Latrobe’s Kilkeary, Waynesburg’s Church celebrate 2nd wrestling titles

Saturday, March 12, 2022 | 10:13 PM

HERSHEY — Again, the WPIAL showed its might at the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships.

The WPIAL had seven champions, the most by any district in the state, and a total of 33 earned medals over the three-day tournament at Giant Center.

Winning their second PIAA titles were Latrobe junior Vinny Kilkeary at 120 pounds and Waynesburg junior Mac Church at 132.

Grabbing their first titles were West Allegheny junior Ty Watters at 145, Chartiers Valley junior Dylan Evans at 152, Connellsville senior Jared Keslar at 160, Waynesburg junior Rocco Welsh at 172 and Thomas Jefferson senior Brian Finnerty at 215. The WPIAL had 12 finalists and two all-WPIAL finals (145 and 215).

Kilkeary, the 106-pound champion last season, took advantage of his quickness on his feet to dominate previously unbeaten Mason Leiphart of Dover, winning 12-3.

“This is awesome winning again,” Kilkeary said. “I got that terrible taste out of my mouth from losing last year. I’m not finished yet. I still have another year.”

Kilkeary (46-2, 102-12) used a takedown in the first period and two more in the second period to build a 6-1 lead. He escaped to begin the third period, fought off a headlock attack by Leiphart, who is much taller than Kilkeary, and secured the win with a takedown and three-point nearfall for a 12-1 lead.

After the match, Kilkeary celebrated by putting assistant coach Paul Snyder in a headlock and pinning him.

“I knew the kid was good, and I knew what he was good at,” Kilkeary said. “If I could get off bottom quickly and get to my stuff and try to control the match and throw everything on the mat I would be OK.

“I felt I could get on his leg. I knew he would shoot from space, and I re-attacked every time and I felt I executed that.”

Church (38-2, 116-10) used a first-period takedown and defeated Central Dauphin junior Matt Repos, 3-1. He won the 120-pound title in 2021.

Watters (37-3, 61-8) used a five-point move midway through the first period to build an early lead and defeat returning PIAA champion Finn Solomon of Franklin Regional, 7-4. It was the fourth time the two have met this season, both winning twice.

“I’m not sure what to say,” Watters said. “I just love wrestling Finn, he’s my friend. He’s a fun opponent to wrestle. We could meet 1o more times we’d go different each time.”

Watters is the first wrestler from West Allegheny to win a state title. He denied Solomon a second title.

The other all-WPIAL final featured a third rematch between Finnerty and Belle Vernon senior Cole Weightman.

Finnerty used a reversal and a penalty point for locked hands and a thrilling 6-5 victory. Finnerty is Thomas Jefferson’s first state winner, and Weightman’s quest to become Belle Vernon’s first came up short.

Evans (35-4, 102-24) used a late takedown to defeat Erie Prep senior Kaeman Smith, 3-2.

Keslar became the 14th wrestler from Connellsville to win a state title with his 7-5 victory against Central Dauphin sophomore Ryan Garvick. The last Falcon to win a title was Nate Gaffney in 2009.

Keslar used two first-period takedowns to build an early 4-1 lead.

“I felt I was in control of the match,” Keslar said. “I was able to wrestle my style.

“I’m really speechless right now. It’s awesome. I’m really grateful.”

Welsh dominated his weight class, recording three technical falls and a pin. He won 24-8 in the finals against Interboro senior Dom D’Agostino.

Also being denied was Hempfield senior Briar Priest, who lost 5-4 in overtime to State College sophomore Pierson Manville. Priest was unable to escape in the third overtime.

“The first takedown kind of changed the match,” Priest said. “It gave him that one extra point he needed. I’m very proud of what I accomplished my last two years, and I’m really excited at what’s to come with (coach Keith) Gavin at Pitt.”

Hempfield junior Ethan Lebin also fell in the finals, losing to Central Mountain freshman Dalton Perry, 6-3, on a late takedown and nearfall points.

“It feels good to be on the podium in Hershey,” Lebin said. “It was a good weekend. I’m surprised. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season if I’d be in the state finals, I’d say absolutely not.

“But as the season went on, I gained more confidence, got better and I ended up where I am (Saturday).”

Latrobe freshman Luke Willochell also fell short in the 106 final. He lost to Bethlehem Catholic freshman Nathan Desmond, 15-5.

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

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