Latrobe’s Willochell pulls stunner, wins Powerade wrestling title

Saturday, December 28, 2019 | 4:08 PM

Gabe Willochell has a funky style to his wrestling.

The Latrobe senior and Edinboro commit never is out of a match because of the way he wrestles, and he has won his share of high-scoring matches.

But Saturday in the 132-pound final at the Powerade Tournament at Canon-McMillan, all he needed was two points to pull off the biggest stunner of the tournament, winning 2-0.

A two-point reversal in the ultimate tie-breaker period against two-time PIAA champion Alejandro Herrera-Rondon of Seneca Valley drew the largest roar from the crowd.

Herrera-Rondon, a junior, allowed only a late reversal and an escape in his previous four bouts. He is comfortable winning matches 1-0. But Willochell stuck to his gameplan, and, as long as Herrera-Rondon didn’t score, he grew more confident.

“I was nervous when he won the toss and took top,” Willochell said. “He rode me out for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, so I knew I had to keep moving. I couldn’t let him get a leg in, and I did anything I could to get out.”

Willochell stood up and then rolled forward and out of the hold, catching Herrera-Rondon on his back for a second before the match was stopped.

“I wrestled well in the entire tournament,” Willochell said. “I just tried to score as many points as I could. Two was enough. It feels real good to win a Powerade title. I placed sixth, sixth and fifth in previous years.”

Willochell was awarded Most Outstanding Wrestler and the award for most falls in the least amount of time.

Norwin senior Kurtis Phipps and Parkersburg (W.Va.) South senior Braxton Amos became the tournament’s 19th and 20th three-time champions.

Amos, ranked No. 2 in the country by FloWrestling, defeated Wyoming Seminary sophomore Kolby Fleming, 6-2, in the 220-pound final.

Phipps and Wyoming Seminary sophomore Nic Bouzakis were tied 3-3 in the 126 final when Bouzakis picked up Phipps and slammed him to the mat. The Wyoming Seminary wrestler was penalized a point because of the illegal move.

When doctors ruled Phipps could not continue, he was awarded the win.

“I didn’t want to win that way,” Phipps said. “I tried to convince them that I wanted to continue, but they wouldn’t let me. My head was hurting, but I don’t think I blacked out. It happens in wrestling. It’s awesome to say I’m a three-time champion, but I wish I could have shown it. I was hanging with him.”

Bouzakis, who won a Powerade title as an eighth-grader in 2017, was ranked No. 3 in the country.

North Hills senior Sam Hillegas was denied his third title by Wyoming Seminary senior Beau Bartlett, who is ranked No. 1 in the country at 138. Bartlett won 5-3.

Hempfield had two finalists, sophomore Briar Priest (106) and sophomore heavyweight Isaiah Vance. Both came up short of winning a title. Priest dropped a 9-1 decision to Waynesburg freshman Mac Church, and Vance lost to Malvern Prep junior Cole Deery, 4-2.

“I have to work on getting in better shape,” Vance said. “I felt I could do better. I have a lot of things to work out between now and the (Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association) meet on Friday.”

Other WPIAL winners were Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis (182) and Mt. Lebanon senior Luke Stout (195).

WPIAL finalists were Franklin Regional junior Carter Dibert (113) and Kiski Area senior Jack Blumer (160).

Dibert dropped a 5-2 decision to Reynolds junior Gary Steen in a battle of state champions.

“Carter has to work on getting off the bottom,” Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe said. “This is a good tournament to learn your weaknesses.”

Blumer lost to two-time West Virginia state champion John Martin Best of Parkersburg, 3-2.

“It’s tough to go undefeated,” Blumer said. “If you want to take a loss, then this is the time when you want to get it. I felt I wrestled well the entire tournament.”

Wyoming Seminary, a private school near Wilkes-Barre, won the team title with 272 points.

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

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