Latest Issue

Four Take Gold in Hershey

By Scott Lowery & Dave Bellomo

[Editor’s Note: Whew! We have a whole lotta wrestling to cover this week. We had FOUR local wrestlers bring home State Gold and we want to make sure they get all the attention they deserve! So thank you to Jimmy for giving up his space this week (I’ll also be donating mine) so that we can feature these four amazing athletes. And, speaking of amazing athletes, as of press time, the Neumann Knights were on their way to the Final Four, still looking for their own PIAA Gold. We will have more coverage on their journey next week!]

They come from rival schools — their communities separated by only 5.8 miles connected by Route 405. One wears blue, the other red, and their Indian mascots are identified by separate tribes. But as they gathered with their statewide wrestling brethren in Hershey seeking mat glory, Muncy and Montgomery returned home, sharing two very special accomplishments — each school had crowned a state champion!

Muncy junior Scott Johnson and Montgomery sophomore Connor Harer brought gold medals back home by winning the PIAA 126-pound and 145-pound AA titles, respectively. Johnson’s win came via a decisive 9-2 victory over Brockway’s Mark Palmer, while Harer blanked Faith Christian’s Eric Alderfer 3-0.

Emotion and fulfillment consumed both young men as their longtime dreams became a reality.

“I wanted this so bad. Before I walked out on the mat, I was thinking in my head; this is mine. There’s nothing that is going to stop me,” Johnson reflected. “The night before the match, I didn’t have the best night’s sleep. I was really anxious and probably only had three or four hours of sleep. I was really excited because I knew this would be the day I had been looking forward to — becoming a state champion.”

After a pre-match breakfast of pancakes and hash browns and six minutes of applying his craft, his dream had become a reality.

“We are all extremely proud of what Scotty has been able to accomplish,” said Muncy athletic director Curt Chilson. “He brought home silver last year, so I think he was on a mission this year to stand on the top of that podium and bring home a gold medal.

“It was a great run for his brother Austin as well. To make it to the final as a freshman is quite an accomplishment. We are excited for both of them and are looking forward to what the future holds. I’m hoping their success will inspire some of our younger wrestlers to be the best they can.”

Johnson becomes the seventh wrestler in school history to capture a state wrestling crown. He joins Bryon Dugan, Mick Hill, Larry Lauchle, Zach Strickland, Ryan Hembury, and Joe Klock in that select group.

“I have always looked up to Strickland and Hembury, and it is very cool to be in those guys’ company of winning a state championship,” Johnson added.

“I realize there have been other brother combinations that have wrestled in Hershey, but I was proud to have Austin there with me. It was great to put the Johnson name into that conversation of wrestling brothers.”

For Harer, wrestling has long been the crest worn proudly on the family shield.

“Winning the state championship means a lot knowing that my father was a two-time state place winner and my younger brother actually has more elementary and junior high state titles than me. From top to bottom, those things have made me want to work harder, not only for myself but for my family as well.

“Leading up to the final match, I was pretty relaxed and enjoying the moment. You train 364 days a year just waiting for this moment to come, so I just wanted to take it all in, have fun, and know that the work you put in was all worth it and all I had to do was show that my work would pay off.

“I have always trained hard and watched my diet. I keep my diet simple. I eat three or four meals a day, but it is always healthy eating, making sure that I put the right food in my body so that it comes out the right way. My eating habits are very basic because my stomach isn’t used to junk food and stuff.

“I felt I was properly prepared. It’s been forty years since Montgomery had a state champion, so winning that gold medal showed that even at a small school like ours that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.”

Like Johnson, Harer had a teammate join him in Hershey, Red Raiders senior Devon Deem, who placed fifth at 152 pounds.

“It was a great weekend for our community,” expressed a happy Mike Snyder, Montgomery athletic director. “We had a lot of support for Connor and Devin in Hershey. It was nice to see a lot of red down there. Ty Hall, who was Montgomery’s only other state champion, 42 years ago in 1980, was there to witness the tournament, and it was great to have him there. Ty has long been a great supporter of the program and has been back to the school on many occasions.

“Connor is a very high-value athlete and wrestler who has probably been visualizing this moment since the time he was a little kid. He took the trip to Hershey with his dad since he was six or seven years old. It is something he has been training for for a very long time. His accomplishment was achieved by his hard work and dedication to his craft and the mentorship of his father. My hat is off to him.

“On Sunday after the championships, we had a parade around town when we got back home. Connor and Devin chose to ride on top of the fire truck even though it was freezing cold. After the parade, we gathered in the high school auditorium, where we watched the boy’s matches, and both of them then spoke to the crowd. Both of them did a tremendous job speaking. It was a very emotional time for them for different reasons.

For Devin as a senior, it is his last ride. He finished fourth in the states last year at 152 pounds and took fifth this year in a very difficult weight class. He spoke about the community support and what it has meant to him and his family. He will be going on to the Naval Academy and will be wrestling there. He is very excited about that opportunity, and we are very excited for him as well.”
“Last year was tough for Isaac,” said Lenny Cory, Isaac Cory’s dad. “He was confident he could do well and won Sectionals and Districts but didn’t have the best Super Regional meet.” 2021 was an unusual wrestling season for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of having a traditional State meet, the tournament was broken up into two super-regional meets where Isaac was unable to place.

However, this year was different as Isaac Cory actually stepped back from wrestling, choosing instead to focus on strength training. “Isaac would be in the gym every day at 4:30 a.m.,” said Lenny. “He got into lifting, and it made him confident. He was much more of an offensive wrestler on the mat.” In addition to improving his mindset, his strength training changed Isaac’s body. Wrestling in the 152 lb. weight class just one year before, Isaac wanted to move up to the 189 lb. class. Montoursville, however, was in need of someone to wrestle at 172, where he did well all throughout the regular season. Still, Isaac felt he could win at 189. After speaking with his coach, Matt Yonkin, Isaac was allowed to wrestle for a spot at the higher weight class. “Isaac came to me and said he wanted to move up to 189,” said Coach Matt Yonkin. “I told him that I felt he could go to states no matter what weight class he was in. My only reservation, however, was that he would be giving up a lot of weight when he got to the finals as he would be wrestling guys that were full 189 lb-ers. Isaac was still light at that weight class.”

After winning the wrestle-off, the real challenge began where he lost to Jersey Shore powerhouse Hadyn Packer. “Isaac had become a little overconfident with his new strength and went chest-to-chest with Packer,” said Lenny. Packer ended up beating Cory 10-7 in the Section finals. “That loss needed to happen. He probably wouldn’t have won states if that didn’t happen. He learned he needed to be more tactical.”

Isaac went on to win Districts and Regionals, ultimately beating Cole Karpinsky 5-1 to take the PIAA-AA State title. “Any reservations I had about Isaac wrestling in the 189 lb. weight class were dispelled because his strength could match anyone he came up against,” said Coach Yonkin. Yonkin went on to say that District 4 wrestling had an incredible year, and that this area is a hot-bed for wrestling.

When asked how he felt about his son winning the state title in wrestling, Lenny Cory laughed, “When Isaac came off the mat, the first thing he told me was that I was no longer the #1 wrestler in the house anymore. I was very proud of him.” Lenny Cory went on to explain that he was a state runner-up in wrestling in 1986.

Isaac Cory plans on attending Penn College, where he will wrestle and major in Power Generation with an emphasis on diesel engines.

Dalton Perry is a 126-pound freshman. He has had an incredible season. And he capped it off in the best way possible — by winning the District 6 State Championship.

Perry picked up a 6-3 comeback decision against Hempfield Area’s Ethan Ledin. This was Central Mountain’s first State Title since Brian Brill defeated Cannon-McMillan’s, Nick Catalano.

Dalton started off his season in spectacular fashion. Competing in the Tom Best Memorial Top Hat Tournament at Williamsport High School, Perry kicked off the tournament with a pin and followed it by winning the whole thing.

After winning the Top Hat tourney, he would then continue to win his next eight matches — bringing him to 12-0 before losing his first match.

His losses would be temporary, though. After losing two out of three matches, he would pick up a winning streak that would have him taking his next 24 matches in a row.

Of those 24 wins, 21 ended in a pin, tech fall (winning by 15 or more points), or major decision (winning by eight or more points). Two of the other three were forfeits, and the third was a still-impressive 10-5 win.

All in all, Perry would end his season at 41-2, which is a new record for most wins by a freshman in Clinton County. The previous record of 40 wins was set by Andrew Alson in 2007.

Perry started his road to Hershey by defeating Jack Van Dee of Cathedral Prep in the Northwest Regional finals.

Arriving in Hershey for the big show, he first took on Zander Phatorus of Waynesburg, where he picked up an 8-3 decision.

Braxton Apello-Fries of Nazareth was next for Perry. He defeated the 3x state medalist 4-1 to head to the semi-finals.

He then fell behind 1-0 in the semi-final match but came back to win against Thomas Jefferson’s Maddox Shaw.

Perry trailed Ledin 3-2 in the last minute of the third period. But he kept his composure. He took an aggressive shot, which led to a takedown and a near fall followed.

That was all it took for the freshman to come out on top. He took gold to end his inaugural season in incredible fashion.

Dalton is Central Mountain’s fourth wrestler to win a state title, joining brothers Dylan and Andrew Alton and Brill.

He told Michael Kresovich of the Lock Haven Express, “It’s pretty cool to be up there with those guys.”

Pretty cool indeed. Perry has managed an incredible season that would make any senior proud, let alone to accomplish as a freshman. I’m sure that he has a bright wrestling future ahead, and it probably won’t be the last time he’s featured winning gold in the PIAA State Tournament.

Webb Weekly