The Latrobe High School wrestling team doubled its pleasure at the Powerade Christmas tournament this past weekend at Canon-McMillan High School. The Wildcats had two individual champions in the two-day competition, which ranks third nationally among regular-season tournaments.
"Latrobe has had only one champion in the history of this tournament," said Latrobe senior Zack Zavatsky, after posting a 2-0 win against Greensburg Salem's Zach Voytek in the 160-pound title match. "Now this year we have two champs."
Zavatsky was making his third appearance in the Powerade tournament.
"I didn't place my first year and finished third last year," Zavatsky said. "I've really matured since last year's tournament. It carried over to this tournament."
Zavatsky was joined atop the winners platform by freshman teammate Luke Pletcher, who claimed the 106-pound weight class with a 7-1 victory against Saegertown's Devan Brown.
"It was great to see Luke win before I wrestled in the finals," Zavatsky said. "It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that a teammate won earlier."
Pletcher is ranked No. 2 in the country by Amateur Wrestling News.
"I was a little nervous after the parade of champions and seeing the [sellout] crowd," said Pletcher, who scored a takedown early in the first period and dominated from that point. "I felt much more comfortable after that first takedown."
Voytek was one of three Greensburg Salem wrestlers to place among the top eight. Tyler Reinhart placed fourth at 152, while Raistlin Willett was eighth at 182.
Another champ at Franklin
The Powerade Christmas tournament finals featured 12 wrestlers from the WPIAL. Franklin Regional was the only WPIAL school with three in the finals.
Josh Shields won a title for the Panthers, while teammates Michael Kemerer and Tyler Smith placed second. Shields recorded a 4-3 win against Blair Academy's Dylan Milonas in the 145-pound final.
"It's an incredible feeling," Shields said. "Winning a title like this is what you dream of. This is the sixth year in a row that [Franklin Regional] has had a champion at Powerade. That's something to be proud of."
Kemerer, last year's 113-pound champion, defaulted in the 126-pound final to Canon-McMillan's Connor Schram after hitting his head on the mat. Smith was the runner-up at 132 after a 10-5 loss to Kittanning's Jason Nolf in the finals. Nolf is a two-time PIAA place-winner and 2011 champion.
"You hope to get that motivation boost of seeing a teammate or two win prior to your match," said Shields, when asked how tough it was to see both teammates lose before he stepped on the mat. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. The competition at this tournament is so strong. It's an honor to win.
Franklin Regional's trio of finalists were joined on the awards stand by teammate Josh Maruca, who finished fourth at 138 pounds.
"We push each other in the practice room," said Shields, referring to Kemerer, Smith, and Maruca. "I couldn't have won this title without their help."
Hempfield had two entries place among the top four in their weight class. Sam Krivus dropped an 8-4 decision to Blair Academy's Matthew Kolodzik in the 120-pound title match. Ricky Cavallo placed fourth in the 113-pound weight class.
Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers began the season on the disabled list, as he battled a case of mononucleosis.
"I missed a week of school and a couple weeks of practice time," DesLauriers said. "I missed our first two tournaments [before returning to the Buccaneers lineup on Dec. 19]."
With less than two weeks of practice time under his belt, DesLauriers turned in an impressive performance at the Powerade Christmas tournament. He recorded three pins and two decisions to claim a second consecutive title in the 182-pound weight class.
"It's like getting thrown right in with the sharks," DesLauriers said, joking. "It's either sink or swim."
DesLauriers faced off with Blair Academy's Addison Knepshield in the championship match and posted a 3-1 victory. He scored the deciding takedown in the second period.
"A tournament like this shows me where I stand," DesLauriers said. "It's a nice test this early in the season."