HERSHEY, Pa. — Go ahead and add Valarie Solorio’s name to the history books.

Already the first-ever WPIAL girls wrestling champion as well as the first girl to win a match at the inaugural PIAA girls wrestling tournament, Solorio added one more groundbreaking milestone to her collection on Saturday night. Taking center stage in front of a packed Giant Center crowd, the Canon-McMillan senior squared off against Neshaminy’s Grace Nesbitt to open the championship round in the 100-pound finals.

Three minutes and 14 seconds later, Nesbitt was flat on her back staring up at the rafters, and Solorio was getting her hand raised as the first PIAA girls wrestling champion.

“It feels better than I could have ever dreamt of,” Solorio said. “I’m so glad all my hard work paid off.”

After pinning each of her first three foes in the first period, Solorio (16-0) had to wait until the second period to secure the finish in the finals — but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. Right after the referee slapped the mat to make it official, Solorio slapped the mat a few times herself, then jumped into coach Brian Krenzelak’s arms while visibly overcome with emotion.

An Iowa recruit ranked No. 3 in the country at 100 pounds by FloWrestling, Solorio was leading, 15-3, at the time of the historic fall.

“I’m not really a huge celebrator, but that feeling right there, I just had to get it out,” Solorio said. “All that bottled up emotion, it just had to be let out somehow.”

Competing all season with a partially torn ACL, Solorio proved to be head and shoulders above her competition while helping the Big Macs earn the first-ever PIAA girls wrestling team title. Although she typically receives most of the headlines, Solorio made sure to credit her teammates for all of their support throughout her journey to the top of the wrestling world.

“I’m so glad that I could step up for my team and do what I needed to do to secure a title,” Solorio said. “Being here with all my teammates — they’re amazing girls. … We’re a really close-knit team, and I think that’s why we’re able to succeed.”

Four other WPIAL wrestlers took the mat for the championship finals on Saturday, but all four had to settle for silver medals.

At 118 pounds, Butler senior Ana Malovich (18-1) dropped a 13-7 decision to Savannah Witt of Palisades in a clash of two undefeated, nationally ranked competitors. Witt is ranked No. 4 in the country at 125 pounds, while Malovich is ranked No. 10 at 115.

In another battle of unbeatens, Moon freshman Haley Smarsh (28-1) took her first loss of her career in the 130-pound finals, getting pinned by Easton’s Aubre Krazer in 2:26. Krazer is ranked No. 3 in the country at 130, and she proved to be a bit too much for Smarsh to handle at this point in her career. Still, with three years left to go for the gold, the future is certainly bright for Smarsh.

Canon-McMillan’s Valarie Solorio (top) pinned her way through the state tournament to become the first PIAA girls wrestling champion. (Lloyd McCully)

North Allegheny senior Leyna Rumpler lost a gut-wrenching 1-0 decision against Hickory’s Avry Ryhal in the 155-pound finals, as Rumpler (35-2) was unable to escape from bottom position in the third period with a chance to tie the match. At 190 pounds, Canon-McMillan junior Natalie Rush got pinned by Bishop McCort’s Alyssa Favara in 1:40, though her second-place finish still helped push the Big Macs over the top to clinch the team title.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.