Pitt wrestling program adds 5 WPIAL standouts on signing day

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 9:41 PM

The early signing period turned out to be a bonanza for the Pitt wrestling program.

The Panthers received letters of intent, according to the wrestlers, from five WPIAL standouts Wednesday.

Pitt coach Keith Gavin cannot comment on any recruits until the school makes an announcement after receiving confirmation from the compliance department.

They were among 11 wrestlers from the WPIAL to ink letters of intent during the first day of the early signing period.

Signing with the Panthers were two-time PIAA and WPIAL champion Dayton Pitzer of Mt. Pleasant (85-3), 2021 PIAA champion Briar Priest of Hempfield (98-20), two-time PIAA placewinner Jared Keslar of Connellsville (91-24), PIAA runner-up Mac Stout of Mt. Lebanon (91-16) and Jack Pletcher of Latrobe.

Pletcher (76-34) was a late selection for the Panthers after winning a freestyle state title this past summer.

“I went down and worked out with their club and really liked it a lot,” said Pletcher, who will be joining his brother, Luke, an assistant coach at Pitt. “It felt right when I visited.

“Signing early is a big weight off my shoulders. Now I can focus on my senior season.”

Pitzer, Stout, Keslar and Priest said the Pitt seemed to be the perfect fit.

The Panthers are a team on the rise. At last season’s NCAA Tournament, Pitt had two wrestlers in the finals, Jake Wentzel and Nino Bonaccorsi, and ended up 11th in the team race, the school’s best finish since 1970. Getting four of the top wrestlers from the WPIAL is another step forward for the program.

Others WPIAL wrestlers signing letters of intent were Canon-McMillan’s Jacob Houpt (Kent State), Norwin’s Chase Kranitz (Buffalo), Greensburg Salem’s Billy McChesney (Columbia), Waynesburg’s Zander Phaturos (Campbell), Franklin Regional’s Finn Solomon (N.C. State) and Penn-Trafford’s Troy Hohman (N.C. State).

McChesney (84-21) is a two-time WPIAL heavyweight runner-up and two-time PIAA placewinner.

“I’m excited about my choice,” McChesney said recently. “It’s a great school and the program for me.”

Hohman (68-30) and Solomon (102-12) will go against Pitt in the ACC.

“I really like the team culture at N.C. State,” Hohman said. “Everyone has the same mindset, and I trust the coaches. I feel we’re building towards winning a national championship.”

Hohman finished second in the WPIAL and fourth in the state in 2021.

“My focus now that I signed is to train hard with no distractions,” Hohman said. “My goal is to end my career with a gold medal.”

Kiski Area senior Enzo Morlacci verbally committed to Lehigh but did not sign on Day 1, according to coach Chris Heater.

Five underclassmen also recently verbally committed to programs. They cannot sign until their senior year.

They were Latrobe junior Vinny Kilkeary (Ohio State), West Allegheny junior Ty Watters (West Virginia), Waynesburg junior Mac Church (Virginia Tech), Waynesburg junior Rocco Walsh (Ohio State) and Laurel junior Grant MacKay (Pitt).

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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