By Frank Dimon
For The Daily Item
MILTON -- Last summer, Ryan Solomon faced some of the toughest competition in the country at the USA Wrestling Junior Nationals tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, winning a Greco-Roman national championship at 195 pounds.
During his final high school season, the Milton senior won the prestigious Beast of the East tournament at the University of Delaware in late December, beating three nationally ranked opponents along the way, and a week later added a first place finish at the Bethlehem Holiday against another solid field.
Last weekend Solomon wrapped up his second PIAA Class AA gold medal with a dominating walk through the 195-pound bracket, blanking Garrett Vulcano of Chartiers-Houston, 7-0, to wrap up a perfect 40-0 season.
Now, Solomon is set for one final challenge at the high school level. On Sunday evening, Solomon will wrestle in the 39th Dapper Dan Classic at the University of Pittsburgh's Fitzgerald Fieldhouse. Known as the "Rose Bowl of Wrestling", the Dapper Dan annually matches Team Pennsylvania against a collection of best talent from across the country.
Former Line Mountain standout, Zain Retherford, will also participate in the event at 138 pounds. Retherford won a state title for the Eagles as a freshman, finished third the next year, and then transferred to Benton. He beat former teammate, Seth Lansberry, for his second state title last weekend.
A consensus No. 1 in the national rankings at 195, Solomon will face No. 2 Frank Mattiace of Blair Academy in the 220-pound bout, though both wrestlers will weigh in at 200 pounds with the five-pound allowance Classic organizers give to the competitors. Hampton's Jake Hart, who won his first state championship at 195 in Class AAA last weekend will face Broc Berge of Kasson-Mantorville, Minn., at 195.
"There was never any doubt that I would accept the invitation if it came to me," said Solomon, who will spend his college career wrestling at Fitzgerald Field House. He accepted a scholarship to wrestle at Pitt near the end of last football season.