Already established as the premier postseason all-star event in the country for high school wrestling, the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic just got a whole lot bigger.

Affectionately known as “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling,” the PWC has expanded its format going into its 50th annual rendition on Saturday at Peters Township High School’s AHN Arena. For the first time, a girls’ dual meet featuring Pennsylvania All-Stars and Ohio All-Stars will open the event at 3 p.m., preceding the preliminary dual between the WPIAL All-Stars and New Jersey All-Stars at 4 p.m. and followed by the featured match between the Pennsylvania All-Stars and Team USA All-Stars at 6 p.m.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be the most action-packed afternoon in the history of the PWC.

“I’m excited for this year’s 50th anniversary,” said PWC co-director Kraig Nellis. “We’re very fortunate that the event has not only survived, but it has also thrived here in these last 25-plus years.”

The inclusion of the girls’ dual coincides with the inaugural season of PIAA girls wrestling, which recently concluded at the PIAA individual championships in Hershey, Pa., where the girls took center stage and wrestled alongside the boys at the state championships for the first time. As one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, girls’ wrestling is picking up steam at a breakneck pace — and Saturday’s all-star dual will represent another significant benchmark in the sport’s rapid expansion.

“I’d like to think that we’re striking a balance between staying true to what made this event what it is today — “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling” — but we’ve also been willing to try to do some different things,” Nellis said. “And this year with the first women’s dual meet, it’s certainly an experiment for us all.”

Butler senior Ana Malovich, right, pictured during her PIAA 118-pound championship match against Savannah Witt of Palisades, is one of two WPIAL girls representing Team PA in the inaugural girls’ dual at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Lloyd McCully)

A trio of WPIAL boys will compete for Team PA in the featured match against Team USA, and all three have four PIAA medals to their credit — Bentworth’s Chris Vargo at 127 pounds, Burrell’s Cooper Hornack at 139 and Frazier’s Rune Lawrence at 215.

Vargo is an Edinboro recruit who compiled a career record of 133-12 while capturing three WPIAL titles and four Southwest Regional titles. A two-time PIAA finalist, Vargo finished third, fifth, second and second in his four trips to the PIAA tournament. His opponent will be J.J. McComas of Stillwater, Okla., a two-time state champion and Oklahoma State recruit holding a career record of 136-22. McComas is ranked No. 4 in the country at 132 pounds by FloWrestling.

Although he never won a state title, Vargo does own a notable win over Bishop McCort’s Jax Forrest, a Cadet world silver medalist who is ranked No. 2 in the nation at 126 pounds and No. 6 pound-for-pound.

Bentworth’s Chris Vargo, pictured during his WPIAL Class 2A 127-pound championship win over Indiana’s Nico Fanella, will conclude his high school career by representing Team PA in the 50th annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

A Columbia recruit, Hornack won a PIAA Class 2A title in 2023 along with a Southwest Regional title in 2021 and three WPIAL titles. He placed second, fourth, first and sixth in his four trips to Hershey, finishing his career with a record of 156-27 while becoming the Buccaneers’ fifth four-time PIAA medalist in their storied history.

Hornack was initially selected to compete for Team WPIAL, but an injury to Central Mountain’s Luke Simcox opened the door for him to bump up to Team PA for a showdown with Kyler Larkin of Gilbert, Ariz. Larkin is an Arizona State recruit with a career record of 112-16 and is ranked No. 3 in the country at 132 pounds and No. 18 on the pound-for-pound list.

“I’m excited,” Hornack said. “It was a surprise getting moved up to the PA team, but I’m ready for it.”

As for Lawrence, the newly minted four-time PIAA champion is a West Virginia recruit who defeated reigning state champion Austin Johnson of Muncy, 6-3, in the PIAA Class 2A 215-pound finals, putting an emphatic stamp on his extraordinary high school career. Lawrence, who finished his career with a record of 145-8 and 102 falls, is only the 14th wrestler to win four PIAA titles and only the seventh WPIAL wrestler to achieve the feat.

Frazier’s Rune Lawrence, left, pictured during his PIAA Class 2A 215-pound championship win against Muncy’s Austin Johnson, will square off with two-time Ohio state champion Max Shulaw for the second time at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. Lawrence won the first meeting in the semifinals of the 2023 Ironman tournament, 10-5. (Lloyd McCully)

Initially slated to face undefeated four-time Florida state champion Sawyer Bartelt, Lawrence received a late-notice change of opponents after the No. 1-ranked Bartelt withdrew from the event last week. The matchup was expected to headline the event as one of the most anticipated bouts in PWC history, but once Bartelt informed event organizers that he could not attend, Nellis and his staff had to scramble to find a worthy replacement.

Enter Max Shulaw of Columbus, Ohio, a two-time state champion and Virginia recruit with a career record of 187-10. Shulaw is ranked No. 5 in the country at 215 pounds, while Lawrence is ranked No. 3.

Unlike most PWC matchups, Shulaw and Lawrence have already squared off once before earlier this season. The two freight trains collided in the semifinals of the prestigious Walsh Jesuit Ironman tournament in December, where Lawrence dismantled Shulaw with an array of jaw-dropping throws and nearly pinned him several times on his way to scoring a 10-5 decision. Lawrence sustained a knee injury early in the match that would sideline him for more than a month, but he still managed to mount a 10-1 lead before coasting to victory the rest of the way.

Now, with his knee injury fully healed, “Cool Hand Rune” is eager to finish what he started against Shulaw while putting on one last show for wrestling fans in Western Pennsylvania.

“I’ll just go out there and wrestle, just like any other match,” Lawrence said. “I’m not going to lie — I’m looking to get bonus points, though. And not get hurt this time, of course.”

In the WPIAL-New Jersey dual, 12 WPIAL standouts with a combined 1,380 wins will take the mat for their final match of their high school careers. The group is headlined by Central Valley’s Brenan Morgan, a Virginia recruit who punctuated his stellar career by capturing his first PIAA Class 2A title at 285 pounds. Morgan, who finished 43-0 as a senior and 113-12 for his career, was the only WPIAL wrestler to finish with an undefeated record this season.

Joining Morgan on Team WPIAL are Chartiers-Houston’s Jorden Williams at 114, Franklin Regional’s Tyler Kapusta at 121, Canon-McMillan’s Andrew Binni at 127, Bethel Park’s Mason Kernan at 133, Burgettstown’s Gaven Suica at 139, Penn-Trafford’s Hayden Coy at 145, Hempfield’s Eli Carr at 152, Hopewell’s Isaiah Pisano at 160, Trinity’s Bodie Morgan at 172, Norwin’s Nathan Campbell at 189 and Franklin Regional’s Juliano Marion at 215.

Central Valley’s Brenan Morgan, right, was the only WPIAL wrestler to complete an undefeated season this year, capping off his career with his first PIAA Class 2A title at 285 pounds. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

A pair of household names will represent the WPIAL for Team PA in the inaugural girls’ dual against Team Ohio — Butler’s Ana Malovich at 118 pounds and North Allegheny’s Leyna Rumpler at 155. Both finished as PIAA runners-up in their senior seasons and are ranked among the top 25 in the country in their weight class, and each of them left an indelible legacy as two pioneers of the sport in Western Pa. and beyond.

A Grand Valley State recruit, Malovich spent her first three years of high school competing with the boys team for the Golden Tornado, and she had her fair share of success doing so. Malovich compiled a varsity record of 51-34 and established herself as one of the top girls in the nation before the PIAA finally sanctioned girls wrestling going into her senior season.

Despite missing a large chunk of time to start the season while recovering from a concussion, Malovich came back to capture WPIAL and West Regional titles while putting together a record of 18-1. Ranked No. 10 in the country at 115, Malovich won 17 of her first 18 matches via fall before dropping a competitive 13-7 decision in the PIAA 118-pound finals to Palisades’ Savannah Witt, who is ranked No. 4 in the country at 125.

North Allegheny’s Leyna Rumpler will conclude her high school career by competing for Team PA against Team Ohio in the inaugural girls’ dual at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Steve Rotstein/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

As for Rumpler, the Baldwin Wallace recruit took part in the first-ever unofficial dual meet between WPIAL girls teams when North Allegheny held an exhibition against Canon-McMillan back in December 2021. That historic night helped kick-start the girls’ wrestling movement in Pennsylvania, leading many schools around the area and across the state to implement their own teams the following year. Once 100 schools had formed a team, the PIAA officially sanctioned girls wrestling as a sport for the 2023-24 school year.

Fast forward to her senior year, Rumpler won WPIAL and West Regional titles and finished with a record of 35-2 after losing a narrow 1-0 decision to Hickory’s Avry Ryhal in the PIAA 155-pound finals. After the heartbreaking end to her senior season, Rumpler is cherishing the opportunity to make history one more time — and hoping to go out on top.

“I didn’t know how to react. I just wanted to be in it,” Rumpler said about getting the call to represent Team PA. “I want to end on a high note.”

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

Steve Rotstein

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