter Starocci (Erie Cathedral Prep) facing Abe Assad from Illinois. In a dazzling display of athleticism and body awareness, the two All Stars scrambled for what seemed like the entire period. Starocci came out on top, and that takedown clinched the match 3-1 and earned him the Outstanding Wrestler award for Team PA. It will not be the last time these two meet, with Starocci heading to Penn State and Assad to Iowa.
Camacho Represents Team WPIAL
Only one Pitt recruit wrestled this year, but there were some extenuating circumstances for the others. Ryan Sullivan broke his hand at sections, and would definitely have been on Team WPIAL if not Team PA. Edmund Ruth was picked ahead of Jared McGill at 170 as he was a 2x state champ and McGill only 1x. Austin Cooley wrestled at Wyoming Seminary, and therefore was not eligible to be on Team PA as it is a prep school. Thus, while those three are each ranked very highly in the country let alone state, they were left out for one reason or another.
So, Pitt fans got a preview of Colton Camacho Friday night wrestling his first match in his new home gym. The Franklin Regional senior finished his career 135-21, was a two-time WPIAL champ and two-time state runner-up. Just two weeks ago he lost to Darren Miller of Kiski in the state finals.
With Miller on Team PA, Camacho took on Alex Sampson from Victor, NY in the preliminary dual. Sampson’s record was 257-49, was a state champion, and will be attending Mercyhurst University. Athletes in New York can start wrestling varsity in 7th grade, which explains his abnormal number of matches.
“Wrestling in the Fieldhouse was fun to get a feel for the crowd and atmosphere,” explained Camacho. It didn’t hurt he won 8-6, pleasing the hometown fans.
Camacho wrestled most of the year at 132, but cut down to 126 (128 with the two-pound allowance) for the post season. He could wrestle either 125 or 133 in college, whatever the team needs.
Transitioning from high school to NCAA wrestling can be daunting, and Colton knows he needs to clean up some of his technique. “I need to finish faster so I can eliminate scrambles… I need to get to my leg attacks on the college guys.”
He will have some incentive this summer as he prepares for his first season as a D1 athlete. As mentioned, Colton lost in the state finals two years in a row, a heart-breaking experience. Not wanting to relive those emotions again, he has his sights set even higher. “Losing in the state finals motivates me for next year because an NCAA title is a bigger accomplishment than a state title.”
If he can cut down to 125 he will have a decent shot at starting next year, with Micky Phillippi likely staying at 133.