First PIAA champion dies

From Rodfrisco.com:

Sam Harry, 89, passed away on Saturday, June 4, at his home in Harrisburg. He led a full and productive life, but he will always be known for his semi-accidental fame: He was the first of 1,382 PIAA wrestling champions.

In 1938, PIAA decided to conduct its first formal statewide wrestling championship. The WPIAL, District 1 and District 3 had begun championships a few years earlier and other PIAA districts had added enough schools with wrestling to make a state tournament feasible.

As it happened, Harry was a sophomore at Clearfield in 1938, just four years after the late Arthur J. Weiss Sr., who passed away less than a month ago at the age of 102, had established a wrestling program at Clearfield. Harry also happened to be at the lightest weight, 85 pounds.

Harry was one of 78 wrestlers representing 27 schools at the first state tournament, according to “The History of the PIAA Wrestling Championships,” co-authored by Norm Palovcsik of Lock Haven and Mike Smith of Newport.

Harry pinned his first two opponents. His opponent in the finals, Jerry Spence of Grove City, did not wrestle a match in order to reach the finals; Spence receive a first-round bye, then won by forfeit in the semifinals. Despite that, Harry won the seven-minute match with Spence, matches that, if not decided by a pin, were decided solely on riding time; there was no uniform point-scoring system in place until 1941.


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