Franklin Regional wrestlers look forward to postseason tournament

Saturday, January 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM

When wrestling season began back in December, Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe wasn’t sure how things would work out for his team after two potential starters decided to pursue other avenues.

But through hard work and belief in the coaches, the Panthers (5-0, 5-0) found themselves atop the Class 3A, Section 1B standings after a 43-29 victory against Penn-Trafford last week.

The win qualified the Panthers for the WPIAL team tournament, which begins Feb. 2.

But first the Panthers were set to host the Section 1 tournament Wednesday. Franklin Regional was to meet Armstrong, while Kiski Area and Penn-Trafford face each other. The winner’s and loser’s meet in first- and third-place matches.

After defeating Penn-Trafford on Jan. 19, Lebe was trying to figure a way to defeat Armstrong and possibly Kiski Area.

Lebe bumped up a couple wrestlers — Ben Pekarcik (145 pounds) and Finn Solomon (152) — a weight class and both responded with pins against Pen-Trafford.

“I’m really proud of the team, top to bottom,” Lebe said. “They’re working hard and are buying in on what we’re asking from them.”

Pekarcik and Solomon were part of three consecutive pins by the Panthers.

Lebe said a win at 113 pounds by Nico Sarnic was huge.

“This was a great team win,” Lebe said. “They know it’s a team effort and team commitment. They buy into the team culture and team aspect.”

The Panthers have steadily improved. Despite losing a couple possible starters, other wrestlers have stepped up and filled the holes.

Franklin Regional finished fifth in the county tournament and had seven place winners.

Solomon (145 pounds) and Juliano Marion (189) won titles, Tyler Kapusta (106) placed second, Gavyn Beck (160) ended up third, Justin Bass (126) and Nate Stone (138) finished fourth and Pekarcik (132) ended up sixth.

In a big 41-24 section win against Plum, Pekarcik had a big victory to stop the Mustangs, who raced out to an 18-0 lead.

The Panthers won eight of the final nine bouts.

Lebe said he’s unsure how his team stacks up against the top teams in the WPIAL, but he’s sure his team will give an outstanding effort.

Franklin Regional opted out of the 2021 team tournament because of covid-19 concerns.

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


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