May 4—Hempfield junior Briar Priest wasn't sure college was in his future before the 2020-21 season. But what a difference six months can make.
After becoming a PIAA champion in March, offers from Division I wrestling programs started rolling in.
Priest announced on Twitter on Sunday he is making a verbal commitment to attend Pitt. Clarion, Oklahoma, Bucknell and West Virginia also showed interest.
"I was a little surprised with the offer," Priest said. "It's close to home, they have a great staff and I have friends there. I grew up watching Micky (Phillippi) and Luke (Pletcher) battle."
Phillippi is a senior at Pitt, and Pletcher is an assistant coach.
Hempfield wrestling coach Vince DeAugustine said Pitt is a good choice for Priest, who captured the PIAA Class AAA 132-pound title.
"He'll do well there," DeAugustine said. "He'll have a chance to wrestle right away. He's a good learner, and he has the ability to advance his style under the coaching staff."
Priest (98-20) made his first trip to Hershey a memorable one. He defeated Seneca Valley senior Dylan Chappell, 6-0, in the finals. He also defeated Perkiomen Valley's Kelly Kakos, 12-2, in the quarterfinals and Coatesville's Nathan Lucier, 1-0, in the semifinals.
DeAugustine said Priest gained a lot of confidence in his ability during the season.
"He focused on wrestling and not on his weight," DeAugustine said. "Briar doesn't realize how good he can be or what he can accomplish."
Priest said he hasn't been a big tournament wrestler in the summer. Last year he did CrossFit to get in shape and practiced with the team and at the All-American Club.
He plans to compete in the Virginia Beach Duals and at an event at Kiski Area on Saturday. He also is planning on competing in freestyle states.
"I learned a lot of new moves over the summer, and I plan on learning more this summer," Priest said. "I know I have to continue to get better."
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .