HERSHEY – When the current format of the PIAA Wrestling Championships finals was installed a few years ago, it meant every state medalist who wasn’t in the finals had to watch the parade of champions while standing on the mats.
Just getting that state medal is a great achievement for most wrestlers, but for Austin Harry, it was watching someone else to live out his dream.
“I just envisioned that moment since I was little watching it on TV, the parade of champions with the spotlight on you,” Harry said. “It was hard to watch that knowing that you’re so close to being there and maybe if the draw was a little different you would’ve been there. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I just knew I had to wrestle my hardest.”
The Lake-Lehman senior had about 45 minutes before he wrestled in his match to get past that realization, but he did in grand fashion as he grabbed the third-place medal in the 132-pound weight class of the PIAA Class 2A Championships Saturday afternoon at Giant Center.
Harry ended his career with a 5-2 win over Tyler Vath from Saegertown for the best finish of his four state tournament appearances.
“It’s the last match I’ll ever wrestle in high school,” said Harry, who will be heading off to West Point to continue his career. “I knew I just had to wrestle my hardest and just do my thing, hope everything went well and it did.”
The Black Knight standout capped off a stellar career with the team with four District 2 Class 2A titles, three Northeast Regional championships, three state medals and 157 career wins. It was also the first time he ended his season with a win. His previous state medals were gathered when he lost his final match in Hershey.
“I just said to my coaches ‘we finally won on the third day,’” Harry said. “It’s definitely a better feeling than losing that last match.
“Third place, it very well could’ve been second or first on any given day. Sometimes it’s the draw or just who shows up that day.”
Harry was the only District 2 wrestler in the 2A event, but a pair of Northwest wrestlers, who are part of a wrestling co-op with District 4 Benton, left the arena with medals.
Freshman Mike Stuart may have lost his fifth-place match, but ends his season with an impressive record of 27-16 and sixth-place medal in the 120-pound weight class.
Fellow Benton wrestler from Northwest, junior Logan Womelsdorf, who is also the quarterback for Northwest’s football team, grabbed the fifth-place medal and ended his season with a 35-10 record.
It took some time for Harry to get going in his only match of the day, which he attributes to the shorter one-minute period in the consolation bracket. So the match was scoreless after the first period and Vath took a 1-0 lead when he escaped early in the second. Harry finally got going when he laced a takedown with 5 seconds remaining in the period to take a 2-1 lead.
“It’s hard to get anything going in a minute. You gotta try to move him I almost got him moving a little bit in the first but not too much action,” he said. “When it got to the second and third with more time to wrestle, I got my ties and was able to move him around a little bit more things were able to open up.”
Harry chose the down position in the third period. He got a point for an escape then grabbed another takedown, this time with 40 seconds left to put the match out of reach. Vath got an escape, but couldn’t do anything after that.
“I’ve had a great career and it’s been a lot of fun,” Harry said. “It’s a bronze medal. It’s great to finish third in the state. Sometimes, finishing third can be more impressive than being runner-up.”