2 wrestlers join exclusive 3-time champion club at WPIAL Class 2A tournament

Saturday, February 25, 2023 | 4:05 PM

During the 87 years of the WPIAL championships, only 31 wrestlers have won four titles, and 84 were three-time champions.

Laurel senior Grant MacKay and Frazier junior Rune Lawrence now make it 86 three-time winners, and Lawrence has a shot at joining his brother Thayne as a four-time winner next year.

Bentworth junior Chris Vargo was denied his third title Saturday at the WPIAL Class 2A tournament at Chartiers Valley.

Burrell junior Cooper Hornack, who lost to Vargo in last year’s 120-pound final, got his revenge with a 5-1 win at 127 pounds. Vargo and Hornack will be looking to become three-time winners next year.

MacKay didn’t waste any time in the finals. He pinned a past WPIAL champion, Carlynton senior Chase Brandebura, in the 160-pound final in 26 seconds. MacKay had three first-period pins and a first-period win by default.

“This one means more than the others,” MacKay said. “This is special to be a three-time champ. Now my focus is getting back to Hershey and win my second state title.”

MacKay lost in the PIAA finals in 2022.

Lawrence also breezed to his wins. He had four first-period pins, including a 22-second fall against Beth-Center junior Jake Layhue in the 189-pound final.

“They’re all big,” Lawrence said about winning his third title. “It’s just another stepping stone for me. I just went out and tried to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Hornack took a 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown. Vargo was able to escape for a point to end the first period but couldn’t escape Hornack’s grasp in the second period. Hornack got an escape and late takedown to end the scoring.

“He denied me last year, so I wanted to deny him this year,” Hornack said. “Winning this was huge. Getting the first takedown helped me get the momentum early.”

It was the 24th consecutive year that Burrell had a WPIAL champion.

“Chris is a great wrestler,” Hornack said. “I feel I was more physical in this match. He beat me last year, but I got him in Hershey. I really wanted to deny him. I felt I owed him one.”

Burrell had three other wrestlers in the finals.

Freshman Cam Baker was winning in the third period but was pinned by Central Valley freshman Antonio Boni at 107.

Senior Niko Ferra dropped a 10-4 decision to Burgettstown junior Joey Sentipal at 139, and sophomore Isaac Lacinski lost to Fort Cherry sophomore Braedan Welsh, 5-0.

Burrell coach Josh Shields said the Bucs are taking a record 10 wrestlers to the Southwest Regional at Altoona on March 3-4.

Mt. Pleasant junior Jamison Poklembo was denied his second title when he dropped a 3-1 decision to Montour senior Peter Chacon, 3-1, in overtime at 133. Poklembo was penalized a point in the second period for a full nelson.

Belle Vernon sophomore Kole Doppelheuer, who upset the No. 1 seed Logan Richey of Quaker Valley in the 145 quarterfinals, gave up a takedown midway through the final period and fell to Beth-Center senior Tyler Debnar, 5-3.

Also winning his second title was Burgettstown junior Joey Sentipal (139), who defeated Burrell senior Niko Ferra, 10-4. Ferra won a WPIAL title in 2021.

Also taking titles were Indiana sophomore Nico Fanella (114), Quaker Valley junior Jack Kazalas (121), Frazier sophomore Ryan Celaschi (152), Fort Cherry sophomore Braedon Welsh (172), Central Valley junior Brenan Morgan (215) and Keystone Oaks senior heavyweight Christian Flaherty.

Others denied a second title were Brandebura, Burgettstown junior Parker Sentipal and Burgettstown junior heavyweight Joey Baronick.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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