For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Frazier’s Rune Lawrence was beginning to look human.

Facing off against two-time Ohio state champion Max Shulaw of St. Francis De Sales High School in Columbus, Ohio, in a highly anticipated rematch in the penultimate bout Saturday of the 50th annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, Lawrence got shaken up on a head-first landing midway through the match while holding a slim 3-1 lead. He then returned from a lengthy concussion check and immediately surrendered a takedown, as Shulaw tied the match midway through the second period, 3-3.

A silent shock swept through the crowd, as the packed house at Peters Township’s AHN Arena began to wonder in unison — might it see Lawrence lose his final high school match after becoming just the 14th four-time PIAA champion three weeks ago in Hershey?

No chance.

Moments after Shulaw tied the match, Lawrence escaped to his feet then quickly responded with a takedown, taking a three-point lead into the third period. After Shulaw chose the bottom position to start the final period, Lawrence went to work with his prolific top game, landing several powerful mat returns before riding out Shulaw for the remainder of the match to secure an epic 6-3 decision.

“He’s kind of like a big bull,” Lawrence said. “You’ve got to be a matador and dodge the attacks.”

Lawrence had dominated the previous meeting between the two nationally ranked foes, winning a 10-5 decision in the semifinals of the prestigious Ironman tournament in December. Shulaw, a Virginia recruit ranked No. 5 in the country at 215 pounds by FloWrestling, then went on to win his second consecutive OHSAA title while pinning every opponent he faced in the district, regional and state tournaments. He compiled a record of 97-1 over his final two seasons, with his only loss coming against Lawrence, who is ranked No. 3 at 215.

Clearly, Shulaw had come to wrestle with a vengeance in the rematch, but when the dust had settled, “Cool Hand Rune” stood victorious again.

“I kind of figured it was going to be more of a battle,” Lawrence said. “I think I kind of broke him a little bit mentally.”

Facing arguably his toughest test of the season against two-time Ohio state champion Max Shulaw, Frazier’s Rune Lawrence (blue singlet) came out on top for a 6-3 win at 215 pounds at the 50th annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Judy Rumpler)

A West Virginia recruit, Lawrence finished his legendary high school career with a record of 145-8 while becoming only the fifth wrestler to win four WPIAL titles and four state titles, and the first to do so at the upper weight classes. This one, though, might be his most memorable win of all.

“It’s all for the fans,” said Lawrence, who showed no ill effects after the match. “They came out to watch us, so I just try to put on a good show.”

Also representing the WPIAL in the featured match between the Pennsylvania All-Stars and USA All-Stars, Bentworth’s Chris Vargo and Burrell’s Cooper Hornack put on tremendous performances despite coming up just short against two high-caliber opponents ranked among the top five in the nation at 132 pounds. The USA All-Stars won eight of the 12 matches to win the showcase, 27-12.

An Edinboro recruit and four-time PIAA medalist, Vargo faced off with the No. 4-ranked 132-pounder in the country, Oklahoma State recruit J.J. McComas of Stillwater, Okla., at 127 pounds, and the match went into the second tiebreaker period before McComas scored a late escape then fended off a desperation takedown attempt from Vargo to win, 2-1. Although the match was low scoring, it featured a handful of scrambles that had fans on the edge of their seats, with Vargo leaving it all on the mat in his final high school match.

Also a four-time PIAA medalist and 2023 PIAA Class 2A champion, Hornack scored a takedown just 15 seconds into his 139-pound match with No. 3-ranked Kyler Larkin of Gilbert, Ariz., and the two went back-and-forth throughout the entire six-minute showdown, trading takedowns in an exciting and frenetic affair. Hornack led, 5-3, going into the second period, but two takedowns gave Larkin a one-point advantage going into the third, and the Arizona State recruit rode out Hornack the rest of the way for a 7-6 victory.

“I think I did well. I let everything hang out there,” said Hornack, a Columbia recruit who competed the entire season with a nagging shoulder injury. “I’m excited to train and get up to New York and take it to the next level.”

Frazier’s Rune Lawrence, left, defeated two-time Ohio state champion Max Shulaw by a 6-3 decision in a highly anticipated rematch at the 50th annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Judy Rumpler)

Boys preliminary match

While Team Pennsylvania came up short against Team USA in the main event, the WPIAL All-Stars took care of business with a 27-19 triumph against the New Jersey All-Stars thanks to wins by Canon-McMillan’s Andrew Binni, Bethel Park’s Mason Kernan, Hempfield’s Eli Carr, Trinity’s Bodie Morgan, Central Valley’s Brenan Morgan and Franklin Regional’s Tyler Kapusta and Juliano Marion.

A future teammate of Lawrence at West Virginia, Kernan won the Outstanding Wrestler award for Team WPIAL after his dominant 14-1 major decision at 133 pounds against Nick Balella of Hackettstown, N.J.

Central Valley’s Brenan Morgan posted a 19-4 technical fall at 285 pounds to clinch the win for the WPIAL All-Stars in the final match of the WPIAL-New Jersey preliminary dual at the 50th annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. (Judy Rumpler)

With the outcome coming down to the final match and the WPIAL clinging to a 22-19 advantage going into the 285-pound showdown between Brenan Morgan and Luke Abilio of Montville, N.J., Morgan punctuated his undefeated senior season with a 19-4 technical fall — capped by a highlight-reel “frogger,” when he leaped right over Abilio’s head to secure the match-winning takedown.

“I knew I needed one takedown to tech him,” Morgan said. “He was on his hands and knees, so I just sent it and jumped over him.”

A Virginia recruit, Morgan posted a record of 43-0 on his way to capturing a PIAA Class 2A title in his final high school season. He certainly would have been a worthy selection to represent Team PA in the featured match, but he happened to graduate in the same class as Nazareth’s three-time PIAA Class 3A champion Sean Kinney.

Still, clinching the win for Team WPIAL may have been an even sweeter send-off for the heavyweight champ.

“I was having fun out there,” Morgan said. “I love my team. Those are all my guys, and the crowd was lit. … I was pretty confident I was going to win. I like having that pressure on me.”

Girls preliminary match

Two trailblazing girls from the WPIAL represented Team PA in the first girls dual at the PWC against Team Ohio, as Butler’s Ana Malovich and North Allegheny’s Leyna Rumpler added one more historic milestone to finish their high school careers.

Rumpler was a WPIAL and West Regional champion and PIAA finalist who posted a 35-2 record as a senior for the Tigers. After leading for most of her match against Meghan Werbrich of Taylor High School at 155 pounds, Rumpler seemingly ran out of gas in the third period as Werbrich took her to her back with a headlock in the final 30 seconds for a come-from-behind 9-5 win.

“She left everything on the mat every time,” said North Allegheny coach Dan Heckert. “The fans want to see excitement. They want to see points being put up on the board, and that’s what we saw in that match.”

As for Malovich, also a WPIAL and West Regional champion and PIAA finalist who finished with a record of 18-1 for the Golden Tornado, the two-time junior freestyle wrestling All-American started the show with a bang against Addison Rudolph of Central Crossing High School at 118 pounds. Malovich took Rudolph down right from the opening whistle, then later added a textbook double-leg takedown with authority on her way to an 11-2 major decision while earning Outstanding Wrestler honors for Team PA.

“Ever since I was a little girl, coming to the Classic when it was known as the Dapper Dan and watching everybody wrestle — I wanted to do that,” Malovich said. “It finally happened. It’s just something so surreal — being a little girl and your dreams finally coming true. It’s amazing.”

Making her performance even more impressive, Malovich had just returned from competing overseas in a freestyle wrestling tournament Friday in Estonia. After a nine-hour flight to New York and a five-hour drive home late last night, Malovich put on an unforgettable show in her final high school match.

“It’s something that I just needed to end with,” Malovich said. “Coming back from overseas and closing off that chapter just feels so good.”

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