East Xtra: Underclassmen have their way at Hershey
March 14, 2013 4:00 AM
Bradley C. Bower/For the Post-Gazette
Greater Latrobe's Luke Pletcher flips Solanco's Connor Sheenan in the PIAA Class AAA 106-pound title match.
By Ryan Riordan Tri-State Sports & News Service
Greater Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher and Hempfield Area sophomore Sam Krivus have been practice partners for the past few seasons.
Both showed on Saturday that all their hard work paid off, winning PIAA Class AAA titles in their respective weight classes.
"I think that's awesome that we both won," Krivus said. "It's just great."
Pletcher (41-2) had won five consecutive Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling championships heading into this season, but said even that experience didn't help settle his nerves entering Saturday night's 106-pound championship match against Solanco's Connor Sheehan.
"I was really nervous," Pletcher said. "PJW's isn't anything like this. This was crazy."
Pletcher got off to a quick start Saturday, notching a takedown midway through the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the second period.
But Sheehan almost ended the match in the second period, catching Pletcher in a spladle.
"He scared the heck out of me," Pletcher said.
Often times, a spladle can result in a pin or, at the very least, back points. But Pletcher managed to get out of the hold quickly, only surrendering a takedown.
He then went on to score the final six points of the match to win an 8-2 decision.
Krivus (40-3), meanwhile, took on Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri in the championship bout at 120 pounds.
The final score, 3-1, was close, but Krivus controlled the action from the start.
He led off with a takedown in the first period and added an escape in the second to make it 3-0.
In the third, he rode Macri for the entire two minutes, giving up his only point because of a stalling call.
"He called me for stalling, so I got a little nervous," Krivus said. "But about 30 seconds to a minute left, I thought I could ride him out and figured I got this."
It is the second time Krivus finished in the top three. Last season, Krivus battled back after losing his first match to take the bronze.
"I came in with a different mind-set," Krivus said. "Last year, I got a little nervous and lost my first match.
"I just tried to take it one match at a time this year."
Smith leads way for Panthers
For three consecutive years, Tyler Smith has lost in the final of the WPIAL Class AAA tournament.
But in the biggest championship match of his high school career Saturday, he came out on top.
Smith, a junior, defeated Cumberland Valley's Patrick Duggan, 5-3, in the 132-pound PIAA Class AAA title.
"It's the best feeling ever," Smith said. "I've been training my whole life for this."
Smith fell behind, 2-0, but got an escape and late takedown in the second period to go up, 3-2.
After letting Duggan up to tie the match at 3, Smith notched a takedown with 51 seconds left and then rode Duggan out to capture his first state title.
"It happens to me all the time," Smith said. "I'm not the faster starter, but I believe I work harder than everyone else. So at the end of the match, I believe it's my time to shine, not their time."
Smith is the elder statesman of Franklin Regional's "Four Horsemen." Along with Smith, sophomores Michael Kemerer (126 pounds), Josh Maruca (138) and Josh Shields (145) all made the semifinals.
"We all know we work the hardest in the state and we try to prove it out there," Smith said.
Kemerer finished second to Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram, while Shields placed third and Maruca took fifth in their respective weight classes.
Smith said he wouldn't have been able to win his title without their help.
"They're always pushing me," Smith said. "We're always pushing each other. Without them, I don't believe I'd be where I am right now."
Franklin Regional finished third in the team standings at this weekend's tournament.
McCutcheon unable to repeat
Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon has lost just three times in the past two years. But two of those losses came in a one-week span.
McCutcheon lost to Hampton's Jake Hart in the 195-pound final of both the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments.
The second loss prevented McCutcheon from winning his second consecutive PIAA championship after taking the 182-pound title last season.
That championship was the first state wrestling title in school history.
McCutcheon will wrestle next season at Penn State.