Led by 3 champions, Latrobe wrestlers place 2nd at prestigious Powerade Tournament
By Ed Phillipps
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 6:45 p.m.
The main goal of the Latrobe wrestling team heading into the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament was to do well enough to finish in the top five.
No problem. The Wildcats finished second in a tournament touted as the best in the state. Highlighted by individual champions Luke Pletcher (120 pounds), Dom Scalise (160) and Zack Zavatsky (182), Latrobe completed an epic two-day run Friday and Saturday.
“This will probably go down as one of the best weekends in the history of the school as far as total team effort, and placing second in such a great tournament,” Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said. “I don't think we've ever had two better days.”
It wasn't easy. Pletcher, who won the PIAA Class AAA 106-pound title last season, was competing in a weight class that included several nationally-ranked opponents.
“Luke's weight class was absolutely stacked,” Harbert said.
Pletcher won three consecutive one-point matches, including a 3-2 win over top-seeded Ethan Lizak of Parkland for the championship. Pletcher was seeded second despite his victory over Lizak in the previous weekend's King of the Mountain tournament.
The seeding didn't bother Pletcher. In fact, nothing really gets under his skin. Harbert marveled at the sophomore's knack of pulling out close matches.
“Experience is what really helps me,” Pletcher said. “I've been in a lot of big matches and big arenas and heard a lot of noise.”
Also competing at 120 was Derry's George Phillippi, another defending PIAA champion. He finished fifth after falling to Lizak, 3-2, in the quarterfinals. That match went to double overtime, but Phillippi lamented he should have ended it in the first OT. Instead, an illegal lock of the hands gave Lizak the tying point in the first overtime and another chance, which he capitalized on.
“I think I could have won, but it was a tough bracket and I learned a lot from it,” Phillippi said.
Zavatsky came close to being tripped up, but nobody was able to take him down. Failed takedown attempts in the quarterfinals and semifinals were all the close calls the Virginia Tech recruit got.
“I did what I had to to win,” Zavatsky said. “I felt confident I was going to win every match.”
Scalise, the fifth seed, made it look easy during a run to the title that included a pair of pins and a 13-2 decision.
Ethan McCoy came close to giving the Wildcats a fourth champion, but he fell to Spencer Lee of team champion Franklin Regional in the 113 final.
Derry's Stone Kepple placed eighth at 126.
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.
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