HERSHEY, Pa.: Franklin Regional’s Finn Solomon has been waiting for another shot at Hempfield Area’s Kyle Burkholder.
That’s not a surprise. Anytime a wrestler loses twice to the same competitor, he or she is ready for a rematch.
It was supposed to happen at sectionals, but Burkholder forfeited after an injury. So, that meant Solomon had to wait until Saturday morning’s PIAA Championship Class 3A semifinal round at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Solomon made his third shot count. The talented freshman embraced the big stage and stopped Burkholder 3-2 in the 113-pound bout to punch his ticket to Saturday night’s championship match.
“I knew I could beat him,” Solomon said. “I wanted to wrestle him at sections, but he was injured. I wanted to wrestle him again, and I got my chance in the biggest moment. It was amazing, a lifetime high, right there.”
Early on, it appeared the outcome was going to go like the last two. Burkholder, who entered the match ranked second in the state, scored a takedown 35 seconds into the first period and took a 2-0 lead to the second.
Solomon chose bottom and was out within 15 seconds to close the gap. The Panthers ace went to work and was able to score on a sweep with 1:14 showing on the clock in the second period.
“That first takedown, he timed it perfect,” Solomon said. “It was a great shot, and he took me down beautiful. I knew I could come back in the match. I just had to keep fighting, keep my composure, and get back in there.
“I was able to get in on a sweep. I don’t think he was fully ready for it, and I timed it perfect and was able to get behind him.”
Solomon, who entered ranked eighth in the state, was at his best the final minute of the second. He rode Burkholder for the rest of the period and set the tone for the final two minutes.
Despite trailing 3-2, Burkholder took neutral to start the third. It was probably the right move considering Solomon’s ability to ride and the Spartans senior’s past success on his feet in this match-up.
This time, it worked in Solomon’s favor. Burkholder took some early shots, but he couldn’t crack Solomon’s defense.
Solomon also remained active. He continued to look to score, which allowed him to kill time and avoid a second stall call.
“It surprised me a little bit that he went neutral, but I just put a tough ride on him for a minute before that,” Solomon said. “I think that made him a little nervous. He also took me down in the first period, so I think he was confident he could get another one.
“I was ready for every shot he had, but I had to keep going after him. I watched the ‘Wrestling Mindset’ video that John Strittmatter sent me, and it said, ‘The only guy who won leading by one in the last period is the one who kept going after his opponent.’ I was ready to go after him.”
It was the perfect strategy to cap the match. Burkholder got in on one last shot, but Solomon fought if off and held on for the 3-2 decision.
The victory moved Solomon into the state finals against Seneca Valley state champion Alejandro Herrera, the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state at 113.
“I still have one match, and I want to finish it,” Solomon said. “Alejandro is a tough kid. He won it as a freshman last year, and I want to go out there and wrestle him tough.
“He beat me at Powerade and WPIALs, and I want to wrestle him again. I just beat a kid who I lost to twice, and I want to do it again.”