Latrobe freshman Willochell rolls into semifinals of WPIAL/PIAA Class 3A Southwest Regional

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Friday, March 4, 2022 | 10:27 PM


Sometimes freshmen have trouble competing in big tournaments.

Latrobe freshman Luke Willochell didn’t have any problems at his first WPIAL/PIAA Class 3A Southwest Regional Championship on Friday at Canon-McMillan.

Willochell had an impressive debut, recording two first-period pins. He quickly defeated Bethel Park freshman Seth Miller in 33 seconds at 106 pounds, and then faced a tough North Hills sophomore in Giavonie Schipani in the quarterfinals. He pinned him in 1:41.

Now Willochell (38-4) faces Canon-McMillan sophomore Tanner Mizenko in the semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

“I was a little worried about my quarterfinal-round opponent,” Willochell said. “He was bigger and stronger, but once I got that first takedown, the nervousness went out of me. He looked a lot bigger, but I got to work.

“Those first matches are big to get. Once you get into the semifinals, all you need is one win to get to states.”

He pinned Schipani with a bundle that ended up as a headlock.

Willochell was one of four Latrobe wrestlers to advance to the semifinals. He will be joined by junior Vinny Kilkeary (120), senior Jack Pletcher (152) and junior Corey Boerio (215).

Kilkeary (40-2) had a pin and a 12-4 win against Connellsville junior Jacob Layton. He’ll face Bethel Park sophomore Mason Kernan (37-1).

Pletcher (40-6) pinned Penn-Trafford freshman Tasso Whipple and then dominated Indiana senior Danny Turner, 15-6. He’ll face Pine-Richland senior Kelin Laffey (26-1).

Boerio (39-8) hopes the third time is a charm when he faces (No.1) Thomas Jefferson senior Brian Finnerty (38-1) in the semifinals. Boerio pinned Ringgold junior Brayden Wilcher in 42 seconds and Chartiers Valley senior Josh Sarasnick in 2:45.

Franklin Regional also had four wrestlers reach the semifinals — sophomore Tyler Kapusta (106), junior Nate Stone (138), senior Finn Solomon (145) and sophomore Juliano Marion (189).

Panthers coach Matt Lebe said he wasn’t surprised about his team’s Day 1 results.

“It was a great round overall by our team,” Lebe said. “But we felt we could be in position to do well, and it’s a credit to them and our coaching staff to prepare them.

“It was a goal, but we’re not satisfied. We expected to win these, but we knew they‘d be battles.”

Kapusta (25-6) will face Indiana freshman Nico Fanella (30-0) in the semifinals. Fanella won the two previous meetings. Kapusta pinned Norwin freshman Gannon Conboy and defeated Trinity freshman T.J. Allison, 8-0.

Stone (31-7) was able to reverse an earlier loss in the quarterfinals by defeating Trinity sophomore Robbie Allison, 4-3. He also edged South Fayette freshman Talon Mizenko, 1-0.

“It’s a big deal for me beating Robbie,” Stone said. “I just focused on my first match and then focused on the other. I was able to get back something I lost earlier this season and making it to the semifinals. The key was stopping his offense in the neutral position.”

Solomon (35-2), the returning PIAA champion, breezed to the semifinals with two pins. He’ll face Westmoreland County and club rival Lucas Kapusta (31-4) of Hempfield.

Marion (32-5) rolled in the semifinals against Waynesburg junior Brody Evans (36-11) with a 28-second pin of Belle Vernon sophomore Luke Bryer and held on for a 10-8 win against Canon-McMillan junior Gabriel Stafford.

“It was pretty big getting to the semifinals,” Marion said. “I was a two seed, and that’s where I’m expected to be. It was a touch match.”

Hempfield advanced three to the semifinals: Ethan Lebin (126), Briar Priest (138) and Kapusta. Belle Vernon advanced two: Logan Hoffman (172) and Cole Weightman (215). Penn-Trafford advanced two: Troy Hohman (120) and Owen Ott (189); and one each for Norwin (Chase Kranitz 160) and Greensburg Salem (Bill McChesney 285).

Waynesburg leads the team standings with 83.5 points and six wrestlers in the semifinals. Connellsville is second with 65.5 and three in the semis and Canon-McMillan is third with 61.5 and four in the semis.

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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