The Sheetz Holiday Classic has always been one of the best early-season tournaments in the region, and while teams like Bedford and Huntingdon weren't there this year, there was still a lot of good wrestling.
Bedford and many other teams had to make some hard choices as far as scheduling goes because of the PIAA-mandated competition cutdown. The Bisons, who will most likely be ranked No. 1 in the state when the first Off The Mat rankings are released, chose to drop the Sheetz Classic.
The Bearcats are in the new Mountain League this year, so they were required to take part in the league tournament on the same weekend.
Still, there were wrestlers at Penn Cambria Friday and Saturday who you'll most likely see winning district, regional and possibly even state titles down the road.
Penn Cambria's three champions, Evan Link (103), Nick Szala (112) and Pat Myers (125), and Portage champion Shawn Perich are good bets to making runs toward state medals, as are some of the other area finalists.
Penn Cambria winning the team title for the first time shocked most wrestling followers. The Panthers might have had better teams in the past, but none of those teams could do well enough to be hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the tournament.
"I don't know if this [tournament] is as deep as it has been in the past," PC coach Todd Niebauer said, "but this team is a good tournament team. We've got a couple seniors who can score some points in John Julian and Corey Rickens.
"You throw in Evan Link, Patrick Myers and add that little Szala boy and Joey Stoy, we've got a nice group that are really getting 'er done. Did I think we were going to win? You always got to think you can win. You shouldn't be in it if you don't think you have a shot at winning it. It's a special group."
For most wrestlers, particularly promising rookies like Szala and Central Cambria's Ben Rager and Tony Risaliti, both of whom took third at their respective weight classes, the tournament is a good springboard to the rest of the season.
Rankings are back
We're again ranking the top five at every weight class this year. The first one is always the toughest because it's so early in the season.
Some of the weight classes are very deep, especially 125 and 130. If the studs at those weights stay there, there's going to be some interesting matchups in the postseason.
The Mirror rankings will change a lot over the course of the season. Wrestlers will determine eventually where they should be in the rankings with head-to-head matchups. If you think you should be ranked higher, then beat somebody ahead of you.
The two weekend tournaments in Penn Cambria and Central Mountain helped a lot in determining part of the rankings. Strength of schedule and how wrestlers were ranked last year were the other factors.
Hopefully you find them enjoyable.
Wrestling handbook expands
I wonder how state wrestling guru Tom Elling does all the things he does for wrestling. How does he find the time?
His state wrestling Web site is a must for wrestling followers. His 2008 Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook must have been particularly time consuming. The Moshannon Valley graduate calls it the "most comprehensive edition" he's ever put out.
The 310-page publication includes everything from rules changes to returning PIAA placewinners to state tournament results of neighboring states to the top 100 wrestlers in each class to the top newcomers to watch to the history of college wrestling.
To get a copy you can go to his site and pay through Paypal or mailing $20 to: Tom Elling's PA Wrestling Handbook, PO Box 334, Revloc, Pa., 15948. Make the check payable to Tom Elling.