Butler’s Santino Sloboda stuns top-ranked wrestler to win WPIAL Class 3A crown

Saturday, March 2, 2024 | 9:47 PM

Very few people at the WPIAL Class 3A wrestling championships Saturday at Canon-McMillan gave Butler sophomore Santino Sloboda a chance at beating the No. 1 wrestler in the country at his weight class.

Sloboda and his circle did.

A reversal with two seconds left in the 114-pound final gave Sloboda a 5-4 victory over Norwin freshman phenom Landon Sidun.

“I think everyone thought he’d roll through me like all the other kids,” Sloboda said. “But my circle thought differently. I’ve been training for this for a while. It’s been a struggle all season — should I go to 107 or stay at 114? Staying at 114 was the right option.”

After his win, Latrobe junior Luke Willochell congratulated Sloboda.

“I was so happy for Santino,” Willochell said. “That’s my training partner and one of my best friends. I told him he was awesome and then I got ready to go.”

Sloboda got the first takedown for the early lead, but Sidun got a reversal near the end of the period to tie things up. Sloboda then rode Sidun out in the second period and headed to the final period tied.

Sloboda got an escape and then proceeded to fend off Sidun for the next minute. Sidun got a takedown with 24 seconds left for a 4-3 lead, but Sloboda got a reversal with two seconds left for the win.

“I had to make something happen with 20 seconds left,” Sloboda said. “It was a move I hit at practice all of the time. I couldn’t believe I heard the crowd go, ‘Two,’”

Norwin coach Kyle Martin said, “Landon didn’t wrestle well. He allowed Santino to dictate the pace. Next week is a new tournament.”

The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey beginning Thursday.

Willochell claimed his third title by defeating Franklin Regional senior Tyler Kapusta, 1-0, to win at 121 pounds.

He is the 89th wrestler in WPIAL history to become a three-time champion. He joins Bentworth senior Chris Vargo and Burrell senior Cooper Hornack, who joined the list last week. There are 32 four-time champions.

Willochell got an escape in the second period for the winning point. He wouldn’t allow Kapusta to escape in the third period. He is now 6-0 against Kapusta.

“It was gritty and I got a gritty win,” Willochell said. “I had to ride him out for the last two minutes. I wasn’t looking at the clock; I was working on my ride.

“I usually score on top, but me and Ty have wrested six or seven times, so it’s hard to turn kids who have your feel. That’s why I’m excited to get to college.”

Hempfield senior Eli Carr, Thomas Jefferson junior Maddox Shaw and Pine-Richland junior Vaughn Spencer claimed their second titles.

Carr won the 152 title by defeating West Allegheny senior Nick Jones, 6-0. Shaw allowed an early takedown and then pinned Pine-Richland junior Dom Ferraro at 139. Spencer pinned Latrobe freshman Hunter Snyder at 172.

The other champions were Peters Township freshman Nicholas McGarrity at 107, Canon-McMillan senior Andrew Binni at 127, Bethel Park senior Mason Kernan at 133, Connellsville junior Evan Petrovich at 145, Thomas Jefferson junior Bode Marlow at 160, Kiski Area sophomore Cooper Roscosky at 189, Ringgold junior Jake Conroy at 215 and Thomas junior Shepherd Turk at heavyweight.

Conroy is the first wrestler at Ringgold to win at WPIAL title.

Connellsville was the team champion with 146.5 points.

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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