The Schuylkill League will take its midwinter break from dual meet competition to gather for its championship meet this weekend at Blue Mountain High School.
The host Eagles have dominated the last two Schuylkill tourneys; last year, they ran away with the team title and crowned six champions, four of whom are returning this year. That includes State champion Josh Kindig, who is going for his fourth league title; Brandon Choate, who is going for his third; Tyler Rauenzahn and Corey Keener. Rauenzahn was a State runner-up last year, while Keener placed fifth at States and Choate seventh.
That group will make Blue Mountain a solid favorite to repeat, but there are three other returning champs in this year's field.
Shamokin has a pair of defending titlists in Josh Lahr and heavyweight Wes Tillett. In addition, the Indians also have Brandon Pesarchick, a champ from 2008 who was defeated by Blue Mountain four-time winner Cortland Choate in last year's finals.
Tamaqua came away with three champs a year ago, when the tourney was held at Jim Thorpe. Two of them, Justin Miller and Ryan Oldt, have graduated, but the Blue Raiders return junior Garth Lakitsky, who won the title at 189 last year.
Lakitsky is currently 21-0 and is the lone unbeaten wrestler in THE TIMES NEWS Wrestling Rankings at this point in the season and will likely be top seeded in defense of his gold medal.
The Raiders' Kolby Mashack, whose lone loss has been to State champ Nick Hodgkins of Wyomissing, is seeking his first league title after finishing second to Pesarchick two years ago and third last season. Mashack has the distinction of being selected as Outstanding Wrestling at both the Mount Carmel Tournament and the Hamburg Duals; scoring a win over Hamburg's Derek Goodwin last weekend helped his cause with the latter.
Panther Valley had three finalists last year; Brandon Heffelfinger, who fell to Lahr, has graduated, but Nick O'Donnell and Mike Weaver are back, looking to improve on their silver medal finishes. O'Donnell lost to Keener at 103 while Weaver was edged by Oldt at 160.
Jim Thorpe's Dillon Smith reached the finals at 140 last year but was nipped by Shamokin's Matt Marcheski 4-2 in overtime in one of the best bouts of the evening. Smith, the Olympians' career victories leader, will be looking to add gold to his Schuylkill collection of silver and bronze.
Other returning runners-up include Tri-Valley's Kody Kievman and Bryn Bowman; Mount Carmel's Shane Wondoloski; Blue Mountain's Travis Moyer; North Schuylkill's Garrett VanDeMark; and Williams' Valley's Ben Ancheff.
Other TN area grapplers who placed last year and return include Tamaqua's Dustin Wentz, who placed fourth, and Panther Valley's Kevin Schaller and John Scheaffer, who both placed fifth.
The time schedule for this weekend is as follows: on Friday, preliminaries are scheduled for 5:30 p.m., followed by quarterfinals and first round consolations at 6:30 p.m. and second round consolations at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, semifinals and consolation quarterfinals are scheduled for noon, with consolation semis at 2 p.m. The championship finals, as well as the third and fifth place consolation bouts, will be held at 6 p.m. on three mats.
INDIAN DUALS - Fresh off their second place finish at Panther Valley's Anthracite Duals last week, the Lehighton Indians will be hosting their own annual duals tournament this Saturday.
The six team tournament includes the Tribe as well as Pius X Roseto, both Class AA, as well as a quartet of Class AAA clubs: Wallenpaupack, Cedar Cliff, Pennridge and William Tennant.
The tournament will feature a round robin format.
Awards will be presented to the top two teams with the best records. In the event of a tie, head to head results will be used.
Here is the tournament schedule:
Round 1 (8:30 a.m.) - William Tennant vs. Cedar Cliff; Wallenpaupack vs. Pennridge
Round 2 (9:45 a.m.) - Lehighton vs. William Tennant; Pius X vs. Cedar Cliff
Round 3 (11 a.m.) - Lehighton vs. Cedar Cliff; Pius X vs. Wallenpaupack
Round 4 (12:15 p.m.) - William Tennant vs. Wallenpaupack; Pius X vs. Pennridge
Round 5 (1:30 p.m.) - Lehighton vs. Wallenpaupack; Cedar Cliff vs. Pennridge
Round 6 (2:45 p.m.) - Lehighton vs. Pius X; William Tennant vs. Pennridge
Round 7 (4 p.m.) - Lehighton vs. Pennridge; Wallenpaupack vs. Cedar Cliff
Round 8 (5:15 p.m.) - William Tennant vs. Pius X
BEARS HOST NHSCA FESTIVAL - Pleasant Valley will host the 9th Annual National High School Coaches Association High School Wrestling Festival this Saturday.
According to the NHCSA website, teams that are scheduled to participate, in addition to the host Bears, include Archbishop Wood, Bishop Eustace, Blair Academy, Central Bucks East, Central Bucks South, Central Bucks West, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Mansfield, Mendham, Northampton, Northeast Catholic, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Souderton, St. Augustine Prep, St. Benedict's Prep, St. John Vianney, Stroudsburg, Timberlane and Tunkhannock.
In addition, the NHSCA Final Four will be once again hosted by Easton Saturday at Shawnee Middle School and will include the Red Rovers, Blair Academy, Benton, High Point, Collins Hill, Long Branch, Bishop Lynch and Franklin. At 7 p.m., one of the New Jersey teams (Blair, High Point or Long Branch) will face Phillipsburg, while the Pool A and B winners will square off, as well as a third match between Pool A and B teams.
TIGERS AT PARKLAND DUALS - Northwestern will be taking the short trip down Route 309 to Orefield Saturday to participate in the Parkland Duals.
The Tigers' match schedule is as follows, according to the tournament's website: 9:30 a.m. vs. Abington Heights; 11:15 a.m. vs. Downington West; 1 p.m. vs. West Chester Henderson; 2:45 p.m. vs. Delaware Valley; and 4:30 p.m. vs. Whitehall.
'DAWGS AT ULTIMATE DUALS - Northern Lehigh will once again travel to Brookville for the Ultimate Duals, one of the premiere Class AA tournaments in the state.
Saturday's schedule for the Bulldogs is as follows, according to the tournament's website: 8 a.m. vs. Brookville; 11 a.m. vs. Reynolds; 12:30 p.m. vs. Athens; 4:45 p.m. vs. Burrell; and 7:30 p.m. vs. Ridgway.
The 'Dawgs have faced most of these teams on the state level, particularly Reynolds, a perennial Keystone State power which No. Lehigh has encountered in the PIAA Duals finals.
SCHUYLKILL JUNIORS - The Schuylkill League's Junior High Tournament was held last weekend at North Schuylkill.
Blue Mountain took the team title with 227 points, but Tamaqua placed second