Latrobe pair aim for WPIAL golf honors

| Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, 12:36 a.m.

Will Wears wears out a golf ball. Ben Biss strikes it precisely.

Together, they may lead Latrobe to WPIAL glory.

The high school golf season began last week, and Wears and Biss are poised to help the Wildcats strike. They are the Nos. 1 and 2 players on a squad that should challenge for the Section 1-AAA championship and could be in the running for more.

“I think our section is pretty tough,” coach Scott Reaugh said. “Someone from our section has made the WPIAL finals each year that I've coached. Some years, it's two teams. But we have quite a few players back. I almost hate to say it, but we hope to have a chance for the section title.”

Wears and Biss are foremost among the returnees and on the list of the WPIAL's finest players. The field includes Peters Township seniors Tommy Nettles and Trent McPherson; Belle Vernon senior Kirby Manown; and juniors Matt Barto of Leechburg and Matt Holuta of Indiana, as well as Baldwin sophomore Zack Taylor, who won the 2011 WPIAL title.

The Latrobe seniors are a contrast in styles. Wears is 6-foot-5 and strikes the ball accordingly; Biss seems to use a laser instead of clubs.

“Will is a strong kid who hits it a mile,” said Reaugh, whose Wildcats were section runners-up and WPIAL semifinalists last year. “He has all the tools and understands the swing very well. Ben is not quite as long but still hits it a ways. Without a doubt, he's one of most consistent players I've coached. He shot 70 the other day — 2-under-par — and he had two birdies and 16 pars.”

Both did well at the WPIAL Division I (now Class AAA) individual championships last year, Wears tying for 10th and Biss tying for 16th. Each qualified for the PIAA tournament, where they came in 27th and 48th.

To contend as a team, however, the Wildcats will need strong play from starters 3 through 6 — and beyond. They could get it; this is a talented bunch that, despite the presence of four seniors, played a lot last year.

Sophomore Chad Kissell qualified for the WPIAL individual semifinals as a freshman. He also is a budding standout in the family's signature sport: tennis. Kissell was Latrobe's No. 1 singles player last spring, upholding a tradition established by three older sisters who sparkled for the Wildcats and played at Division I colleges.

Seniors Lance Metsger, Matt Jodis and Ben Havrilla and junior Adam Martin provide savvy, depth and quality golf. Five freshmen fill out the 12-player roster: Tom Kisick, Bryce McNealy, Ryan Shaw, Charlie Biss (Ben's brother) and Brandon Gustaffson.

The Wildcats will host the Gary Garrison Tournament on Monday at Latrobe Country Club, an event that includes Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Erie Cathedral Prep. They open section play Tuesday against Penn-Trafford.

Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.

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