Latrobe’s Kilkeary making big noise at PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships

Friday, March 6, 2020 | 8:55 PM

HERSHEY — The smallest guys in the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships are making some big noise.

On a day where controversial calls cost Franklin Regional junior Carter Dibert and Waynesburg freshman Mac Church possible state titles Friday, Latrobe freshman Vincent Kilkeary, a 5-foot ball of thunder, rolled into the 106-pound semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday at Giant Center.

Kilkeary (28-7) used a takedown in overtime to defeat Downingtown East junior Keanu Manuel, the second seed, 3-1.

Up next is Bethlehem Catholic freshman Tyler Kasak, considered the top wrestler in the state .

“I just kept pushing the pace and looked for an opening,” Kilkeary said. “When I saw it, I finished it off.”

Kilkeary admitted he wasn’t thinking of anything except advancing to the next round.

When he secured the takedown, Latrobe coach Mike Ciotti leaped into the air to celebrate.

“What a great win for Vincent,” Ciotti said.

Latrobe wasn’t done. Senior Gabe Willochell advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive time after defeating Red Land senior Bryce Brennan, 5-1.

Willochell (35-1) will face Bethlehem Catholic senior Kenny Herrmann (42-3) in the semifinals. Herrmann defeated Willochell in the semifinals last season, but Willochell said he’s a better wrestler this season.

“Every year I’ve been in the state tournament, I’ve made it to the semifinals,” Willochell said. “I’ve never made it over the hump. The goal is to win and make it to the finals.”

Willochell dominated a match his opponent wouldn’t engage.

Norwin and Hempfield also advanced two wrestlers to the semifinals.

Kurtis Phipps (126) and John Altieri (138) advanced for the Knights, as did Ethan Berginc (113) and heavyweight Isaiah Vance for the Spartans.

Phipps (38-1), a two-time state runner-up, breezed to an 11-0 victory against Council Rock South senior Kyle Waterman. He will face Central Dauphin junior Josh Miller (41-5) in the semifinals.

Altieri’s win was a little more exciting. He got a takedown in overtime and pinned Williamsport sophomore Riley Bower at 6 minutes, 50 seconds. Altieri faces two-time state champion Sam Hillegas (37-2).

“It feels pretty good, now I’m returning my attention to Hillegas,” Altieri said. “I’ve been working on my high crotch, and when I saw it, I got it in overtime.”

Berginc continued his run. A day after defeating the No. 2 seed, Berginc (35-6) beat Downingtown West sophomore Dominic Findora, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.

He used two-point reversals in the second and third periods to reverse a 3-2 deficit.

He will face Easton sophomore Braxton Appello (28-5) in the semifinals.

Vance rallied to decision Conrad Weisner senior Adam Kase, 8-7. Vance (40-1) fought off a late takedown attempt to secure the win. He will face Meadville senior Thomas Pollard (36-0) in the semifinals.

The Spartans Ty Linsenbigler came up short in his quarterfinal-round match, losing 9-7 in overtime to Northampton junior Jagger Condomitti. Linsenbigler won his blood-round match and is guaranteed a medal. Linsenbigler is shooting for third place.

Other county wrestlers to advance were Greensburg Salem senior John Meyers Belle Vernon sophomore Cole Weightman at 220.

Meyers (31-1) defeated Central Dauphin senior Marques Holton, 5-3, and Weightman, battling a sore shoulder, pinned Nazareth senior Stephen Schott in the second period.

Meyers will face Selinsgrove’s junior Nate Schon (36-1), a returning state champion, in the semifinals.

Weightman (31-1) gets the top seed, — Cathedral Prep senior Dorian Crosby (46-1) — in the semifinals.

Dibert saw his state championship dream end in the quarterfinals with a controversial 4-1 loss to Bethlehem Catholic sophomore Dante Frinzi. According to Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe, the takedown Frinzi was awarded was questionable.

Dibert also was disappointed with numerous cautions given to both wresters.

“It hurt, but now I’m focused on placing third,” Dibert said after his 13-0 win against Nazareth junior Andreo Ferraina. “The mission is to dominate everyone the rest of the way.”

Dibert’s teammate, senior Mason Spears, also came up short in the quarterfinals, losing to Bethlehem Catholic senior Cole Handlovic, 8-3. He bounced back to win a 2-1 decision in blood round against Shikellamy senior Cade Balestrini to earn a medal.

Greensburg Salem heavyweight Bill McChesney lost to top seed,Hunter Catka of Sun Valley, 16-5, but earned a medal by defeating Mike Miller of Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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