Solomon Chishko stalked the wrestling mat this season with the expertise of a skilled surgeon.
He was never out of control, always cool, calm and deliberate.
Always making the right move.
Even after putting his second consecutive PIAA Wrestling Championship on ice two weeks ago, the senior from Canon-McMillan High School barely showed any emotion coming off the mat. A quick hug of his coaches was the only time he allowed the fans packed into the Giant Center in Hershey a glimpse into his soul.
Then, just like that, it was over.
Chishko pieced together a dramatic season, filled with injuries, challenges and great opportunity, and he came through it, thanks to a mature nature rarely found in a teenager.
Chishko handed Joe Galasso of Father Judge a 7-2 loss in the 145-pound finals to take his second gold medal in as many seasons and complete his senior year with a 27-3 record.
For that accomplishment, Chishko is this year’s Outstanding Wrestler on the Observer-Reporter All-District Wrestling Team.
Chishko joins 27 other wrestlers who earned a spot on one of the two teams.
The first team also includes John Demaske (126), Jason Miller (138) and Bill Bowlen (170) of Jefferson-Morgan; Mike Carr (132), Grant Fetchet (152) and Jared Walker (160) of South Fayette; Jake Temple (220) of Avella; Ty Buckiso (132) of Peters Township; A.C. Headlee (126) of Waynesburg; Austin McDermitt (113) of Burgettstown; Dalton Macri (126) of Canon-McMillan; Nico Brown (170) of Beth-Center; and Devin Fallenstein (170) of Ringgold.
The second team includes Brendan Price (113) and Malachi Krenzelak (138) of Canon-McMillan; Brendan Howard (113) and Ryan Zalar (160) of Jefferson-Morgan; Richie McGinnis (138) and Derek Hull (170) of Chartiers-Houston; Tristan Buxton (106) of Trinity; Doug Gudenburr (113) of Ringgold; Italo Merante (138) of Peters Township; Hunter Neely (106) of Bentworth; Gage Nicolella (106) of McGuffey; Dalton Wildman (182) of West Greene; Shaun Wilson (120) of Waynesburg; and Anthony Welsh (145) of Beth-Center.
As usual, inclusion in the All-District teams was determined by the accomplishments of each wrestler within his weight class.
The Class AAA Coach of the Year is Jason Cardillo of Canon-McMillan, and the Class AA honor goes to Rick Chaussard of South Fayette.
Chishko finished his scholastic career with a 132-8 record, one operation on his elbow that cost him the regular season as a junior and a knee operation that stole a month of this season.
His determination to battle through the latter wasn’t really a surprise.
“People joke about how mature I am, but I’ve always been mature,” he said. “I have a very calm personality. I can focus and be aggressive.”
That was on display in the state finals, where Galasso, frustrated at not being able to score and realizing his perfect record was about to be imperfect, tried to goad Chishko into a mistake. At one point, Galasso backed to the middle of the mat and motioned for Chishko to join him.
Instead of losing his cool, Chishko made a perfect shot into Galasso’s legs and took him to the mat for two points.
“I don’t let things like that get me upset,” Chishko said. “I wrestle better if I stay calm.”
It’s one of the qualities that sparked Virginia Tech to offer a scholarship, which Chishko accepted.
“He’s just so determined,” said Cardillo. “There is a maturity about him and a will to win. He just enjoys it. He’s an all-round great kid, and I have never once seen him lose his cool.”
The only problems Chishko had with wrestling were health related. He injured his elbow as a junior in a preseason tournament, the Super 32, and did not return until the individual championships. Chishko won 11 straight bouts for his first state title.
This season, Chishko injured his right knee while wrestling Micah Jordan of Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio, during the semifinals of the Walsh Ironman Tournament, losing 7-1. He then forfeited the next two bouts for his only losses of the season.
“It bothered him at Ironman,” Cardillo said. “You could tell it wasn’t right. After the loss to Jordan, he got it checked out. We thought it was best to do it then, so he could be healthy for the postseason. We knew it was a basic procedure, routine, with a three-week recovery period.”
Chishko simply shrugged off the prospect of facing more time off during the regular season.
“I didn’t think I was jinxed or anything like that,” he said of the recurring injuries. “You just push through hard times.”
A healthy Chishko is a dangerous Chishko. He roared into the postseason, winning his fourth WPIAL title, then made another trip to Hershey for the state event.
He opened with a 25-10 technical fall over Ethan Stever of Exeter Township then knocked off Demetrie Probst of Central Mountain, 17-6, to make it to the semifinals. He tore up Max Good of Cedar Cliff, 21-8, to set up the showdown with Galasso, a defending state champion with a 26-0 record.
Chishko and Galasso could have met in the Powerade Christmas Tournament in December but both missed the event with injuries.
“I don’t like looking ahead, but I have to admit that I knew I would have Galasso in the finals,” he said. “I had that match in the back of my mind.”
Chishko has been enrolled in cyberschool since first grade and doesn’t use Twitter, but can be found on Facebook.
“Cyberschool can be a good thing, or bad if you don’t put the time in,” he said. “I’m not into social media. I occupy my time with other things. I don’t care to listen to other people’s problems. I try to learn as much as possible and be articulate.”
Now, Virginia Tech offers new challenges.
“The one thing that drew it to me was the area,” Chishko said. “I like the rural setting. I like the outdoors. I went to a training camp there, and I liked the coaches. It’s a really good school, so it’s that mix of both that did it for me. I know I’ll get really good guys to work with and they will help me improve.”