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Pitt national mat champ Joe Solomon passes

Joe Solomon, three-time Pennsylvania high school state wrestling champ who later won EIWA and NCAA titles for the University of Pittsburgh, died Saturday due to complications from Alzheimer's. He was 84.

Born in Canonsburg, Pa. in November 1933, Joseph John Solomon had a lifelong involvement in the sport of wrestling, as a high school and college wrestler, and as a long-time mat official.

Solomon wrestled at Canonsburg High School, where he was a three-time WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) champ. He made it to the PIAA finals twice, winning the Pennsylvania state title at 154 pounds in 1950.

Joe Solomon behind Ed DeWitt (Photo/Owl Yearbook)
Solomon continued his education and wrestling career on a scholarship to Pitt under head coach Rex Perry. The two-time team MVP and team captain as a senior was a two-time Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association finalist, placing second at 167 pounds at the 1954 EIWAs, and being crowned EIWA champ at 177 pounds as a senior in 1955. At the 1954 NCAAs at the University of Oklahoma, the unseeded Solomon won the 167-pound title. The following year at the 1955 NCAAs, Solomon placed fourth at 167, earning All-American honors for the second consecutive year.

Upon graduating from Pittsburgh in 1955, Solomon served in the U.S. Navy. While serving his country, Solomon continued his mat career, as an All-Navy wrestling champ, and as coach at the Great Lakes Naval Station wrestling team.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy, Solomon spent over 30 years at Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania (Highmark) as Senior Vice President of Sales. In his free time and while working for Blue Cross, Joe officiated well over 900 wrestling matches for 30 years at all levels including 15 PIAA state championships, ten PSAC and EIWA Championships, and five NCAA Championships.

In addition, Solomon served for more 20 years with the Dapper Dan Classic Committee which puts on the annual event featuring the best U.S. high school wrestlers taking on those from Pennsylvania. He also worked with the Pennsylvania Olympic Committee.

Solomon had been honored by a number of halls of fame, including the Pennsylvania, Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, the Western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, and the EIWA Hall of Fame. In 2005 Solomon was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Pennsylvania Chapter for Lifetime Service to Wrestling.

Visitation will take place Monday, Aug. 7 from 2-8 p.m. at William Slater II Funeral Services at 1650 Greentree Rd. in Pittsburgh. A funeral mass will be held Tuesday, Aug. 8 at noon at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on 1066 Washington Road in Pittsburgh, with burial to follow at 2 p.m. at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Washington County. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Alzheimer's Association.

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