A Power Five football recruit playing for Latrobe doesn’t happen every day.

In fact, the last time one committed to a Power Five school, Ben Roethlisberger was still playing at Miami (Ohio) and Larry Fitzgerald was catching passes from Rod Rutherford at Pitt.

Yes, these are wild times for the Wildcats.

Latrobe has two Power Five recruits in the junior class — linebacker Alex Tatsch and safety John Wetzel. Tatsch has more than a dozen offers overall while Wetzel recently picked up his first offer. The previous Latrobe football player to play for a Power Five school was Tyler Altman, a 2003 graduate who was a defensive lineman at Indiana.

“It’s special for us at Latrobe and it’s special for those guys,” Latrobe coach Ron Prady said. “They’ve put the work in. They’re great athletes but, even more importantly, they’re great kids. It’s great to see this happen. I’m proud and happy.”

That individual talent has shown in the results on the field. Latrobe has reached the WPIAL playoffs two seasons in a row after having not qualified since 1968. This fall, the Wildcats went 8-4 and lost to eventual WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A champion Aliquippa, 37-29, in the quarterfinals. Aliquippa played five postseason games, and no one came as close to knocking off the Quips, something that caught the eye of Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield.

“I think that was probably one of the best teams we played all year,” Warfield said.

Tatsch (6 feet 2, 215 pounds) has seen his stock soar over the past few months. So much so that Rivals ranks him a four-star recruit, the No. 5 player in the state and No. 18 outside linebacker in the country.

An assistant from Southern Cal even visited Latrobe recently to meet with Tatsch, an outstanding student who holds a 4.1 GPA.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Tatsch, who will have surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum, an injury he played with for the final month of the season.

Tatsch began his junior season with offers from Connecticut and Marshall, but has since added them from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Southern Cal, Wisconsin, Duke, South Carolina and Stanford, among others. An outstanding junior season saw Tatsch register a team-high 111 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. And at running back, Tatsch ran for 501 yards on 73 carries and had nine total touchdowns. 

“He grew up so much, not so much physically, but with how explosive he is on the football field. I think this year his tackles were violent and guys were going backwards. I think that’s what’s stuck out to Power Five schools, that explosiveness,” said Prady, who praised Tim Cortazzo and FSQ Sports Training for the work they have done with the team.

And when colleges watch film and evaluate Tatsch, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore Wetzel (6-0, 195), who received his first offer from Boston College on Dec. 11 and has since picked up one from Cincinnati.

“It’s been 100% their tape,” Prady said. “The way this worked was, Alex was getting attention and deservedly so. Coaches come in and I throw on John’s tape, and it blows their socks off with how physical and how good of a football player he is. They’re kind of a carbon copy of one another.”

Of Wetzel’s offers, Tatsch said, “I don’t know what took coaches so long. He was overdue.”

Wetzel said he was thrilled to receive his first offer. It came at school, which meant he was able to quickly share the news with his father, Brad, who is a history teacher at Latrobe.

“I knew they would start coming sooner or later, but I didn’t think it would happen that day,” said Wetzel, who also plays basketball at Latrobe.

As a junior, Wetzel collected 72 tackles to go along with 2 sacks, 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. He doubles as an excellent dual-threat quarterback who had a 1,000-1,000 season. Wetzel passed for 1,229 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 1,084 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Wetzel and Tatsch are not only teammates, but also close friends. They have been playing football and basketball with one another since they were young. Wetzel’s dad coached them both and is the varsity coach at Latrobe.

The talented duo said they are excited to be a part of something special at Latrobe.

Said Wetzel, “It’s a great feeling to be on the team with so many people who care and the community getting behind you. It’s fun to play here.”

First offers

A pair of underclassmen from WPIAL schools recently picked up their first FBS offers. West Mifflin junior Jaiden Brown-Demery, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound lineman, was offered by Bowling Green. Brown’s teammate, Rico Steele, is a senior lineman and Bowling Green commit. West Allegheny freshman Tyler Hatton, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end-defensive end, also received his first offer, and it came from UNLV. Hatton is one of several local players with UNLV offers. The connection comes through offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, who is a Greensburg Salem graduate.

Latrobe wrestler to Wyoming

Latrobe has sent quite a few athletes to college wrestling programs over the years, and one of the program’s latest standouts has decided to continue his career at, of all places, the University of Wyoming. Luke Willochell, a junior at Latrobe, recently decided to become a Cowboy, a Wyoming Cowboy. Willochell is a two-time WPIAL Class 3A champion who won his title at 106 pounds as a freshman and 114 pounds as a sophomore. You might wonder why Willochell picked Wyoming. It’s because his brother wrestles there. Gabe Willochell is a redshirt sophomore for the Cowboys who previously wrestled at Edinboro.

Dugger looks for new school

Among the former WPIAL and City League football players in the transfer portal is Penn Hills graduate Jaden Dugger, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound safety who played at Georgetown the past two seasons. As a sophomore this fall, Dugger collected 41 tackles (third on the team), 3 sacks, an interception, and 6 pass breakups. Dugger has been receiving interest from FBS schools, including a few Power Five programs. He has already taken an official visit to Louisiana. The Ragin’ Cajuns have offered Dugger, as have UTEP and Texas State. Dugger’s brother, Julian, is a senior at Penn Hills and Pitt recruit. Jaden said he accompanied Julian on his Pitt official visit this past weekend, adding that he chatted briefly with the Pitt staff.

Basketball commitments

Indiana’s Bella Antonacci (Allegheny); Montour’s Jordyn Wolfe (Washington & Jefferson).

Cross country commitment

Mt. Lebanon’s Robert Tang (Gannon).

Football commitments

Canon-McMillan’s Geno Calgaro (Saint Francis); Hempfield’s Joe Dolinski (Lock Haven); North Catholic’s Gavin Kamody (VMI); North Catholic’s Carson Primrose (Rhode Island); Pine-Richland’s Nick Hartwick (Slippery Rock); Thomas Jefferson’s Vinnie Heller (Waynesburg).

Lacrosse commitments

Mars’ Gael Avalos (Immaculata); Mars’ Wes Scurci (Penn State).

Softball commitment

Franklin Regional’s Ciara Camacho (Kent State).

Wrestling commitment

Baldwin’s Keith Mincin (Mercyhurst).

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.