East Xtra: Franklin Regional, Latrobe wrestling have dominant showings

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It was a night to remember for the Franklin Regional and Latrobe wrestling teams at the Powerade Christmas Tournament last weekend at Canon-McMillan High School.

Both teams set school records for their performance in the 46-team tournament, which included teams from six different states.

Franklin Regional became only the second WPIAL team in the past 14 years to claim the team title. The Panthers shattered their previous highs with 5 champions, 6 finalists and 7 place-winners.

“The kids turned in a great performance this weekend,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “All 14 kids we had entered scored points for us, so it was a total team effort.”

Michael Kemerer and Josh Shields won a second Powerade title for the Panthers, while teammates Devan Brown, Spencer Lee and Tyler Smith captured their first titles. Josh Maruca was a runner-up.

Kemerer made his third consecutive appearance in the finals and claimed his second title with a 3-2 win against Central Catholic’s Vincenzo Joseph at 138 pounds.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kemerer said when asked about the team title. “Franklin Regional has come a long way in wrestling. [Three-time PIAA champion from 2009-11] Nico Megaludis started it all with his four years of domination. Now we have the depth to win a tournament of this magnitude.”

Shields claimed a second consecutive title with a 3-1 overtime victory against Cole Walter in the 152-pound final.

“It was nice to have some teammates join me this year on the winners platform,” said Shields, referring to last year’s tournament in which the Panthers had one champion and two runner-ups.

Brown, a transfer from Saegertown, made his second appearance in the finals and claimed his first title with a convincing 12-3 win against Solanco’s Connor Sheehan in the 106-pound final.

“This medal means a lot to me since I lost in last year’s finals,” Brown said. “Ever since that loss, I’ve been hungry to come back and win a title.”

Lee, also a Saegertown transfer, claimed the 113-pound title in his Powerade debut with a 14-4 domination of Latrobe’s Ethan McCoy.

Smith capped the finals with a 7-0 shutout of Hempfield’s Sam Krivus in the 132-pound final. The match was held last since Smith and Krivus are PIAA champions.

Maruca dropped a 13-7 decision in the 145-pound final to Kittanning’s Jason Nolf, who claimed a second consecutive title.

Latrobe had three champions, four finalists, and tied Franklin Regional for the most place-winners with seven.

Luke Pletcher and Zack Zavatsky claimed second consecutive titles for Latrobe, while teammate Dom Scalise joined them atop the winners platform for the first time. Ethan McCoy was a runner-up for the Wildcats.

In a battle of returning Powerade champions, Pletcher defeated Parkland’s Ethan Lizak, 3-2, in the 120-pound final.

“My weight class was much tougher this year than last year,” said Pletcher, who was one of five PIAA champions entered at 120. “I had something to prove this weekend and I was able to do that. It means a lot to me to win such a strong weight class.”

Zavatsky added his name to the two-time champion list with a 3-0 shutout of Mt. Lebanon’s Kellan Stout in the 182-pound final.

“This one is the icing on the cake for my senior year,” Zavatsky said. “I feel like I performed better this year than I did last year. It was great to see [Scalise] join us in the winners circle this year.”

Scalise claimed his first title with a 3-0 win in the 160-pound final against Penn-Trafford’s Devin Austin.

“This is one of the best tournaments Latrobe has ever had,” Pletcher said. “Last year was the first year we ever had two champs. Now this year, we have three. We seem to be coming together as a team at the right time.”

Franklin Regional and Latrobe will resume their battle for supremacy at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament Jan. 10-11.

Hempfield had two entries advance to the finals, but both had to settle for a silver medal. Krivus lost to Smith, while teammate Fred Mantsch dropped a 10-6 decision in the 220-pound final to Parkland’s Omar Haddad.

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