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Westmoreland County teams return from Hershey loaded with hardware

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 10:46 p.m.

About a half hour after the PIAA handed out the trophies to Franklin Regional, Latrobe and Burrell on Saturday at the team wrestling championships in Hershey, the coaches from the three Westmoreland County schools were sitting in a hallway together at the Giant Center.

It was quite a haul for the three schools.

Franklin Regional defeated Latrobe for its first Class AAA title, and Burrell won five consecutive matches after losing on Day 1 to bring home a third place trophy. It also was Latrobe's first runner-up finish.

“What the teams did this weekend shows how much talent we have in the county,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. “Our county tournament is so tough; it prepares us for times like this.”

And while the team tournament is complete, the trio of coaches is eager to see how the individuals will do. And if history repeats itself from past seasons, more gold medals could be coming back to the county.

“It was personal bragging rights we were able to bring back to the WPIAL,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “It shows that Western Pennsylvania is still the hotbed for wrestling.”

The individual tournaments begin Saturday with section action for the Class AA schools. The Class AAA schools don't begin until Feb. 22.

The goal is another trip to Hershey on March 6, 7 and 8.

The returning state champions from the county include Latrobe sophomore Luke Pletcher (106-AAA), Derry sophomore George Phillippi (113-AA), Hempfield junior Sam Krivus (120-AAA) and Franklin Regional senior Tyler Smith (132-AAA).

Krivus and Smith are currently in the same weight class — 132.

Kittanning senior Jason Nolf (132-AA), Canon-McMillan senior Solomon Chishko and Franklin Regional junior transfer Devin Brown (106-AA) also return. Brown wrestled at Saegertown in 2013, while Nolf is going after his third PIAA title.

Others from the county expected to challenge for PIAA titles include Franklin Regional freshman Spencer Lee (113) and juniors Michael Kemerer (138), Josh Maruca (145) and Josh Shields (152); Latrobe senior Zack Zavatsky (182); and Kiski Area senior Shane Kuhn (285).

There are numerous others who could bring home medals, including Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths (113) and Jake Beistel (285), Burrell's Allan Beattie (285) and Steven Edwards (152) and Valley's Terrell Fields (182).

“Now that the team stuff is over, the wrestlers must refocus on the individual tournaments,” Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said. “When we're not wrestling each other, we'll be cheering each other on.

“There is a lot of camaraderie between the squads. Both the Class AAA finalists are from Section 1 and it's nice to have Burrell here. It's a good kick in the pants for county fans. We have great wrestling in our area. It was good to have three teams represented at 1 o'clock (finals/consolation).”

The Class AA sectionals Saturday are at Chartiers-Houston (Section 1), Charleroi (Section 2) and Avonworth (Section 3).

Two Class AA wrestlers will be missing the individual season because of season-ending injuries — Charleroi senior Nick Gavazzi and South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry.

The Class AAA sectionals are a week later at Gateway (Section 1), Baldwin (Section 2), Fox Chapel (Section 3) and Moon (Section 4).

The Class AA WPIAL Championships are Feb. 21-22 at Chartiers Valley High School. The Class AAA finals are Feb. 27-28 and March 1 at Canon-McMillan.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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