It seemed inevitable all season, but it wasn't until Spencer Lee's hand was raised after his 15-6 win at 113 pounds against Latrobe's Ethan McCoy that Franklin Regional could call itself the WPIAL team wrestling champion for the first time.
Lee's win clinched the title for the top-ranked Panthers (19-1) in a dominating 42-19 victory against Latrobe (12-2) Saturday night in the WPIAL Class AAA team championship at Chartiers Valley.
"It means so much," Franklin Regional senior Tyler Smith said. "Our team worked so hard. We love it as a team. We're going to celebrate now, but we're going to get right back at it [today]."
It was the second time in 10 days Franklin Regional beat Latrobe after the Panthers won the Class AAA Section 1 title, 46-28, Jan. 22.
Smith got the ball rolling Saturday, notching a technical fall against Jake Willochell at 138 pounds in the opening match. Smith usually wrestles at 132, but Panthers coach Eric Mausser decided to bump up the middle of the lineup.
"We saw what Latrobe did [Friday in the semifinals] against Canon-McMillan so we figured they probably would try to do the same thing," Mausser said. "I talked to the boys and said, 'If we lose the coin flip, we're moving everybody up.' That's what we did and it worked out in our favor."
Mausser made his decision knowing the caliber of wrestlers he had at the middleweights. Smith won a PIAA individual title last season, while Michael Kemerer, Josh Maruca and Josh Shields all finished in the top five at states.
Kemerer and Maruca followed Smith with major decisions at 145 and 152 pounds, and then Josh Shields got a fall at 160 to give Franklin Regional a 19-0 lead.
"It's hard to [move up], but when you've got guys like that and want to challenge them a little bit ... they did a great job," Mausser said.
Dom Scalise got Latrobe on the board, scoring a reversal with 12 seconds left to win, 2-0, against Brandon Yant at 170 pounds. Zack Zavatsky then won by technical fall at 182 to cut Franklin Regional's lead to 19-8.
But the Panthers took six of the final eight matches to pull away for the win. Devin Brown (106 pounds) won by fall, Brett Zanotto (220) and Spencer Lee (113) had wins by major decision and Jake Pickup (195), Gus Solomon (126) and Dom Giannangeli (132) won by decision.
"It's tough to do anything against [Franklin Regional's] lineup," Latrobe coach Tad Halbert said. "They're that solid. That's why I don't feel bad. Eric's got a great team."
The Wildcats got the rest of their points from Tyler Mears (285) and Luke Pletcher (120), who won by pin and technical fall, respectively.
Franklin Regional and Latrobe will now focus on their next matches Thursday at the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
The Panthers and Wildcats will be joined there by North Allegheny, which beat Canon-McMillan, 29-28, in the consolation. The Tigers will face City League champion Allderdice.