Fast start fuels Latrobe wrestling to Section 2-3A championship

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 | 10:56 PM

It took all of 22 seconds for the Latrobe wrestling team to seize momentum Wednesday in its WPIAL Section 2-3A tournament championship match against Connellsville.

Wildcats freshman Luke Willochell recorded a quick pin in the opening match at 106 pounds over the Falcons’ Trent Huffman, helping propel Latrobe to a 38-19 victory.

Another freshman, Leo Joseph, who is ranked second at 113 pounds by TribHSSN, followed with a pin over fourth-ranked Evan Petrovich in the second period, and the Wildcats were off from there.

“Joseph’s pin was massive,” Latrobe coach Mark Mears said. “When you pin the (fourth-ranked) wrestler in the WPIAL, that sets the firecrackers off. That match was a toss-up on paper, and Leo just got it done.”

That momentum continued after Vinny Kilkeary won via medical forfeit. The next two Latrobe wrestlers lost by decisions, but it gave another boost to their teammates and Mears.

“Everyone on our team has a job assigned to them. You have a job to do,” Mears said.

“Sometimes it’s stay within a decision. Sometimes it’s don’t get pinned. Everyone knows what everyone else’s job is, we privately know. And that helps the kids who might be getting majored a feeling that they’re doing their job. Now they feel a part of it, instead of feeling like they got beat.”

Lucio Angelicchio (126) and Jacob Braun (132) each entered the night with records around the .500 mark. Their opponents, Connellsville’s Gabriel Ruggieri and Chad Ozias, had combined for nearly 40 wins this season. But Angelicchio and Braun did their jobs and forced decisions.

“Connellsville is a very talented team that we just beat. These guys are good,” Mears said. “But we didn’t give up any pins. Nobody got pinned, and they did their jobs.”

Latrobe then earned three decision victories of their own. Nate Roth (138), who was nursing an injury, gutted out an 8-3 victory over Lonzy Vielma. Gabe Golden (145) took down Chad Jesko, 11-1, and Jack Pletcher defeated Ethan Ansell, 13-3.

The Falcons bounced back, taking the next three matches.

Jared Keslar won over Wyatt Schmucker on a technical fall, Hunter Claycomb won a decision over Sam Snyder, 5-1, and George Shultz beat Tyler Lynch by the same score.

But Corey Boerio’s 6-4 win at 215 over Dennis Nichelson put the Wildcats over the top. Wyatt Held’s pin over Tyler Gallis was the capper.

As a result, Latrobe will host the opening round of the team championships Wednesday as the No. 2 seed in Class 3A.

“This was big for us because of seeding purposes,” Mears said. “So the road gets a little easier.”

On the Connellsville side, it was a disappointing performance, according to coach Bill Swink.

“We didn’t perform very well tonight,” he said. “I thought our freshmen did really well against Norwin. Latrobe is really good. They came to compete. I’m not sure we did.

“There’s still a lot (of the season) yet to go. Hopefully we refocus, go back to work tomorrow and try to fix what we need to fix.”

Latrobe made the finals by defeating Thomas Jefferson, 48-24, in a match that lasted less than 40 minutes. The Wildcats took five matchups via forfeit and got pins from Roth (138), Pletcher (152) and Lynch (189).

The Jaguars won by forfeit once, Brady Fitz (145) won an 8-2 decision and TJ scored two pins: one by Logan Timko (285) and a second by Michael Inks (160).

Connellsville had a tough match with Norwin in the other semifinal, winning 43-19.

It was close until the Falcons took the final four matches.

Pins for Connellsville came from Petrovich (113), Ozias (132), Vielma (138), Shultz (189) and Nicholson (215). Huffman (106) won a 4-3 decision in overtime, Claycomb won 13-4 and they won a single forfeit.

Norwin won one forfeit and took four decisions: Josh Page (289), Gabe Conboy (126), Nathan Campbell (145) and Chase Kranitz (152)..

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