East Xtra: Franklin Regional, Latrobe share the wealth

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Franklin Regional and Latrobe were the two best Class AAA teams all season, so it's no surprise they are leading the way to Hershey.

The Panthers had six wrestlers reach the WPIAL final Saturday, with three winning, while Latrobe had two champions, two runners-up and a third-place finisher at the district tournament.

"I don't think we wrestled our greatest yet; I think we have a little bit better to get," Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. "Guys did a good job getting to the final, but it's kind of bittersweet. We had three champions and we're very proud of those guys, and three that finish as runner-up. But it's the toughest district in Pennsylvania, and to be in the final is a great achievement."

The Panthers, who defeated Latrobe in the final of the WPIAL and PIAA team tournaments, started the championship round well as Devin Brown and Spencer Lee won titles at 106 and 113 pounds.

Brown (33-0), a junior who won the PIAA Class AA 106-pound title last season, and Lee (45-0), just a freshman, both transferred from Saegertown prior to this school year. Neither has lost this season and Lee said the duo feeds off each other.

"During Devin's semifinal match [at Powerade in December], my dad actually had to pull me away because I was jumping up and down on the mat yelling at him," said Lee, the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 113. "He makes me crazy, I guess you'd say. I think it's awesome when he goes out there and wins and then I want to do my best."

With Brown and Lee taking titles, and the Panthers having the top seeds at 132, 138 and 152 pounds, it looked like the Panthers may join the 2011 Canon-McMillan team as the only schools to have five individual champions in the past 59 years.

However, Penn-Trafford freshman Cameron Coy beat defending state champion Tyler Smith at 132 pounds (Smith's fourth consecutive WPIAL runner-up finish) and Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph avenged a loss at Powerade to beat junior Michael Kemerer at 138 pounds.

Josh Maruca became the third consecutive Panther to lose in the final, falling to four-time WPIAL champion Solomon Chishko of Canon-McMillan at 145 pounds. Franklin Regional's Josh Shields stopped the streak with a win at 152 pounds to claim his first district title after two runner-up finishes.

"In a sense I was pretty upset because I want them at the top of the podium with me," Shields said of his teammates losses. "But it also fueled me and you have to turn that hatred into energy. I think those losses fueled me, not really to get revenge, but to end it on a good note."

Shields beat Latrobe's Jake Shaffer, who was one of two Wildcats, along with Dylan Davis at 225 pounds, to place second in the WPIAL tournament. Dom Scalise placed third at 160 pounds to also punch his ticket to Hershey.

The two Wildcat champions were return winners. After winning at 106 pounds last season, sophomore Luke Pletcher took the 120-pound WPIAL title this season and will look to defend his state championship this week.

Latrobe senior Zack Zavatsky is still looking for his first PIAA title, but won his third consecutive WPIAL championship Saturday at 182 pounds. He also finished second his freshman year.

Zavatsky said each WPIAL tournament title is special, but as was echoed by many Panthers and Wildcats Saturday, the ultimate goal is to stand atop the podium this Saturday at states.

"I just want gold [at states]," Zavatsky said. "It's a monkey on my back right now. I'm just thirsty for gold. It's the last thing on my list that I need to get."

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