Latrobe’s Luke Willochell claims 3rd WPIAL title; Hempfield’s Eli Carr his 2nd

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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | 9:35 PM


No one said winning a title would be easy, but Latrobe junior Luke Willochell found a way Saturday at the WPIAL Class 3A wrestling championships at Canon-McMillan.

Willochell (38-1) claimed his third by defeating Franklin Regional senior Tyler Kapusta, 1-0, to win the 121-pound title. Now his focus turns to the start of the PIAA tournament Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.

He is the 89th wrestler in WPIAL history to become a three-time champion.

He joins Bentworth senior Chris Vargo and Burrell senior Cooper Hornack, who joined the list last week. There are 32 four-time champions.

Willochell got an escape in the second period for the winning point. He wouldn’t allow Kapusta to escape in the third period. He is now 6-0 against Kapusta.

“It was gritty, and I got a gritty win,” Willochell said. “I had to ride him out for the last two minutes. I wasn’t looking at the clock. I was working on my ride.

“I usually score on top, but me and Ty have wrested six or seven times, so it’s hard to turn kids who have your feel. That’s why I’m excited to get to college.”

Now Willochell is looking forward to states and becoming a possible four-time champion next season.

“Coach (Mark) Mears said you can’t win four without winning three,” Willochell said. “So it was nice to get this one out of the way.”

Before his match, Willochell slapped Butler sophomore Santino Sloboda on his back after his exciting win.

“I was so happy for Santino,” Willochell said. “That’s my training partner and one of my best friends. I told him he was awesome and then I got ready to go.”

The stunner of the finals came in the second match when Sloboda (36-0) got a reversal with two seconds left to defeat Norwin freshman Landon Sidun, 5-4, in the 114-pound final.

Sidun (38-2) was ranked No. 1 in the country.

“Honestly, Landon is seeded No. 1 in the country, and he’s really good,” Sloboda said. “I think everyone thought he’d roll through me like all the other kids. But my circle thought differently. I’ve been training for this for a while. It’s been a struggle all season: Should I go to 107 or stay at 114? Staying was the right option.”

Sloboda got the first takedown for the early lead, but Sidun got a reversal near the end of the period to tie things up. Sloboda then rode Sidun out in the second period and headed to the final period tied.

Sloboda got an escape and then proceeded to fend off Sidun for the next minute. Sidun got a takedown with 24 seconds left for a 4-3 lead, but Sloboda got a reversal with two seconds left for the win.

“I had to make something happen with 20 seconds left,” Sloboda said. “It was a move I hit at practice all of the time. I couldn’t believe I heard the crowd go two.”

Said Norwin coach Kyle Martin: “Landon didn’t wrestle well. He allowed Santino to dictate the pace. Next week is a new tournament.”

Hempfield senior Eli Carr earned his second title by defeating West Allegheny senior Nick Jones, 6-0. Carr (32-2) didn’t allow a point in four matches, outscoring his opponents 28-0.

“I wrestled pretty well this weekend,” Carr said. “I would have liked to score more points in that last match. Nick is a great opponent. That was my goal, not allowing any points.

“I’m pretty happy. It represents that work I put in. I want to win a state title, but I just want to go out and have fun.”

Penn-Trafford sophomore Dylan Barrett and senior Hayden Coy dropped close matches in the finals.

Barrett fell to Peters Township freshman Nicholas McGarrity, 6-2, in overtime. The match was tied 2-2 after regulation before McGarrity was able to catch Barrett in overtime.

Coy gave up two first-period takedowns and fell to Connellsville junior Evan Petrovich, 4-2, at 145 pounds. Petrovich defeated Coy in the Eastern Sectional a week ego.

Latrobe senior Jacob Braun lost in the 127-pound final to Canon-McMillan senior Andrew Binni, 19-7.

Bethel Park senior Mason Kernan got the best of Connellsville freshman Kai Vielma in the 133 final, winning 7-0.

Thomas Jefferson junior Maddox Shaw and Pine-Richland junior Vaughn Spencer won their second titles. Shaw pinned Pine-Richland junior Dominic Ferraro at 139, and Spencer pinned Latrobe freshman Hunter Snyder at 172.

Kiski Area sophomore Cooper Roscosky got a takedown in overtime to defeat Norwin senior Nathan Campbell, 4-2, at 189.

Latrobe is sending four to Hershey. Junior Leo Joseph placed third at 114.

Joining Carr at states his sophomore Nico Kapusta, who placed fourth, and Franklin Regional senior Juliano Marion is making his third trip to the Giant Center after placing fourth at 215.

Connellsville won the team title with 146.5 points. Thomas Jefferson was second with 105.5 and Latrobe was third with 101.

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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