Latrobe team dominates WCCA tournament

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Saturday, January 8, 2022 | 9:40 PM


If no one noticed, the Latrobe wrestling team is starting to make noise around the WPIAL.

The Wildcats, No. 2 in the Trib HSSN Class 3A rankings, easily won the 69th annual Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association tournament at Kiski Area with 252 points.

Latrobe had four champions and eight finalists. It was the team’s 13th county title, tying it with Kiski Area for the top spot, but first since 2012. Greensburg Salem has 12.

“We did well,” Latrobe coach Mark Mears said. “We’re starting to open some eyes. I knew in mid-January that we could be pretty good when we got Nate (Roth) and Gabe (Golden) back.”

Winning titles were freshmen Luke Willochell (106 pounds) and Leo Joseph (113), junior Vinny Kilkeary (120) and senior Jack Pletcher (152).

Placing second were junior Roth (138), Sam Snyder (172), Corey Boerio (215) and Wyatt Held (285).

Hempfield bounces back

Hempfield wrestling coach Vince DeAugustine wasn’t pleased how his team wrestled against Latrobe on Wednesday.

But its performance at the county tournament made him feel a lot better about the rest of the season.

The Spartans finished second with 188 points and had three champions: Ethan Lebin (126), Eli Carr (132) and Briar Priest (138). Hempfield junior Lucas Kapusta lost 2-1 in the finals at 152 to Franklin Regional senior Finn Solomon.

“We talked after Wednesday’s match, and the team responded,” DeAugustine said. “I like our approach even in matches we lost.”

Solomon repeats

Franklin Regional senior Finn Solomon and Hempfield’s Kapusta are so close, they could be teammates.

Well, they sort of are. The train almost daily at Young Guns Wrestling Club.

So it was no surprise that when they met in the 145-pound finals at the 69th Annual Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association tournament, it was a close match.

Solomon used a second-period reversal and held on for a 2-1 victory to capture his second county title. He defeated Kapusta, 3-1, in the 2021 final and he edged Kapusta, 1-0, in the blood round at the Powerade Tournament last month.

“We know how each other wrestle so well that we hate competing against each other,” Solomon said. “Lucas is getting better, but I’m looking to get further away from him. He’s tough to beat.

“Winning this again is awesome. I feel it’s the best county tournament in the country in my opinion. Winning this is always a great pleasure.”

Solomon wasn’t the only Panther to win a title. Sophomore Juliano Marion claimed the 189-pound title by edging Penn-Trafford junior Owen Ott, 3-2.

Joining his brother

Latrobe senior Jack Pletcher joined his brother Luke as a county champion by defeating Norwin senior Chase Kranitz, 4-2, in overtime with a takedown.

Luke Pletcher was a three-time champion, winning on 2013 (106), ’14 (120) and ’15 (132). He was denied a fourth title in ’16 when he lost to Derry’s Micky Phillippi.

“Finally,” Pletcher said about winning his first title. “It was a long wait, but I finally got it.”

Pinning for the big boys

Mt. Pleasant senior Dayton Pitzer rolled to his second county title by recording three first-period pins against wrestlers from Class AA.

Pitzer, a two-time PIAA and WPIAL Class AA champion, pinned Norwin’s Josh Page (27 seconds), Kiski Area’s Carter Dilts (27 seconds) and Latrobe’s Corey Boerio (1:27).

“I think I worked up a little sweat,” Pitzer said with a smile. “I was pleased that I wrestled well and won another county title.”

Other champions

Greensburg Salem senior heavyweight Bill McChesney survived a scare in semifinals before recording a late takedown to defeat Penn-Trafford junior Joe Enick, 7-5. He pinned Held in the finals.

Belle Vernon’s Logan Hoffman won the 172-pound title by defeating Snyder of Latrobe, 7-0.

Young Cavs growing up

Considering how young the Kiski Area wrestling team is, coach Chris Heater walked away from the 69th Annual Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association tournament somewhat pleased with his team’s performance.

Kiski Area finished third with 159.5 points behind powerful Latrobe (252) and Hempfield (188).

Kiski Area had one champion: senior Enzo Morlacci, who defeated Penn-Trafford’s Wes Stull, 10-6, in the finals.

Ryan Klingensmith was attempting to win his second title, but Hempfield sophomore Eli Carr denied him with a second-period pin at 132.

“I thought we did well,” Heater said. “We still have some new guys in the lineup, younger guys that are adjusting to the varsity level and toughness of the schedule.

“As a group, we wrestled pretty well. I was hoping to get a little bit more some of them. Stone (Joseph) would have been in the finals until he got hurt. He was winning 4-0.”

Joseph had to settle for sixth place because of the injury.

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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