Latrobe wrestler Pletcher lives up to hype
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Luke Pletcher is so good, he won five state titles before he ever got to high school.
Now it's time to start working on some more.
The Latrobe freshman is one of the most accomplished 106-pounders in the nation and is living up to the lofty expectations he created during his gold-medal winning days in Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling.
“He's got all the tools, and his work ethic is completely ridiculous,” Latrobe first-year coach Tad Harbert said. “It's fun to sit in the chair and watch it happen.”
Pletcher (21-2) is ranked No. 1 at 106 in the Trib Total Media wrestling rankings and No. 2 in the nation by Intermat, trailing only Bergen (N.J.) Catholic freshman Nick Suriano.
Pletcher defeated WPIAL Class AAA No. 2-ranked Gage Curry of North Hills, 4-1, in the North Allegheny Duals on Saturday and rolled to the 106-pound championship at the Powerade Christmas Tournament.
He also won the title at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament with a 15-3 major decision in the finals.
Pletcher's lone losses came at the King of the Mountain Tournament in December, when he wrestled up at 113 pounds. Giving up roughly five pounds — a significant amount in the sport's lightest weight class — Pletcher lost to Parkland's defending state champion Ethan Lizak, the No. 5-ranked 113-pounder in the nation, 6-2, in the semifinals, and Boiling Springs' Korbin Myers, last year's state Class AA 106-pound runner-up, 3-1, in the consolation semifinals.
“It was a heartbreaking loss,” said Pletcher, who had beaten Lizak in the NHSCA National Duals in May. “But you learn as much as you can.”
The 5-foot-2 Pletcher is mission-oriented, and one of his goals is to win four PIAA titles — a feat achieved by only 11 wrestlers in the proud history of Pennsylvania wrestling.
That's why he rises at 6 a.m. every day to lift weights. After high school practice at Latrobe, he gets in another workout with either the Pittsburgh Wrestling Club or Robbie Waller's All-American camp in Latrobe.
“That's definitely the thing I'm thinking about when I'm working out or practicing,” Pletcher said of the PIAA title. “It's always on your mind.”
Pletcher, who will help lead Latrobe (5-1, 5-0) into the section team playoffs against Franklin Regional on Wednesday at Kiski Area, already has an overstuffed trophy case. He won eight consecutive Ohio Tournament of Champions titles and dominated Pa. Juniors from 2008-12.
He entered the national wrestling spotlight when, as an eighth-grader competing in the high school division, he finished fourth at 106 pounds at the 2011 Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C. He lost, 1-0, in the semifinals to Franklin Regional's eventual WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Michael Kemerer.
“I think that helped, knowing you can go out there and hang with the best people,” Pletcher said.
The 15-year-old Pletcher tuned up for his freshman year with third-place finishes in the FloNationals and the Super 32, two of the nation's top offseason tournaments.
Pittsburgh Wrestling Club coach Jason Peters, an associate head coach at nationally ranked Pitt, said Pletcher has all of the ingredients to be one of the next great wrestlers from Western Pennsylvania.
“He's well-conditioned, he really carries a high pace on the mat, and he expects to win,” Peters said. “When you combine those attributes, he's hard to beat.”
Because Pletcher had wrestled in hundreds of matches since beginning the sport at age 5 or 6, there are no surprises. He has experienced virtually every attack or counter. No scramble is new to him. He instinctively knows how to escape. And, along the way, he has wrestled just about every top wrestler in the country in his weight class.
“His mat awareness is incredible,” Harbert said. “I can't teach a normal kid on the team to do that. He's incredible on his feet. He's got a great stance. He's impossible to get in on. He's a bear coming off the bottom. On top, he's super strong. That's a wicked combination.”
Pletcher also has the intangibles. He is tournament-tested and will feel right at home under the bright lights when the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA tournament begins next month.
“He wants to win four state titles,” Peters said. “You'd be crazy to think that's not what he's shooting for, and he's definitely on track to do it.”
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JohnGrupp_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.