7 WPIAL wrestlers look for another state title

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 | 5:05 PM

It’s time to lay it on the line for wrestlers from the WPIAL at the PIAA individual championships that begin Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.

All the hard work and sweat in practice is done. Now the 88 wrestlers who will participate in this year’s tournament — 52 in Class 3A and 36 in Class 2A — are ready.

Seven of them previously have stood at the top of the podium, including three — Latrobe senior Vinny Kilkeary, Waynesburg senior Mac Church and Frazier junior Rune Lawrence — who are two-time champs.

The other past champions are Laurel senior Grant MacKay, Chartiers Valley senior Dylan Evans, West Allegheny senior Ty Watters and Waynesburg senior Rocco Welsh. All but MacKay are returning champions. MacKay claimed his title in 2021.

The Class 3A wrestlers from the WPIAL who earned No. 1 seeds are Canon-McMillan junior Tanner Mizenko (107 pounds), Kilkeary (127), Thomas Jefferson sophomore Maddox Shaw (133), Church (145), Watters (152), West Allegheny junior Shawn Taylor (160) and Welsh (172).

In Class 2A, the WPIAL wrestlers with No. 1 seeds are Bentworth junior Chris Vargo (127), MacKay (160) and Lawrence (189).

“I have to have the mindset to wrestle my style,” Kilkeary (27-0) said about his preparation for the state tournament. “My focus is one the first match at states.

“I used to change my style adjust to match other people. This year, I’m using my style every match.”

Kilkeary will face the winner between Conestoga sophomore Miles Warkentine (32-4) and Central Dauphin junior Liam Flanagan (41-9). Others at his weight include Council Rock North sophomore Eren Sement (27-3), Nazareth sophomore Tahir Perkins (24-2) and York Suburban junior Tyler Adams (34-2).

Latrobe sophomore Luke Willochell (34-2) reached the PIAA Class 3A 106-final last season before falling to Bethlehem Catholic sophomore Nate Desmond (37-1), the top seed at 114. The second seed is Manheim Township junior Kaedyn Williams (20-0). Willochell is seeded third.

“It’s awesome to be a two-time WPIAL champion and be on the board with some amazing wrestlers from Latrobe,” Willochell said. “My goal is to finish in the top three, but I really hope to make the finals again and get my revenge.”

Willochell faces the winner of the match pitting Pennridge junior Cole Coffin (38-6) against Gettysburg freshman Isaiah Jackson (29-16).

Hempfield junior Eli Carr (38-6) earned a third seed after defeating Latrobe senior Nate Roth, 6-5, in the WPIAL’s 139-pound final.

Carr is making his second consecutive trip to Hershey. He lost in the blood round a year ago, and he hopes winning the WPIAL title will give him a better shot at placing.

“I’m in better spot in the bracket,” Carr said. “Winning last week showed me I can compete with anyone. I’m hoping to reach the finals and win.”

Carr will face the winner of the match between Quakertown sophomore Gavin Carroll (22-3) and Abington Heights junior Austin Smith (38-6).

Penn-Trafford advanced a program-record five wrestlers to the state tournament: freshman Dylan Barrett (107), junior Jayden Coy (127), sophomore Tasso Whipple (172), senior Owen Ott (215) and senior heavyweight Joe Enick.

Latrobe sent four. Joining Kilkeary and Willochell are seniors Roth (139) and Corey Boerio (215). Joining Carr from Hempfield are seniors Ethan Lebin (133) and Lucas Kapusta (152). Lebin was a PIAA runner-up last year.

Franklin Regional had three wrestlers qualify: junior Tyler Kapusta (114), senior Gavyn Beck (160) and junior Juliano Marion (189).

In Class 2A, Burrell advanced four wrestlers: freshman Cam Baker (107), junior Cooper Hornack (127), senior Nike Ferra (139) and sophomore Isaac Lacinski (172). Mt. Pleasant has three: senior Sean Cain (121), junior Jamison Poklembo (133) and freshman Dylan Pitzer (215). Greensburg Salem’s lone qualifier was senior Christian McChesney (215).

Action begins at 9 a.m. Thursday with Class 2A followed by Class 3A at 3 p.m.

The finals are scheduled for Saturday.

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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