Hempfield’s Lucas Kapusta, Penn-Trafford’s Joe Enick rally for 1st-round PIAA wrestling wins

Thursday, March 9, 2023 | 10:37 PM

HERSHEY — Hempfield senior Lucas Kapusta has been in a few tight overtime battles this season.

So when he trailed Abington Heights sophomore Brian Heard in the third period Thursday, he knew what he had to do and didn’t panic.

Kapusta got a takedown with 20 seconds remaining to tie the score and then got a takedown in overtime for a thrilling 5-3 first-round victory at 152 pounds at the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships at Giant Center.

Kapusta placed fifth in 2022, so he knows how to win matches in the state tournament.

“You just know that hand fighting wears on a guy,” Kapusta said. “I got him tired, and I felt my conditioning was better. I was ready for overtime.

“I knew I needed one takedown to tie it up. I wore him out and got the takedown.”

Kapusta’s match wasn’t the only close one involving a Westmoreland County wrestler.

Penn-Trafford senior heavyweight Joe Enick was down in his match in the third period before he recorded a takedown to tie the score and a three-point near fall to secure a 6-3 victory over Strath Haven senior Ben Farabaugh.

Penn-Trafford coach Travis McKillop said Enick was giving him a heart attack.

“I like doing that to him,” Enick said. “This was my first time here. I wasn’t nervous because we played football in big venues. We were across the parking lot, winning the football title.”

Enick said he hasn’t been feeling well the past week but felt his conditioning was still better than his opponent.

Latrobe had three wrestlers advance: sophomore Luke Willochell (114), senior Vinny Kilkeary (127) and senior Nate Roth (139).

Joining Kapusta from Hempfield were senior Ethan Lebin (133) and junior Eli Carr (139).

Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine was pleased with the way his wrestlers competed.

“We have to regroup a little and fix a few things before Friday’s matches,” DeAugustine said. “We have to continue to get stronger.”

Franklin Regional junior Tyler Kapusta (114), Lucas’ cousin, also advanced to the quarterfinals.

The WPIAL had 52 wrestlers competing in Class 3A, and only four were eliminated from the tournament. The WPIAL has 27 wrestlers in the quarterfinals, including top seed Kilkeary, Canon-McMillan junior Tanner Mizenko (107), Thomas Jefferson sophomore Maddox Shaw (133), Waynesburg seniors Mac Church (145) and Rocco Welsh (172) and West Allegheny senior Ty Watters (152) and junior Shawn Taylor (160).

In Class 2A, it wasn’t a good day for wrestlers from Westmoreland County other than the ones wearing Burrell singlets.

Burrell freshman Cam Baker (107 pounds) and junior Cooper Hornack (127) advanced to Friday’s 9 a.m. quarterfinals with wins.

Baker (39-9) pinned Corry freshman Steven Willis at 3:28 at 107 pounds. Baker had built a 9-0 lead at the time of the pin.

Hornack (40-6) was in control of his bout, defeating Bermudian Springs freshman Hayden Yacoviello-Andrus, 6-1, at 127. The junior took control of the match with a three-point near fall in the second period. Hornack was a state finalist in 2022.

Senior Niko Ferra and sophomore Isaac Lacinski are still alive in the consolation round.

Both won their preliminary-round matches but fell in the first round. They’ll wrestle in the second round of consolations.

Two Mt. Pleasant wrestlers — junior Jamison Poklembo and freshman Dylan Pitzer — and Greensburg Salem senior Christian McChesney are still alive in the consolation rounds.

Pitzer defeated Catasauqua junior Chad Beller, 6-2, in the preliminary round and then fell to No. 2 seed Brody Kline of Berks Catholic, 7-1, in the first round at 215.

Poklembo lost a 1-0 first-round match to Midd-West senior Conner Heckman at 133. He bounced back to whip Salisbury junior John Samy, 11-0, in the consolation round.

Mt. Pleasant senior Sean Cain saw his season end with two losses.

McChesney rallied for a 5-2 victory against Mt. Carmel junior Ryan Weidner. He then lost 17-1 to Fort LeBoeuf senior Dan Church.

McChesney and Pitzer wrestle in the second round of consolations Friday.

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 pschofield@triblive.com.

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