Franklin Regional wrestling bumps off Penn-Trafford in showdown for first place

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | 10:28 PM

Franklin Regional found itself trailing Penn-Trafford with six bouts remaining Wednesday, but a couple of moves by coach Matt Lebe proved to be the difference.

Consecutive pins by Nate Stone, Ben Pekarcik and Finn Solomon helped Franklin Regional rally to defeat Penn-Trafford, 43-29, in a WPIAL Class AAA Section 1-B first-place showdown.

The Panthers (4-0, 4-0) will conclude the regular section season Thursday at home against Gateway. They host the Section 1 team tournament Jan. 26.

The match went back and forth early with Franklin Regional grabbing a 16-6 lead on pins by Christo Marion (215 pounds) and Ty Kapusta (106) and a 15-5 major decision win by Nico Sarnic at 113.

Penn-Trafford (5-3, 4-1) then went on its run as Nate Hernandez got a pin at 120, Troy Hohman a technical fall win at 126 and Hayden Coy a pin at 132. The Warriors led 23-16.

That’s when Lebe made the move, and things turned. He bumped up Pekarcik and Solomon a weight, and they recorded falls.

“We knew it would be a tight match with them, and to get eight wins overall, I’m really proud of our guys,” Lebe said.

“They know it’s a team effort and team commitment, and I think you saw that. (Nico) Sarnic got a big win at 113.”

After Solomon’s pin, he held his finger in a gesture to quiet the Penn-Trafford student section. His pin gave the Panthers a 34-23 lead.

Penn-Trafford got a pin from Wesley Stull at 160 to close the gap to 34-29, but a pin by Gavyn Beck at 172 sealed the Panthers’ win.

Juliano Marion then battled Penn-Trafford’s Owen Ott in the final bout in a rematch of the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association finals at 189. Marion used a strong first period for a 6-1 win.

“They did what they had to do to win the match,” Penn-Trafford coach A.J. Brentzel said. “We didn’t perform as we needed to, and that’s how it goes sometimes.

“We move on to next week and wrestle in the section tournament, and we’ll see then. Hopefully, we can do a couple different things to win the match.”

Lebe said his team’s ability to score bonus points was huge.

“We talk about it all the time,” Lebe said. “They understand the importance of bonus points. They hold each other accountable. I’m happy from top to bottom.”

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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