Latrobe’s Vinny Kilkeary, Hempfield’s Lucas Kapusta advance to 3A wrestling semifinals

Friday, March 10, 2023 | 7:19 PM

HERSHEY — For Latrobe senior Vinny Kilkeary and Hempfield senior Lucas Kapusta, Friday’s quarterfinal-round matches at the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships were like a business trip.

They handled their business very well at Giant Center.

Both advanced to Saturday morning’s semifinals with impressive wins.

Kilkeary, looking for his third PIAA title, posted an easy 10-0 victory against Easton junior Benjamin Fanelli at 127 pounds. Now the Ohio State recruit faces Steve College senior Hayden Cunningham in the semifinals, which begin at 9 a.m.

The Class 3A finals begin at 7 p.m.

Kilkeary (27-0) took Fanelli down in the first period and tilted him twice to build a 6-0 lead.

“Vinny just went out and handled his business,” Latrobe coach Mark Mears said. “He looks strong.”

Kapusta, who needed overtime to win his Thursday match, wasted no time taking control of Lebanon’s Griffin Gonzalez in the 152-pound quarterfinals with a takedown in the first 10 seconds. Kapusta won 7-0.

“When I rode him out the entire first period, I felt it took something out of him,” Kapusta said. “He wasn’t the same wrestler after the first period.

“I changed up warmup routine. Instead of warming up early and then waiting, I didn’t start warming up until the after the national anthem. It seemed to work out.”

Kapusta (37-3) said he had a discussion with coach Vince DeAugustine before the match, and they talked about focusing on winning the first period.

He’ll face Central Dauphin’s Ryan Garvick in the semifinals.

After watching teammates Ethan Lebin and Eli Carr drop close matches, Kapusta said he went out and tried to pick them up by winning.

Lebin, a state finalist in 2022, lost a hard-fought 2-1 decision to Central Mountain junior Luke Simcox at 133. He bounced back to defeat Council Rock South sophomore Ben Brillhart, 8-1, in the consolation round to earn all-state honors.

Carr, the WPIAL champion at 139, dropped a 3-1 decision to Central Mountain sophomore Dalton Perry. He rebounded to defeat Central Bucks South junior Jake Neill, 3-0, in the consolation round and earn all-state recognition.

Latrobe senior Nate Roth and sophomore Luke Willochell also fell in the quarterfinals but came back to earn all-state honors with consolation wins.

Roth was pinned by State College junior Pierson Manville but rallied for a 7-2 win against Quakertown sophomore Gavin Carroll at 139.

Willochell, who finished second in the state at 106 in 2022, gave up a late takedown and fell to Northampton senior Carson Wagner, 7-5, at 114. He rallied to pin Easton sophomore Christopher Kelly.

Franklin Regional junior Tyler Kapusta fell to Bethlehem Catholic sophomore Nathan Desmond, 6-0, at 114. Desmond is seeded No. 1 and is one of the top wrestlers in the country.

Kapusta earned all-state honors by defeating Pennridge junior Cole Coffin, 3-0.

Penn-Trafford senior heavyweight Joe Enick was pinned by State College senior Nicholas Pavlechko but came back to record a 13-second pin against Garnet Valley junior Dylan Bledsoe to pick up all-state honors.

Other WPIAL wrestlers to reach the semifinals were Canon-McMillan junior Andrew Binni (127), Thomas Jefferson sophomore Maddox Shaw (133), Pine-Richland senior Anthony Ferraro (133), Trinity junior Blake Reihner (139), Waynesburg senior Mac Church (145), West Allegheny senior Ty Watters (152), West Allegheny junior Shawn Taylor (160), Chartiers Valley senior Dylan Evans (160), Waynesburg senior Rocco Welsh (172), Canon-McMillan senior Matt Furman (172) and Trinity senior heavyweight Ty Banco.

Others to earn all-state honors include Kiski Area senior Ryan Klingensmith (121), Connellsville senior Gabriel Ruggieri (133), West Allegheny senior Nico Taddy (145), Franklin Regional senior Gavyn Beck (160), Kiski Area sophomore Mark Gray (172), Waynesburg senior Brody Evans (189), Penn-Trafford senior Owen Ott (215), Waynesburg senior Eli Makel (215) and Armstrong senior Connor Jacobs (215).

Pine-Richland sophomore Vaughn Spencer, who was undefeated and the WPIAL champion at 189, suffered a knee injury in the quarterfinals and was forced out of the tournament.

In Class 2A, Mt. Pleasant junior Jamison Poklembo (133) and freshman Dylan Pitzer (139) needed one more victory to reach the all-state threshold. Greensburg Salem senior Christian McChesney was two wins away from all-state.

Burrell junior Cooper Hornack and Bentworth junior Chris Vargo are meeting again. This time in the PIAA Class 2A 127-pound final.

This will be the third time this season and fifth time in the past two seasons that they will square off. They have split the previous four matches. Hornack won at the WPIAL finals, 5-1, two weeks ago, and Vargo won the Southwest Regional final, 1-0, last week.

Hornack (42-6) defeated North East sophomore Cyrus Hurd, 7-4. Vargo (42-2) needed overtime to defeat Conneaut junior Hunter Gould, winning 8-3 in tiebreaker 2.

“I know what it means now to wrestle in the finals,” Hornack said. “I know how it feels to lose and he doesn’t. I don’t what that to ever happen again.”

Hornack’s teammate, freshman Cam Baker, ran into a buzz saw in the person of Northern Lebanon sophomore Aaron Seidel at 107. Baker was pinned by Adam Seidel at 1:39.

Baker (40-10) faced Faith Christian Academy freshman Kole Davidheiser in the consolation semifinals and posted an 8-0 victory. He’ll wrestle for third place against Trinity (D3) freshman Will Detar.

Laurel senior Grant MacKay advanced to the finals with a 9-1 victory against Conneaut senior Collin Hearn. He’ll go after his second PIAA title against Grove City junior Hunter Hohman at 160.

Frazier junior Rune Lawrence didn’t let a sore ankle stop him from reaching the finals for third-consecutive season. After a close 1-0 win in the quarterfinals against Saucon Valley senior Jacobs Jones, the two-time PIAA champion pinned General McLane junior Magnus Lloyd in 55 seconds.

Lawrence (44-2) will face Brookville senior Jackson Zimmerman in the 189 finals. Zimmerman upset Bishop McDevitt senior Jakob Gilfoil in the other semifinal.

“I’m not going to let my ankle stop me from competing for another title,” Lawrence said. “Even though I had a close match in the quarters, I didn’t change my approach of going out and getting off the match as quickly as possible.”

Lawrence, a two-time champion, pinned Jones in the finals in 2020.

Central Valley junior Brenan Morgan leaped into his coach’s arms after he rallied to defeat Girard senior Abe Keep, 4-3, at 215. Morgan will attempt to become Central Valley’s first state champion.

Fort Cherry sophomore Braedon Welsh came up short in his bid to reach the finals when he was pinned by Faith Christian Academy freshman Adam Waters at 172.

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

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