For those of you who trekked to tournaments Saturday at Penn Cambria, Claysburg-Kimmel and Central Mountain while the region was getting dumped with snow, I have to commend you and say bravo.
It takes a special kind of fan, parent, relative or friend to drive on bad roads to get to a wrestling tournament and cheer your team on. I can only imagine what Route 22 was like at the Cresson exit. I've driven that way in bad weather before, and it's an adventure.
What fans in all of those tournaments saw was some quality wrestling.
The Sheetz Holiday Classic continues to be one of the best, and especially so this year with the additions of Franklin Regional and Hempfield, who finished first and second, respectively, in the team standings. Both teams were supposed to wrestle in a dual-meet tournament in Virginia, but it was snowed out, but Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer graciously added them to the field on Thursday.
Some coaches with teams that had a chance to win a team title might not have been so accommodating, but Niebauer, whose team claimed the tourney crown last year, decided it was in the tournament's best interest, as well as his team's best interest, to let Franklin Regional and Hempfield wrestle.
Wrestling against good teams and good opponents will prepare area wrestlers for the postseason. The 112-pound finals matchup between Penn Cambria's Evan Link, a Class AA 103-pound state runner-up last season, and Hempfield's Paul Bewak, a Class AAA 103-pound state runner-up, should have helped both in different ways. Bewak managed to get a reversal with a second left to win, 6-5, and he was later voted the Oustanding Wrestler.
The Zeigler Chevrolet Tournament was moved from the Altoona Fieldhouse, where it had been wrestled for several years, to Claysburg. While it didn't have the Blair County-Huntingdon County format, and Altoona was wrestling in it, the tournament still had pretty good teams and wrestlers.
The top four teams in the round-robin, eight-team tournament all finished within nine points of each other. Forest Hills won the team title by two points over Huntingdon, 216.5-214.5.
Rankings are back
If you look over to the right of the page you'll see the first edition of the annual Mirror rankings. We're again ranking the top five at every weight class and telling you who else to watch out for.
Some of the weight classes are pretty deep, especially at 130, where Penn Cambria's Pat Myers, Philipsburg-Osceola's Nick Gurol, Altoona's Jacob Hines and others reside.
The rankings will change a lot over the course of the season as ranked wrestlers begin to wrestle each other and unknowns begin making names for themselves.
State wrestling guru Tom Elling has again put together his Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook for 2009-10, and it has expanded again, from 310 pages to 334.
It includes everything from returning PIAA placers to other state's wrestling championships to regular-season tournament results to rules changes. I've written it before, and I'll write it agin, I don't know how he does it.
To get a copy, you can go to his state web site and order there.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.