A season ago, the Greater Latrobe wrestling team finished third in its subsection (WPIAL Class AAA 1-B), which resulted in the Wildcats needing to win a qualifying match to advance to the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament.
Greater Latrobe came up short, however, as the Wildcats season ended with a 43-27 loss against Franklin Regional in the fifth-place match.
With several district qualifiers back in the fold and with added depth throughout the lineup, the Wildcats believe they can go farther this season.
“We had a lot of guys peak at the right time, and they wrestled their best in February and March,” said Greater Latrobe fourth-year head coach Mike Ciotti.
“We could win the section, if things go our way...win the section, and do well in playoffs,” he continued. “That would be a couple of big upsets for us. We’d rather be the underdog.”
Senior Gabe Willochell will rarely be an underdog this season, however.
Willochell, who recently made his college commitment to Edinboro University, finished fourth in the PIAA individual tournament last campaign. He went 35-6 overall, and also finished as the runner-up in the WPIAL Class AAA event at 132 pounds. Willochell will likely bump up to 138 this season.
“He wants to be a state champion,” Ciotti noted. “He keeps improving technically on the mat. He’s always finding places to go and wrestle, so he’s always on the mat.”
Willochell is joined by two other seniors who qualified for the WPIAL tournament last season — Tyler Ross and Ricky Armstrong.
Ross compiled a record of 23-13 last year, but went 1-2 in the WPIAL 185-pound bracket. He’s expected to wrestle at 220 this season, and his “funky” style presents a challenge for his opponents.
Armstrong, meanwhile, registered a mark of 17-11 and went 1-2 at 152. A noted hard worker, Armstrong could drop in weight this season as he pursues his first state tournament appearance.
Perhaps the most talented wrestler in the fold for Greater Latrobe is sophomore Jack Pletcher.
As a freshman, Pletcher went 23-15, and made it to the semifinals at 145. However, Pletcher lost in his consolation match in the “blood round,” coming up just short of the PIAA tournament. The younger brother of former Greater Latrobe state champion and current Ohio State standout Luke Pletcher, Jack has similar aspirations in the 152-pound class.
“We look for him to be hopefully on that state podium this year,” Ciotti stated. “I think he has high expectations for himself.”
Last season, that quartet of qualifiers was joined by Marino Angelicchio, who finished third in the WPIAL and made it to the state bracket. Angelicchio has since graduated, though, and is now redshirting at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Similar starters Adam Hoffman (285) and Nate Cochran (106) have moved on.
More than half a dozen other starters return to the Wildcats, however, and several newcomers also appear poised to make an impact. The returners include: seniors Enzo Angelicchio (126 pounds), Mitch Tryon (160), Logan Zitterbart (170), A.J. Rock (182), Hayden Piper (195), and Colten Zimmerman (220), as well as junior Payton Henry (145).
Ciotti pointed to Zitterbart as a grappler who looks ready to take the next step and punch his ticket to the district tournament.
“He’s more focused in the wrestling room this year, and I hope his goals for the end of the year...he keeps those in mind every day,” the Wildcats’ coach detailed.
While the Wildcats will lean heavily on their group of upperclassmen, there are a dozen sophomores who are in the mix this season, as well as four freshmen who have impressed. Ninth-graders Vincent Kilkeary (106), Nathan Roth (120), Buddy Young (132), and Corey Boerio (182) all have legitimate opportunities to crack the lineup.
With a roster that could include up to 30 wrestlers, the Wildcats boast more depth than in previous seasons, especially in some of the heavier classes.
“We’re excited about what our upper weights are going to be doing over the next couple of years here,” Ciotti said.
The Wildcats compete in WPIAL Class AAA Section 1, and the “B” sub-section also consists of Hempfield Area, Greensburg Salem, Woodland Hills, Penn Hills and Gateway. The Wildcats came up short last campaign against Hempfield Area, which finished first, and runner-up Greensburg Salem.
The other sub-section includes the defending WPIAL champion Kiski Area, as well as Norwin and Franklin Regional, both of which made the postseason. GL’s dual meet schedule also consists of Derry Area and Connellsville.
Greater Latrobe opens the season Dec. 6-7 in the Hickory Tournament. The following week, the Wildcats will participate in another tournament in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
Greater Latrobe Roster
— Enzo Angelicchio (126), Ricky Armstrong (145), Hayden Piper (220), A.J. Rock (195), Tyler Ross (220), Colton Zimmerman (220), Logan Zitterbart (170).
— Payton Henry (138), Hunter Hoopengardner (170), Caleb Krisfalusi (132), Izac Lewis (145).
— Lucio Angelicchio (113), Nathan Bevon (285), Malachi Boone (132), Tyler Bowers (106), Kyle Brewer (160), Jacob Brisky (182), Connor Johnson (126), Vincent Leone (138), Tyler Lynch (195), Micah Piper (182), Jack Pletcher (152), Sam Snyder (160), Mitch Tryon (160), Gabe Willochell (138).