Westmoreland Alumni Q&A with Gabe Willochell

The former Greater Latrobe standout is now a redshirt sophomore at Wyoming

Wed Mar 06, 2024 - 1:02PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Greater Latrobe's Gabe Willochell has posted a 16-8 record this season wrestling at Wyoming.Greater Latrobe's Gabe Willochell has posted a 16-8 record this season wrestling at Wyoming.

Last Updated: Wed Mar 06, 2024 - 1:06PM

Greater Latrobe has produced a seemingly-endless list of wrestlers who went on to compete at the college level. One of the most prominent grapplers on that list recently is Gabe Willochell, who captured three section titles during his time in a Wildcats singlet. After initially thriving at Edinboro University, Willochell is now competing at the University of Wyoming. Willochell is under the microscope for this edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.

Willochell immediately established himself as a top competitor during his freshman campaign at Greater Latrobe in 2016-17. That season, he competed at 106 pounds, compiling a record of 27-11. He finished fourth in the sectional, but failed to place in the WPIAL Class 3A competition.

The following year, Willochell bumped up to 126 pounds, where he went 35-9. He took first place in the sectional, and finished third in the WPIAL bracket. Thus, he qualified for the PIAA competition, in which he placed sixth.

As a junior in 2018-19, Willochell moved to 132. He achieved a mark of 35-6, once again winning the section competition. He subsequently finished as runner up in the WPIAL championship, and then placed fourth in the PIAA.

In his senior campaign, Willochell ascended to a record of 37-2. He captured his third section title, and once again finished runner up in the WPIAL. In the state bracket, he placed third.

As a result, he finished his career with the Wildcats with a mark of 134-28.

Following his graduation, Willochell opted to continue on the mat at Edinboro University. His freshman year with the Fighting Scots was an abbreviated campaign because of COVID, but he competed at 141 pounds and achieved a mark of 11-3, including a fifth-place finish in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships. Edinboro went 2-1 that season.

The next season, Willochell improved to 21-10, finishing third in the MAC Championships. As a result, he qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Back to a traditional schedule in 2021-22, the Fighting Scots went just 2-11 overall, including 1-7 in the MAC.

Last season, Willochell redshirted and wrestled unattached.

He transferred to the University of Wyoming for his redshirt sophomore season, and thus far, he’s achieved a mark of 16-8 competing at 149 pounds. Collectively, the Cowboys have gone 7-7, including 5-5 in the Big 12 Conference, with the conference championship upcoming this weekend.

Gabe set aside time from his schedule to answer questions about his individual and team goals for the season, the adjustments to living in Wyoming, and his favorite vacation spot.

Q: How have you evaluated your performance thus far this season?

A: I think I could have done a bit better; I dropped a few matches to kids I could have beaten, and I did not steal any matches from kids who were ranked higher

Q: What factors went into competing at 149 pounds?

A: When I went 141 for the first match of the year, I was on the treadmill for two hours and I decided then that I would never be doing that again.

Q: What was your focus while wrestling unattached last season?

A: My focus last season while wrestling unattached was to just get back on the mat to compete. I didn't wrestle any opens because I wasn't practicing as much as I should have been, and I was wrestling with high school kids around the area. Last season, I was mostly coaching at youth clubs in the area to make some money and stay around wrestling.

Q: What team and individual goals did you establish for this season?

A: Individual goals are the same every year. Obviously, they never happen because I set my goals really high, but my goals this year were winning Big 12s, being a national champ, and not losing a match or even giving up a point. I think, as a team, we wanted to win all the dual meets and have most of everyone qualify for nationals. It’s tough to give team goals because I got here in May and wasn't here last year.

Q: What was the best part of your experience at Edinboro University?

A: The best experience I had at Edinboro was hanging out with the friends I made the first day I got there until I left. It was a very small town, so there wasn't much to do other than make really good friends

Q: What led to your decision to transfer to Wyoming?

A: I always wanted to go to Oklahoma State when I was a kid, so when I entered the portal, I wanted to move out west and be a cowboy. Fortunately, I couldn't go to Oklahoma State and I think it worked out, because I love it here and the coaches are awesome. When I did a virtual visit on Zoom with all the coaches, I knew where I was going as soon as the call ended.

Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?

A: My major is sociology, but I really would like to be a college coach

Q: What has been your most enjoyable college course?

A: I took a class at Edinboro, and I couldn't tell you what it was called, but I loved my professor - he coached wrestling at Erie Cathedral Prep and coached Jake Van Dee and Paniro Johnson. His name was Mike Hahesy, and I enjoyed seeing him every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments to life in Wyoming?

A: Being far from home was a struggle, but I’m used to it now. My mom sends stuff I need via Amazon, so we talk and I’ll go home and see a package with my name on it, so that's nice.

Q: Westmoreland County is recognized as a wrestling hotbed. What makes the area so competitive?

A: Westmoreland County is good because of all the clubs and interest in the sport. Everyone at least tries wrestling because they have some friends who do it, then once you start, you kind of have to try to become the best at it or you'll get your butt whooped. You can't just do wrestling in the winter - it’s a sport that if you want to be good at you have to practice year-round and wrestle in offseason tournaments. I can think of five places I can go within 20 minutes of my house with a wrestling mat, so I think it’s because we have a lot of kids who wrestle in the area and lots of places to get better.

Q: What was your fondest memory at Greater Latrobe?

A: My fondest memory at Latrobe, wrestling wise, was my senior year when I won Powerade - pinned my way to the finals and won Outstanding Wrestler as a No. 6 seed. This also goes back to the previous question - Westmoreland County is so good at wrestling that I never even won the county tournament in high school because of the depth of wrestlers in that small area.

Q: Do you have any superstitions before, during, or after a match?

A: No superstitions, that is a form of fear.

Q: Do you use water, a sports drink, or something else while wrestling?

A: Mostly just water; maybe some Gatorade after weigh ins because it tastes good

Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?

A: My celebrity dream date would probably be Ice Spice because I'm a munchkin.

Q: What is your favorite vacation spot, or a place you've always wanted to go?

A: One place I look forward to going every year would be Virginia Beach. I'm not really a huge fan of the beach, but I enjoy being down there for the NHSCA duals because I can hang out with all my wrestling friends who I don't see often, as well as coach.