East Xtra: Latrobe's Pletcher is simply perfect on the mats
March 13, 2014 12:00 AM
Bradley C. Bower for the Post Gazette
Greater Latrobe's Luke Pletcher, right, wrestles against Pennridge's Scott Parker, left, in the final of the PIAA Class AAA 120-pound match Saturday in Hershey.
By Ryan Riordan / Tri-State Sports & News Service
HERSHEY -- As a wrestler who has won his fair share of big tournaments, Greater Latrobe sophomore Luke Pletcher isn't prone to celebrating his victories.
The No. 1-ranked wrestler in the country at 120 pounds displayed plenty of emotion, however, after winning his PIAA Class AAA title Saturday night.
Pletcher took down Exeter Township's Scott Parker near the edge of the mat in overtime to win his second consecutive state championship. After the takedown, Pletcher raised his arms and pumped both fists, a more animated reaction than he had after his first state title at 106 pounds last season.
"I can't believe it happened," Pletcher said. "I don't even know what to say. I'm at a loss for words right now.
"I'm not usually one to celebrate wins like that. I don't know what happened."
A big reason was the level of competition. Parker is ranked in the top five in the country at 120 pounds while two other competitors in the weight class, Jason Gromacki of Erie Cathedral Prep and Ethan Lizak of Parkland entered last week ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Lizak, who won the 113-pound state championship last season, lost to Parker in the semifinals, while Gromacki finished fifth last weekend.
"[The 120 weight class] has been loaded everywhere we go," Pletcher said. "It could be just a county tournament and I have [Derry sophomore and 2013 PIAA Class AA champion] Mickey Phillippi in the finals. So this year has been a grind, going tough kid after tough kid, and it's been more rewarding."
Pletcher said he's faced Parker five or six times previously, with Parker winning the first matchup two years ago and Pletcher winning every one since.
Both wrestlers notched escapes in regulation, and Pletcher didn't want the match to eventually go to a tiebreaker because of how easily Parker had escaped.
"I thought to myself I was either going to win or lose in overtime," Pletcher said. "I wasn't going to risk going into a rideout."
His winning takedown came right near the boundary and completed a perfect 43-0 season.
Pletcher wasn't the only Wildcats wrestler to finish the year unbeaten.
Senior Zack Zavatsky (42-0) defeated Mt. Lebanon's Kellan Stout, 3-1, to win the 182-pound PIAA Class AAA title Saturday night.
It was the first state championship for Zavatsky, who placed third at 160 pounds last season after losing to four-time PIAA winner Chance Marsteller in the semifinals.
"I haven't stopped thinking about it since I lost last year in the semis and it's just been a long journey," said Zavatsky, who will wrestle at Virginia Tech next season. "Four years just trying to train as hard as I can and today we made history with me and Luke."
This was the first time in the history of the Wildcats program that it had two state champions in the same season.
P-T's Coy a state champ
As a youngster, Cameron Coy remembers watching the PIAA Class AAA tournament on television and seeing Penn-Trafford's Shane Young win one of his three PIAA titles.
The moment inspired Coy, who now has something in common with the former Warriors great.
On Saturday night, Coy joined Young as the only state champions in Penn-Trafford history with his 132-pound championship. Coy, a freshman, defeated Nazareth's Chase Zemenak, 2-1, in the title match.
"I remember watching Shane Young when I was a little kid and had just started wrestling," Coy said. "I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world to watch a kid on TV getting his hand raised and the thrill of it.
"Now that I'm here and I did it, it's one of the best feelings."
The key for Coy all weekend was his defense.
The 11 points Coy scored were the fewest of any PIAA champion this year. But he only gave up one point, and that didn't occur until 1:35 left in the third period of his fourth and final match.
Not that he was all that concerned about it.
"I wouldn't care if I gave up 25 points, 50 points, as long as I score more," Coy said.
Edwards' dream comes true
Burrell's Steve Edwards saw himself winning the 152-pound state title in a dream earlier this season.
The dream became a reality Saturday afternoon.
Edwards took down Southern Columbia's Blake Marks in overtime to win the PIAA Class AA state championship, 7-5, at Hershey.
"It was what I thought," Edwards said. "They were actual tears, not as much as in my dream. I definitely started crying a bit when I hugged my coaches. Everything I felt in my dream I felt out here."
Edwards had to rally from 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4 deficits to force overtime. But he said he never once doubted he would win, especially once the match went past regulation.
"All the overtime matches I wrestled this year I won," said Edwards, who beat South Fayette's Grant Fetchet in overtime to win the WPIAL crown. "I trust my conditioning. When overtime matches come, no matter how I'm feeling, I stay positive."
With the victory, Edwards becomes the sixth Burrell wrestler to win a PIAA championship, and the third in four years.
He said it's special to have his name placed on the school's banners in the gym with the other Bucs' champions.
"I tweeted at Trav [Friday night] and said, 'My name is going to be up there on the wall with you,'" Edwards said, referring to 2011 state champion Travis McKillop. "He told me to get after it and that he knows I'll be up there, too.
"Being up there is just awesome. To have kids, my friends and stuff, walk through the gym and see my name up there on that wall: Steve Edwards, 152-pound state champ."
Central's Joseph earns title
Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph and Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer have wrestled each other so much in training and at tournaments that there are few secrets between the two.
"We've trained with each other for most of our lives and we know each other's go-to moves," Joseph said. "For the most part we know each other's game plan."
So Joseph used improvisation Saturday night.
In overtime of the 138-pound PIAA Class AAA championship match, Kemerer had a cradle locked up in the standing position and tried to bring Joseph down to the mat, but Joseph rolled through it and put Kemerer on his back, eventually earning the pin to capture his first state title.
"It was just instinct and reaction," Joseph said of his winning move.
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