First-timers among 6 Westmoreland County WPIAL wrestling champions
Saturday, March 5, 2022 | 8:40 PM
It was a day of firsts for several Westmoreland County wrestlers at the Class 3A WPIAL/PIAA Southwest Regional on Saturday.
Latrobe freshman Luke Willochell, Hempfield junior Ethan Lebin, Hempfield senior Briar Priest, Franklin Regional senior Finn Solomon and Greensburg Salem senior Billy McChesney all claimed their first WPIAL and PIAA Southwest Regional titles at Canon-McMillan. All champions were awarded two goal medals.
The top four wrestlers in each of the 13 weight classes advances to the PIAA championships March 10-12 at Giant Center in Hershey.
It was the first time in three attempts for Solomon and McChesney. Solomon lost to Seneca Valley Alejandro Herrera-Rondon in 2019 and to Waynesburg’s Cole Homet in 2021, while McChesney fell to Hempfield’s Isaiah Vance in consecutive seasons.
Solomon and Priest, however, came back to win PIAA titles in 2021.
Latrobe junior Vinny Kilkeary, a PIAA champion in 2020, captured his second title by defeating friend and county rival Troy Hohman of Penn-Trafford, 16-5, in the 120-pound final.
Belle Vernon senior Cole Weightman was denied his third title, falling to Thomas Jefferson senior Brian Finnerty, 1-0. The match was stopped numerous times to stop bloody noses on both wrestlers.
Willochell used a reversal and a three-point nearfall in the third period to rally and defeat Indiana freshman Nico Fanella, 7-3, at 106. Willochell (40-4) secured the reversal with 47 seconds left and then rolled over his own back to put Fanella (31-1) on his back with 10 seconds remaining to secure the nearfall points.
“We’ve wrestled in the past, and I actually lost to him, so I was ready to go and get my payback,” Willochell said. “He outwrestled me in the state tournament. I feel my neutral game has gotten so much better than last year. That’s what separated us.
“This is awesome winning my first title. I still can’t comprehend the feeling.”
Kilkeary used an early takedown for a 2-0 lead and he expanded that with a five-point move in the second period with a takedown and three-point nearfall.
“I went at him aggressively,” Kilkeary said. “WPIAL is such a tough tournament. It’s a confidence booster to win and take it to next week.”
Hohman said he has to learn from his mistakes and put this loss behind him.
“I let Vinny dictate the pace better than I did,” Hohman said. “I didn’t have an offense.”
Kilkeary pinned Hohman to win the 2021 title.
The best match of the night was Solomon’s thrilling 5-4 victory against West Allegheny junior Ty Watters at 145 pounds. Solomon used an escape in the ultimate tiebreaker round to secure the win. The two had previously split their matches.
“I know it was pretty entertaining,” Solomon said. “I wish I could have watched it. I’m having fun and enjoying every moment, and that was one moment I won’t forget.
“I want to enjoy this. I don’t want to stress over winning or losing. He’s a great opponent, we matchup really well.”
The match before Solomon’s was Priest’s heart-thumping 7-5 victory against Waynesburg senior Colton Stoneking at 138. Priest used a takedown and two-point nearfall to erase a 4-3 deficit.
“He’s fast, and I had to stick to my attack,” Priest said about winning. “All our matches are usually one- to two-point matches. He’s pretty crazy on his feet. Winning the WPIAL title was one of my goals.”
Maybe the surprise of the finals was Lebin’s 4-0 victory against Thomas Jefferson freshman Maddox Shaw in the 126 final. Lebin snapped a scoreless match by turning Shaw to his back for a three-point nearfall in the second period.
“It was pretty big win,” Lebin said. “I used a reinforced bar to turn him. I’m pretty good at it.”
McChesney closed the night by using a takedown in the final 30 seconds to defeat Waynesburg senior Noah Tustin, 3-2, in the heavyweight match.
“Never having an easy tournament and those hard matches against Isaiah prepared me for this,” McChesney said. “It’s amazing. It feels great to finally win it and have the gold around my neck. But at the end of the day, there is still next week.”
Also winning his second title was Seneca Valley junior Tyler Chappell. He edged Peters Township freshman Darius McMillon, 1-0, in the 113 final.
Other winners included Waynesburg juniors Mac Church (132) and Rocco Welsh (172), Connellsville senor Jared Keslar (160), Chartiers Valley junior Dylan Evans (152) and a second title for Mt. Lebanon senior Mac Stout (189).
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford