Latrobe makes history at Powerade
Some 12 hours after the fact and following a satisfied night's sleep, Tad Harbert still was beaming.
“We're all smiles,” the first-year Latrobe wrestling coach said Sunday, the day after the Powerade tournament. “We're still pretty pumped up. It was a pretty historic night for us. It was a good time for everybody associated with Latrobe wresting enjoyed.”
Latrobe entered the weekend with only one winner in the history of the Powerade tournament, the event annually held at Canon-McMillan that is considered one of the top high school tournaments in the nation.
The Wildcats ended this season's event by tripling their number of Powerade champions when freshman Luke Pletcher won the 109-pound title and junior Zack Zavatsky took gold at 160 pounds.
“It's great for the program,” Harbert said. “It's definitely going to attract a little more attention, especially from our junior Olympic wrestling program and all the way on up.”
Zavatsky and Pletcher each enjoyed dominant runs through the tournament. Zavatsky, the No. 1 seed in his bracket, won his first match by technical fall, then won his final four bouts by a combined score of 32-4. Zavatsky defeated Greensburg Salem senior Zach Voytek, 2-0, in the final.
Unseeded only because he is a freshman — and seedings are based on past high school results — Pletcher won by pin and technical fall, respectively, in the first two rounds and then by a combined 23-2 score in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship match.
Pletcher beat Saegertown sophomore Devan Brown, 7-1, for the title, as Latrobe took eighth place in the team standings — including being third among WPIAL teams.
“It's just pretty cool to have two champions in one year because we've never had that before and we only had one (overall) before,” Zavatsky said. “It shows we're working hard and doing the right things, I guess.”
That hasn't been an issue for Pletcher or Zavatsky, said former longtime Latrobe coach Marc Billett, who retired after last season.
“They both practice extremely hard and often have it where they do two practices in one day,” Billett said. “That's the reason they're so good — they just really are dedicated. And they've very coachable. If you scripted two ideal kids to coach, you would say they have it all. That's about as well as I could put it.”
Pletcher is highly ranked by national publications after his performance in national tournaments. He is a five-time Pennsylvania Junior Olympic Wrestling champion.
“He's no stranger to big-tournament wrestling,” Harbert said. “He's good on his feet, good coming off the bottom and great on top. He's got three dominant positions.”
Zavatsky was a WPIAL finalist in each of his first two high school seasons, winning last season's title. Zavatsky took third place at last season's Powerade tournament and is a reigning PIAA tournament placewinner.
“I expect him to go a lot further this year,” Harbert said. “I expect both of these guys to be on top of the podium at the end of the season. That's their goal.”
Also among area teams, Voytek's performance led Greensburg Salem to an 11th-place team finish, fourth among WPIAL teams. The Golden Lions' Tyler Reinhart took fourth at 152 pounds, and Raistlin Willett was eighth at 182.
Hempfield placed 17th on the strength of sophomore Sam Krivus being the runner-up in the 120-pound tournament, and sophomore Ricky Cavallo placing fourth at 113.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.