It was a solid first night of individual competition for the Greater Latrobe wrestling team.
Now, the grind continues into the weekend.
Greater Latrobe crowned four champions and advanced seven total to Saturday’s WPIAL Class 3A Section 2 championships during Thursday’s WPIAL Class 3A, sub-section 2B individual tournament at Hempfield Area High School.
“Every coach wants more, but I thought the kids wrestled really well, especially after the first round,” Greater Latrobe coach Mark Mears said. “I thought our conditioning was good and I thought the kids that moved on can all get out of Saturday, too.”
The WPIAL Class 3A Section 2 championship is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Hempfield Area. The top two from each weight class will advance to the WPIAL Class 3A championships set for Saturday, Feb. 27 at Canon-McMillan High School.
“You’d like to think you’re going to send all seven,” Mears said. “If we could, that would be awesome, but we hope to send at least five. It’s so hard this year, but our goal is to send at least five to the (WPIAL Class 3A Tournament).”
Jacob Braun captured a sub-section championship at 106 pounds, as did returning state champion Vinny Kilkeary at 113 pounds. Jack Pletcher claimed the 152-pound sub-section title and Corey Boerio took the 189-pound sub-section championship.
Nate Roth placed second in the sub-section at 132 pounds, while Payton Henry and Tyler Lynch were also runners-up in the sub-section at 160 and 215 pounds, respectively. Lynch was pinned by Caleb Chismar of Greensburg Salem in 3:49 to place second.
Kilkeary, who is 14-1 this season, cruised to his 113-pound championship with first-period pins against Tanner Zola of Hempfield Area in 1:24 and McKeesport Area’s Cody Garancsi in 1:49.
“Vinny is Vinny,” Mears said. “You expect him to win and he did exactly what you think he would do. Obviously, he’s been there before and he’s ranked No. 1 in the nation. He wrestles every match the same and that’s what makes him so successful. He just zones in and goes.”
Pletcher also rolled to his sub-section victory at 152 pounds with a pair of technical falls, a pin and another lopsided decision. Pletcher bested Colt Rubrect of Greensburg Salem, 16-1, and later topped Norwin’s A.J. Hewitt by a 19-2 margin to bookend the night with technical falls. Pletcher pinned McKeesport Area’s Ross Weimer in 1:49 and defeated Nolan Daerr of Hempfield Area with a 12-5 decision.
“Jack did a pretty sound job,” Mears said. “We kind of figured he would.”
Boerio also enjoyed a strong night, as he didn’t give up a point in two matches at 189 pounds. Boerio pinned Christian McChesney of Greensburg Salem in 3:44 and he captured the sub-section title with a 1-0 win against Norwin’s Josh Page.
Braun also won the 106-pound sub-section title with a 1-0 victory, edging out Carson Handra of Norwin. Braun needed just 1:37 to pin Logan Williams of Hempfield Area earlier in the night.
“It’s really his first tournament at the varsity level,” Mears said of Braun. “I thought Jacob did a nice job at 106.”
Boerio and Braun impressed with their narrow sub-section title victories.
“I thought they did a good job of riding and not giving up anything,” Mears said. “The bottom line in wrestling is you have to be able to get out. They both got out and they rode their guy out. Those two 1-0 wins, we rode very well and our conditioning was fine.”
Henry, the Wildcats’ lone senior, nearly claimed the sub-section title at 160 pounds. Henry entered his final match of the night with wins in his first three matches, but he was pinned in 34 seconds by Norwin’s Chase Kranitz to finish second.
Henry scored a 7-2 decision against Cooper Phillips of Greensburg Salem before back-to-back pins, downing Hempfield Area’s Derek Choby in 35 seconds and Marvelle Cromerdie of McKeesport Area in 2:34.
Hempfield Area’s Briar Priest prevented Roth from winning the sub-section title at 132 pounds.
Roth pinned Trent Lenhart of Greensburg Salem in 2:48 and he also scored a pinfall victory against McKeesport Area’s Caleb Higdon in 2:41, but couldn’t defeat Priest in the third meeting between the two competitors.
The match was knotted, 0-0, entering the third period before Priest picked up a point to edge out Roth, 1-0, and win the sub-section title. Priest defeated Roth, 6-5, during a sub-section dual at Hempfield Area, and he got the better of the Wildcats’ standout about a week later with a 2-0 decision at the Westmoreland County Tournament.
“I thought Nate wrestled him really smart,” Mears said. “We have a couple game plans we’re working on. This is such a long grind, so you can’t get too high with winning and you can’t get too low with losing. They’re obviously going to wrestle again. You want to win the right one. We have a game plan in place and we’ll see how it works out.”
Sub-section 2A grapplers will be thrown into the mix on Saturday, including schools like Albert Gallatin, Baldwin, Belle Vernon Area, Connellsville Area, Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin Area. Mears is excited to see how his second-place finishers square off against the sub-section 2A champions.
“We believe we have a lot of No. 2’s going into Saturday that can beat the No. 1’s,” Mears said. “I think our guys can beat the champions from the other side.”
Sam Snyder nearly advanced for the Wildcats at 172 pounds, going 2-2. He won his first two matches by pinfall, defeating Dwight Sarver of Greensburg Salem in 3:37 and Hempfield Area’s Coby Stepanik in 1:15 before a pair of narrow defeats kept him from the sub-section title, and then ultimately advancing to Saturday.
Snyder suffered a 2-1 loss against McKeesport Area’s Bolivar Campusano before a 1-0 defeat versus Tanner Babeo in his final match. Snyder led 1-0, but a third-period reversal gave Campusano the win. It was a similar situation in Snyder’s final match, as a third-period escape gave Babeo the one-point margin.
Lucio Angelicchio (120), Lucas Braun (126), Gabe Golden (138) and Vincent Leone (145) all won matches, but didn’t advance. Leone’s win was his first of the season. He trailed 5-3 before scoring a pinfall victory against Ben Eastman of McKeesport Area in 1:22. Golden also scored a first-period pin, while Angelicchio won a decision and Braun picked up a major decision.
Mears looks forward to more success from the Wildcats on Saturday and beyond.
“I thought all of our guys wrestled hard and I thought our conditioning was a strong suit,” Mears said. “We obviously have a very young team, but we like our future because pretty much everyone is all back next year, so we’ve only just begun.”