Latrobe's Pletcher scores PIAA wrestling gold
HERSHEY — As Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher walked off the Giant Center floor Saturday at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships, he flipped his headgear to a young fan in the stands.
He wasn't done; he also stopped and signed autographs.
While Pletcher may be only a freshman, he wrestles and handles himself like a veteran.
Pletcher, a five-time Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling champion, won his first PIAA title with an 8-2 victory against Solanco junior Connor Sheehan at 106 pounds. Pletcher hopes it's the first of many PIAA titles.
He wasn't the only Westmoreland County wrestler to capture a gold medal. Hempfield sophomore Sam Krivus won his first title with a 3-1 win against Canon-McMillan junior Dalton Macri at 120, and Franklin Regional junior Tyler Smith rallied to defeat Cumberland Valley sophomore Patrick Duggan, 5-3, to win his first at 132.
Smith's teammate, sophomore Michael Kemerer, finished second for the second consecutive year when he dropped a 5-3 decision to Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram, who became a two-time state champion. It was Schram's fourth time in the finals. He won the 103 title in 2010.
Pletcher (41-2) became Latrobe's second state champion. The first was Ryan Goodman in 2006.
After Sheehan tied the score, 2-2, with a spladle in the second period, Pletcher got an escape and then a takedown to go up, 5-2. He closed out the scoring with an escape and takedown in the third period.
Pletcher didn't show much reaction after the match.
“I was excited. I just didn't show it,” Pletcher said. “Winning a PIAA title feels a lot better than winning five PJWs.
“When he hit that move, I got scared. He caught me pretty quick, and I wasn't expecting that at all. After that, I knew I felt I had to build the lead.”
Pletcher injured his left knee during the match, but he fought through the pain.
“I smacked my knee pretty hard,” he said.
Krivus (40-3) also didn't celebrate after his match. It was his ninth consecutive win on the mats at Giant Center. Last year, he lost his first match, then won five consecutive to finish third.
“Winning the title hasn't hit me yet,” said Krivus, who became Hempfield's ninth state champion and first since Jake Kemerer in 2009. “I feel awesome. Just knowing all the hard work I put in during the season finally paid off.”
This was the fifth time Krivus and Macri had met during the past two seasons, and Krivus said all have been close. Macri almost had a takedown in the first period, but Krivus scrambled and eventually scored a takedown.
“You never give up anything, and I came out on top,” Krivus said. “It's always tough wrestling him.
“He likes to push the pace and is always driving. I tried to slow down the pace and get him out of his game.”
Smith (45-4) did celebrate his victory. He turned to his coach, Eric Mausser, and pumped his fists and yelled out.
“I'm not the fastest starter, but I believe I work harder than anyone else, so at the end of the match I believe it's my time to shine and not their time,” Smith said. “This is the best feeling ever. I've been training my entire life for this. Next year I want to repeat, but now I'm living in the moment.”
Smith, who joined three-time champion Nico Megaludis as the only state champs in Franklin Regional history, said being in shape was the difference.
After the medal presentation at 126 pounds, Schram turned to Kemerer, shook his hand and uttered words of encouragement.
“He's a great wrestler, and I told him to come back here and win two state titles like I did,” Schram said. “He's a tough kid. He definitely has a shot.”
Hampton senior Jake Hart made sure last week's win against Kiski Area senior Matt McCutcheon wasn't a fluke. Hart rallied to defeat McCutcheon, 6-1, to win the 195-pound title. After the win, Hart did a backflip in the middle of the mat.