Penn-Trafford names Travis McKillop as wrestling coach

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 | 4:37 PM

When A.J. Brentzel decided to step down as Penn-Trafford’s wrestling coach, athletic director Kerry Hetrick knew who could be the school’s next coach.

It was assistant coach Travis McKillop, who spent the past three seasons rebuilding the program with Brentzel.

“The kids like Travis, and I’m confident he’ll continue to build on what A.J. started,” Hetrick said. “He’s done a lot of good things with the program.”

McKillop, 30, takes over at Penn-Trafford with an impressive resume.

He was a four-time section champion, a four-time WPIAL finalist and two-time champ (2008, ’10) at Burrell. He also was a two-time Southwest Regional champion and a PIAA champion in ’11.

At Pitt-Johnstown, he was a four-time All-American, including a two-time runner-up at 184 pounds (2014, ’16). He finished third in ’13 and seventh in ’12.

“The plan is to continue to rebuild the program and produce some state champions,” McKillop said. “Burrell and Penn-Trafford have always had a good relationship over the years and when I was at Burrell, the Penn-Trafford wrestlers were always tough and well-coached.”

McKillop said that Larry Hohman, Brentzel and the Smith twins (Jake and Justin) will be part of his staff.

“I always wanted to give back to the sport,” McKillop said on why he wants to coach. “I learned a lot from Pat Pecora (Pitt-Johnstown coach). He treated you as a family member and was a father to many of the wrestlers. You see a lot of former UPJ wrestlers coaching.

“Penn-Trafford has hard-nosed kids, and I’m looking forward to watch them grow. We have a nice group returning and I have some studs coming in from the middle school.”

Lebin selects Bucknell

Hempfield rising senior Ethan Lebin recently made a verbal commitment to wrestle at Bucknell.

“When I visited, it seemed like the perfect fit,” said Lebin, a PIAA Class 3A runner-up last season at 126 pounds. “It’s a great school, and while wrestling is a big part of my life, the coaches at Bucknell will help me to where I want to get to.

“I still have a lot to learn, and I’m not even close to reaching my potential. I need to work on my technique and a bread-and-butter signature move.”

Lebin picked Bucknell over offers from West Virginia, Navy, George Mason, North Dakota State, Buffalo, Lock Haven, Clarion and Appalachian State.

He’ll have some familiar faces in the wrestling room. The coaches at Bucknell include head coach Dan Wirnesberger, assistants Kevin Levalley and Eric Morrill and volunteer coach Ty Smith (Franklin Regional).

Other WPIAL wrestlers on the roster are Kurtis Phipps (Norwin), Darren Miller (Kiski Area), Austin Walley (Ellwood City), Nick Delp (Kiski Area), Dylan Chappell (Seneca Valley) and Antonio Amelio (Seneca Valley).

Lebin is not sure what is major will be, but he’s considering the medical field or law.

“I have awhile to figure it out,” Lebin said. “We’ll see how things progress.”

Lebin said he’s come a long way since he started wrestling.

“I didn’t find my success as a young kid,” Lebin said. “It was a relief to be successful last year. I knew it was coming if I continued to work hard. I finally had that breakthrough season.”

Lebin was the WPIAL Class 3A champion and finished his junior season with a 33-8 record. He is 85-26 overall.

Pletcher hired by Pitt

Latrobe graduate Luke Pletcher has been a volunteer assistant for the Pitt wrestling program the past two seasons.

Now, the Ohio State graduate has been hired as coach Keith Gavin’s assistant.

Pletcher is a three-time All-American who wrestled for the Buckeyes from 2016-20.

“It’s been awesome starting my coaching career at Pitt and I’m excited to take this next step,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to work and help this program reach new heights. We have a talented group of returning student-athletes and a great recruiting class coming in, so the future is very bright for Pitt wrestling.”

Luke will have the chance to coach his brother, Jack Pletcher, who was a PIAA medalist for Latrobe and signed with Pitt in the 2022 recruiting class.

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

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