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WPIAL Shines at 54th Powerade Tournament

WPIAL Shines at 54th Powerade Tournament

The state of Pennsylvania is known to have the best high school wrestling in the country. Similarly, District 7, otherwise referred to as the WPIAL, is often seen as the hotbed for the sport within the Keystone State. This weekend’s 54th he Annual Powerade Tournament, one of the best amateur wrestling tournaments of the high school season, proved both of those assertions true.

The finals were flush with WPIAL talent. In 12 of the 13 weight classes, at least one WPIAL wrestler was featured, the lone exception being at 189 pounds, where a pair of Malvern Prep teammates squared off. Also, four finals bouts saw two WPIAL products face one another (113, 145, 152, and 160) for the Powerade crown.

Of the 26 finalists vying for a Powerade supremacy, 16 (roughly 62%) were WPIAL wrestlers. Of those 13 to earn a Powerade crown, seven (roughly 54%) hailed from a WPIAL school, including two from Class 3A’s top team – the Waynesburg Central Raiders in Wyatt Henson (145) and Cole Homet (138) – who won titles in back-to-back matches tonight.

With respect to the team race, three of the top four placers came from the WPIAL, including Waynesburg (Second), Seneca Valley (Third), and Hempfield (Fourth). There were also seven WPIAL school to finish top-10.

As the saying goes, “They saved the best for last.” That is why Seneca Valley’s No. 4 Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (145) was the final match of the night. Herrera-Rondon, who bumped up a weight class this weekend, to 152 pounds, looked outstanding at the heavier weight. He pitched a shutout in his first three matches, earing a fall and two major decisions. In the finals he had a commanding 9-4 decision over No. 5 in the nation, Waynesburg’s Rocco Welsh. Outscoring his opponents by a combined 39-4 on the day, with bonus-point victories in all but one match, earned the future Oklahoma Sooners’ grappler, Herrera-Rondon, the event’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.

The 113-pound Powerade champ, Latrobe’s Vinny Kilkeary, proved why he is thought to be the nation’s top 106-pounder. Not only did he bump up to 113 pounds this year, but also, he greatly improved upon his 2019 performance which saw the then-freshman finish eighth. Today, none of his four wins were particularly close. To his credit Kilkeary tallied a fall, a 7-2 decision, a technical fall and a 10-1 trouncing of Waynesburg’s Joe Simon – who had a breakout tournament – making the finals as an unseeded wrestler in his own right. Kilkeary’s nine-point margin of victory was the largest of all the championship bouts.

In the 145-pound bout, Henson, son of Sammy Henson, a former World Champion wrestler, who won a gold medal in freestyle for the USA at the 1998 FILA Wrestling World Championships, proved why he earned a scholarship from Tom and Terry Brands and the No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes. Henson, No. 3 at 145 pounds proved he could take down his opponent, Seneca Valley’s Chanz Shearer with ease in the finals. His numerous takedowns helped the Waynesburg senior to a dominant 11-5 showing.

Heavyweight Isiah Vance, a product of Hempfield High School had an extra special Saturday . Not only did the Spartans’ big earn a thrilling 5-2 overtime decision, which avenged an earlier loss to his Malvern Prep foe from last year, but also, the senior also made his college decision, committing to the Army Black Knights after he won it all.

Fellow big man, and recent Ohio State committ, who is No. 5 in the class of 2022, Nick Feldman, used his finals match to show that, just because you’re above 200 pounds, that doesn’t mean you can’t be fast, agile, and put up points. He took down Dillon Plitzer of Mt. Pleasant 11-7. Feldman was one of five Malvern Prep wrestlers to appear on the finals. He and teammates Jack Consiglio (106), Jack Wehmeyer (182/189) all brought home titles, helping Malvern to a first place finish in the team race.

Jackson Arrington, a Forest Hills junior, and the 138 pound Powerade victor, who put on an offensive showcase, scoring 13 points in his final match of the night, the most of any finals match also chose a college this weekend. Arrington will take his talents to the ACC and wrestle for Pat Popolizio and No. 3 NC State.

Hempfield’s Vance wasn’t the only champion to claim a title by the narrowest of margins. At 160 pounds in the opening match of the final round, Enzo Morlacci  of Kiski pulled out a close on 3-1 over Chase Kranitz. It’s likely these WPIAL foes haven’t seen the last of each other this year.

With respect to freshman finalists, Frazier’s Rune Lawrence (172) and Bishop McCort ‘s Mason Gibson (120) both proved that they are names that fans need to keep an eye on over the next few years. Lawrence fought his way to the 172-pound finals  despite being unseeded. Lawrence nearly shocked the field, but couldn’t secure the winning takedown at the buzzer. He fell. 3-2, to Dillion Walker, one of two LaSalle (OH) wrestlers to make the finals. Walker was the only non-Pennsylvanian to claim a title.  Even in defeat though, Rune Lawrence, the younger brother of Lehigh 165-pounder, Thanye Lawrence, a former four-time PIAA placer, showed he has the ability to follow in older brother’s footsteps.

Photo by Tami Rain Knopsnyder

Gibson, who also hails from good wrestling stock, showed he had an unstoppable offensive attack all weekend. He went a perfect 5-0 in route to his first Powerade title and proved utterly dominating along the way. He put up a combined total of 101 points this weekend. For Gibson, let’s just say wrestling runs in the family.

Joey Fisher, a South Park, Pennsylvania native, ended his weekend with a title of his own after a tight 5-4 decision in the 126 pound match, sending Ohioian, Dustin Norris, home as a runner-up. Fisher’s title comes just a day after fellow South Park, alum, nationally ranked Pitt wrestler Jake Wentzel, earned a big upset win of his own on Friday night against Virginia.

In 2021, the 54th  Powerade Tournament proved to be different, in just about every single way, from the previous 53 iterations, due to COVID-19. Still, Pennsylvania’s  District 7 wrestlers found significant success on the biggest state at one of the nation’s most challenging winter invitational’s.

Finals Results

106: Jack Consiglio (Malvern Prep) DEC Tyler Chappell (Seneca Valley), 6-1

113: #1 (106) Vincent Kilkeary (Latrobe) MD Joseph Simon (Waynesburg), 10-1

120: #5 Mason Gibson (Bishop McCort) DEC #16 Mac Church (Waynesburg), 11-6

126: Joey Fischer (South Park) DEC #17 Dustin Norris (LaSalle – OH), 5-4

132: #8 Jackson Arrington (Forest Hills) MD Dylan Chappell (Seneca Valley), 13-5

138: #19 Cole Homet (Waynesburg) DEC Jake Niffenegger (LaSalle – OH), 6-3

145: #3 Wyatt Henson (Waynesburg) DEC Chanz Shearer (Seneca Valley), 11-5

152: #4 Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (Seneca Valley) DEC #5 Rocco Welsh (Waynesburg), 9-4

160: #17 Enzo Morlacci (Kiski Area) DEC Chase Kranitz (Norwin), 3-1

172: #12 Dillon Walker (LaSalle – OH) DEC Rune Lawrence (Frazier), 3-2

189: #2 (182) Jack Wehmeyer (Malvern Prep) DEC Caden Rogers (Malvern Prep), 5-3

215: #1 Nick Feldman (Malvern Prep) DEC #17 Dayton Pitzer (Mt. Pleasant), 11-4

285: #11 Isaiah Vance (Hempfield) DEC #4 Cole Deery (Malvern Prep), 5-2 TB2

 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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