Hempfield wrestlers hold off upset-minded Latrobe

Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | 11:03 PM

Top-ranked Hempfield came out on top again in a WPIAL Class AAA dual meet, beating Latrobe on Wednesday night, but Spartans coach Tom Dolde wasn’t in a much of a mood to talk about the success.

Meanwhile, Latrobe coach Mike Ciotti was on a bit of a high, despite the Wildcats’ 37-33 Section 1B loss to the visiting high-octane Spartans (7-0, 2-0).

Dolde spent an usually long time in the locker room with his team after the match. When he emerged, he spoke in a tone barely audible after holding court with his team for more than a half-hour.

“I told them 100 times, right now, we’re overrated,” Dolde said of the Spartans, who are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL and No. 3 in the PIAA in Trib HSSN polls but nearly let Wednesday’s match slip away.

With the match starting at 113 pounds, Hempfield garnered some early victories then withstood a barrage of Latrobe falls to come away with the tight road decision.

The Spartans benefited from a technical fall, two major decisions, a forfeit victory and pins by Trevor Verkleeren at 152 and Justin Cramer at 195, though Hempfield was docked a point for unsportsmanlike conduct after the 195-pound match.

Latrobe (1-1, 1-1) countered with pins from Gabe Willochell (138), Mitch Tryon (160), Logan Zitterbart (170) and Corey Boerio (182), giving the Wildcats a lead.

Hempfield regained control on Cramer’s 48-second pin to go back in front, and the Spartans clinched it when Dillon Ferretti scored a 13-3 major decision at 220 and Isaiah Vance won by forfeit at 285.

“To be ranked high in the WPIAL and high in the state, you can’t give up four pins in a dual meet and have a good team,” Dolde said.

Latrobe finished on a high note with a victory at 106 as Vincent Kikleary rallied from a 4-2 deficit entering the third period by forcing overtime against Hempfield’s Ethan Lebin and coming away with a 7-5 decision.

“Overall, we wrestled well,” Ciotti said. “There were definitely some matches we could have won that could have been the difference, but they all went out there and laid it on the line. That’s what we talk about.”

Ciotti particularly was impressed with Kikleary’s effort at 106 after he reversed the scenario that seemingly had Lebin notching a win.

“We don’t really worry about wins and losses,” Ciotti said. “Did we give 110% out there? Did we come off the mat exhausted? Did we wrestle in positions? Did we win positions? They did that out there today. There is no disappointment that the kids didn’t wrestle. We stepped up to the plate. Hempfield is a little better than us right now.”

Dolde mostly was negative in the aftermath, but he found time to throw some praise at several of his guys.

“I’m very impressed with Trevor Verkleeren, very impressed with with Dillon Ferretti,” he said. “My 106-pounder (Lebin), he’s a tough kid and he’ll bounce back. He had that match and lost it at the end. (Kikleary) took advantage of him not finishing the match. We’re poised there to win that match and we let it slip away. We’ve got to work on that.”

Other Hempfield winners were Briar Priest, a major decision at 113; Lucas Kapustah, a decision at 126; Nolan Daerr, a major decison at 132; and Ty Lisenbigler, a technical fall at 145.

Nate Roth’s forfeit victory at 120 accounted for Latrobe’s other winning match.

“We have a target on us, absolutely,” Dolde said. “This is probably the best thing that could happen to us. In hindsight, it was good it happened, so we don’t take a loss late in the season. We won, but it was ugly. We needed this wake-up call.”

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