For today’s “When Sports Were Played” we go back to March 9, 1996, when McGuffey’s Jeremy Hunter became the ninth four-time state wrestling champion. This is the final article in the series.

HERSHEY – Jeremy Hunter of McGuffey walked into PIAA history Saturday night and then ran into the stands to share one of the greatest accomplishments of his wrestling career with his father.

Hunter became a four-time state champion after decisioning Shikellamy’s Anthony Rivera 17-5 in the Class AAA 119-pound finals.

“It’s really nice,” Hunter said. “There were a lot of great wrestlers who have come through here.”

But only eight others have won four state titles. So add Hunter’s name to the list that already includes James Conklin of Waynesburg (1940-43), Jerry Maury of Clearfield (1947-50), Mike Johnson of Lock Haven (1958-61), Matt Gerhard of Catasaqua (1981-84), Ty Moore of North Allegheny (187-90), John Hughes of Benton (1988-91), Cary Kolat of Jefferson-Morgan (1989-92) and Bob Crawford of Milton (1990-93).

And to make the evening sweeter, Hunter was named the Outstanding Wrestler, received two standings ovations from the sellout crowd and got to watch teammate Eric Pizzi win the 145-pound title with a 5-3 decision in his rematch with Kittanning’s Chamie Hooks.

“Jeremy has helped me 110 percent,” said Pizzi. “Everything he does inspires me.”

Hunter’s drive for a fourth title inspired hundreds of McGuffey fans, clad in gold T-shirts, to make the trip to Hershey for his match.

And it was patented Hunter. He was quick, effective and aggressive against Rivera. At the end of one period, Hunter held a 4-1 lead. It was 7-2 after two as Hunter chalked up an escape and then a takedown.

“The last day of this tournament has been hard on him the past couple of years,” said McGuffey coach Mark Caffrey. “I just told Jeremy to go out there and pretend its practice. Just do the takedowns and that’s what he did.”

By the third period, Rivera was tiring and Hunter stepped up the attack, registering four more takedowns and turning the Easton freshman on his back for two more points.

“He’s a tough kid,” Hunter said. “He came right at me and I respect him for that. A lot of people back up and stall but he came right at me.”

This was Hunter’s 131st consecutive victory, raising his season record to 43-0 and his career mark to 171-2. The only losses came to North Allegheny’s Teague Moore in the finals of the WPIAL and regional tournaments of Hunter’s freshman season.

“I’m going to really miss him,” said Caffrey. “It’s hard to put into words. He’s moving on to Penn State and I feel he’s going to do wonders there.”

Pizzi’s victory over Hooks came one week after the McGuffey senior defeated the defending state champion in the regional finals.

“I’ve wanted this for 15 years,” said Pizzi, who finished the season with a 43-0 record and a 131-16 career mark. “It’s the most important thing in my life right now.”

Pizzi found some motivation for his bout from Hooks, who made some unkind remarks about Pizzi after last week’s loss.

“Hooks was telling everyone last week was a fluke,” said Caffrey. “That just gave Eric the motivation that he needed.”

Following a scoreless first period, Pizzi reversed Hook with 1:14 left in the second period and turned him for two back points with 11 seconds to go for a 4-0 lead.

Hooks escaped to start the third period and took Pizzi down midway through the period to cut the lead to 4-3.

But Pizzi escaped in the final seconds and held off one more shot by Hooks with four seconds left for the win.

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