Greensburg Male Athlete of the Week
Notable: It's been a long time since Mike Salopek was that 60-pound first-grader getting used being a wrestler.
The longest part of that journey might have been the last six minutes of the WPIAL 189-pound championship match against Chartiers Valley's Matt Wilps. Early in the second period, he felt a pop in his troublesome knee.
But the Norwin senior refused to give in to the pain, eventually registering a takedown in overtime to win his first WPIAL title, 3-1.
Salopek, who strained a ligament and tore his meniscus in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament, said he couldn't tell which he aggravated the most.
"Both hurt pretty bad," said Salopek, a key member of Norwin's talented football team. "When it happened, I could feel the pain a lot. But I just kept fighting through it, hobbling around out there. I'm sure everybody could tell I was hurt, but I wasn't going to let that get me."
Salopek will take his 31-0 to Hershey next weekend for the PIAA tournament, where he'll be looking to exact a bit of revenge for a loss in the last 12 seconds of a PIAA semifinal bout with Nate Eachus of Easton.
"I think I have a really good chance to win up there," said Salopek, who has a 109-17 career record and received a wrestling scholarship from Virginia. "I know the state champion (Eachus) is in my weight class, but I still feel I can win."
His coach, Todd Schuchert, doesn't doubt Salopek's thinking a bit.
"I think that loss motivated him all year. I think it turned out to be a blessing for him," Schuchert said. "He moves really well for a big guy, and his style is fun to watch. He's a high-paced, high-intensity wrestler.