It was about this time last year that Luke Pletcher's freshman season turned around.
The Latrobe wrestler had just finished fifth at the 2012 King of the Mountain tournament in Lock Haven, losing to Parkland's Ethan Lizak and Boiling Springs' Corbin Myers at 113 pounds.
Those losses served as motivation for Pletcher, who hasn't lost since. He dropped to the 106-pound weight class and proceeded to win the 2012 Powerade Tournament and eventually WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA titles. He finished the season with a 41-2 record.
Pletcher (10-0) heads into the 2013 Powerade Holiday Tournament on Friday at Canon-McMillan with a No. 2 ranking in the country at 120 pounds.
“I should have done better last year at the King of the Mountain,” Pletcher said. “When you wrestle against good opponents, anything can happen.
“What the King of the Mountain and Powerade showed me was that I'm wrestling with the big boys. This isn't junior high anymore. It helped me prepare better.”
Pletcher recently returned to the King of the Mountain tournament, where he won the 120-pound title. He defeated Lizak and Myers this year.
And the Powerade Tournament will provide him another test.
“My weight class might be the toughest in the tournament,” Pletcher said. “Lizak, Sean Russell from Georgia, Mickey (Phillippi of Derry) and (Ricky) Cavallo of Hempfield will be there.
“Russell is ranked third in the country and Mickey seventh. I'm looking forward to the competition.”
Pletcher knows repeating his freshman season won't be easy. But he said he's better prepared.
“There is always someone trying to train to beat you,” Pletcher said. “I always try to train hard. I try not to worry about who I'm wrestling.
“I don't freeze up. I try to leave everything on the mat. I didn't great nervous last year because I had confidence in myself. You try not to get too confident, however.”
This year's Powerade Tournament again features some of the top wrestlers in the country.
There are six returning Powerade champions — Pletcher, Lizak (113), Kittanning's Jason Nolf (132), Franklin Regional's Josh Shields (145), Latrobe's Zack Zavatsky (160), Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller (170) and Good Council's (Md.) Kyle Snyder (220)
Freshman Spencer Lee of Franklin Regional is the top ranked ninth grader in the country. He'll be at 113.
Returning PIAA champions include Franklin Regional junior Devin Brown (AA, 106, Saegertown) and Tyler Smith (AAA, 132), Phillippi (AA, 113), Lizak (AAA, 113), Hempfield's Sam Krivus (AAA, 120), Nolf (AA, 126), Marsteller (AAA, 160) and Solanco's Thomas Haines (AAA, 220).
Zavatsky said he's looking forward the tournament. He remembers going to the tournament to watch Latrobe wrestlers compete.
“I never dreamed I'd be a champion,” Zavatsky said. “Now, I believe I can do it again. It's a great tournament and the competition will be tough.”
Zavatsky said he doesn't worry like some wrestlers about who is in the tournament. He'll be competing at 182 pounds.
The Powerade Tournament isn't the only one this weekend.
Southmoreland and West Mifflin are also playing host to tournaments on Friday and Saturday.
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