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Starr brothers help Kiski Area wrestling to WPIAL team title

| Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, 10:11 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area reacts after Tommy Starr pinned Canon-McMillan's Zach Rohaley in the 220-lb bout during the WPIAL Class AAA team wrestling championship at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday Feb. 04, 2017. Kiski Area won 41-21 against Canon-McMillan. Tommy Starr (KA) p. Zach Rohaley, 1:36.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Tom Starr celebrates his victory in the 220-pound bout during the WPIAL Class AAA team semifinals at Penn Hills on Saturday Feb. 4, 2017. Starr won by pin.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Danny Starr wrestles Franklin Regional's A.J. Dinatale in the 195-lb bout during the WPIAL Class AAA team wrestling semifinal at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday Feb. 04, 2017. Danny Starr (KA) p. A.J. Dinatale, :28.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Danny Starr prepares to take the mat in the 195-lb bout during the WPIAL Class AAA team wrestling championship at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday Feb. 04, 2017. Kiski Area won 41-21 against Canon-McMillan. Danny Starr (KA) p. Alec Hendal, :53.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area watches Tommy Starr wrestle Canon-McMillan's Zach Rohaley in the 220-lb bout during the WPIAL Class AAA team wrestling championship at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday Feb. 04, 2017. Kiski Area won 41-21 against Canon-McMillan. Tommy Starr (KA) p. Zach Rohaley, 1:36.

It felt like a nightmare to Danny Starr.

The Kiski Area junior 195-pounder's matchup against Canon-McMillan's Alec Hendal scarcely had begun, and Starr was on his back. A crucial bout in the WPIAL Class AAA championship hung in the balance.

Starr fought off a pin, ending up out of bounds, and upon moving to the center of the mat, got a reversal and a pin of Hendal to give Kiski Area the lead for good and boost the Cavaliers to their third WPIAL title and first since 2003.

“It was very scary,” Starr said. “I was honestly freaking out. I was doing everything I could to get off my back. I knew once I could get off my back, I could turn the match around, but it was a pretty scary 30 seconds.”

Talk about a literal turning point. The 12-point swing Starr engineered by avoiding a pin and getting one himself provided Kiski Area the momentum it needed to roll to its 41-21 victory.

“Their kid came out and dumped him to his back, and he had him close a couple times,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “It just shows you the will and the effort to get off his back, and then to come out and reverse and put him on his back, that kind of lit our bench a little bit and really put some fire into the rest of these guys. I think we controlled the match from that point.”

It didn't hurt that Tom Starr, Danny's older brother, followed his younger sibling's reversal-to-pin maneuver with one of his own in the 220-pound bout.

Kiski Area (19-0), the top seed, narrowly beat Canon-McMillan in a December nonsection match, and the teams split the first four bouts of Saturday's title matchup.

Then came the 195-pound match. When Kiski Area met Canon-McMillan in last year's WPIAL semifinals, a surprise pin of the Cavaliers' Tyler Worthing helped the Big Macs post the victory.

Danny Starr made sure a similar situation didn't develop this time.

“I almost had a heart attack,” Kiski Area senior Joey Blumer said. “I almost started crying. He comes off the mat saying, ‘I almost crapped my pants out there,' and I said, ‘Yeah, think about what you did to us.'

“I've never seen a bigger display of deja vu in my entire life.”

Danny Starr, who wrestled at 152 pounds last season, moved up to 195 this year after the Cavaliers' stalwarts in the higher weight classes graduated.

“It was definitely a big jump,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, I was a little unconfident with it, wrestling some of these big guys. But as the season went on, I just got more comfortable with it.”

Working with his brother every day in the Kiski Area wrestling room certainly helped. Tom Starr moved up from 160 pounds to 220 for the Cavaliers, and the two became consistent pinners at their new weight classes.

Both had a pair of pins Saturday. Danny pinned Franklin Regional's A.J. Dinatale in 28 seconds in the Cavaliers' 51-16 semifinal victory. Tom Starr's pin of Sam Alamili came even more quickly, in a mere 10 seconds.

“We're really a little pack there,” Tom Starr said. “We really thrive to support each other and feed off that momentum that we help create for each other. In the practice room, it's kind of the same way. Back and forth, we're brawling all the time. Seeing him do so well is just a booster for me.”

And for Kiski Area's “band of brothers” to take home the title, its pair of actual brothers came through.

“Every single guy on this team, I've never seen anyone work as hard,” Danny Starr said. “In the wrestling room, there's so much intensity, and it means so much to see it come together like this.”

Added Tom Starr: “Ever since we were little, we've been such a close team, wrestling our butts off and having a blast with it. This year, we knew this team was special. Everyone's a piece of the puzzle. We're all here to support each other, win or lose, and pushing each other to the limits in the practice room.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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