It's been four years since a team really challenged Central Mountain for the District 6 Class AAA team title, but the Wildcats will certainly get tested this weekend.
The Wildcats' average margin of victory in those four years is 63 points, including last year's 121-point margin over Bellefonte. Since then, however, the Altons have graduated, Westmont Hilltop has moved up to Class AAA and Bald Eagle Area has improved.
Central Mountain escaped the District 6 Duals with a 36-34 win over the Hilltoppers in the finals, so the tournament team race could be very close. The pick here is that the Wildcats have the overall balance and firepower to win the team title by just enough.
The title could come down to the 285-pound finals bout between CM's Zach Corl, a returning state runner-up, and Westmont's Josh Duplin, who placed fifth in Class AA in Hershey last season. Duplin beat Corl in overtime in the Duals, but I'm going with Corl to win.
The other big finals matchup is at 119, and it could produce the Outstanding Wrestler award. Bellefonte's Tom Traxler is the pick here to beat Westmont's Josh Polacek and win the OW.
While Central Mountain, Westmont and possibly even BEA are battling out for the team race, some area wrestlers will be looking to capture district gold.
The only one I see winning is Altoona sophomore 112-pounder T.J. Brandt, who if he's on his game and his health is OK should breeze to a second straight title. He should beat Central Mountain's Logan Bechdel in the finals.
A couple of Brandt's teammates, seniors Wendell Myers at 135 and Jake Hines at 140, will make the finals, but will probably have to settle for second. Myers, a finalist as a sophomore, has the best shot to get there and go up against Central Mountain's Dillon Gavlock.
Hines, a two-time finalist who won as a freshman, will have to navigate his way past State College's Scott Bosak in the semifinals to face Lewistown's once-beaten Jake Schultz in the finals. Hines is dangerous and shouldn't be counted out though.
Last year, Philipsburg-Osceola's Logan Walstrom ran into CM's eventual two-time state champion Andrew Alton in the finals and was pinned. This year, he'll most likely get another unbeaten Wildcat in the 145-pound finals in Brian Brill, who pinned his way through the tournament last year.
Other area wrestlers like Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff at 103 and Damian Lascoli at 160 could make finals runs, but Lascoli has lost close bouts to both top-seeded Coleman Hoffman and Bellefonte's second-seeded Bradley Grieb.
But anything can happen once the postseason starts, and that's why it is so interesting to watch and predict what might happen. Here's the rest of the picks:
103 POUNDS: Finalists: Travis Giedroc, Bald Eagle Area vs. Mike Kauffman, State College. Champion: Giedroc. Comment: Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff is capable of winning this weight.
112 POUNDS: Finalists: T.J. Brandt, Altoona vs. Logan Bechdel, Central Mountain. Champion: Brandt. Comment: Bechdel has 13 losses, but he is a returning Northwest Regional qualifier.
119 POUNDS: Finalists: Josh Polacek, Westmont Hilltop vs. Tom Traxler, Bellefonte. Champion: Traxler. Comment: Wow, what a matchup. Polacek was fourth at Class AA states last year, while Traxler was fifth in AAA.
125 POUNDS: Finalists: Kaleb Loht, Indian Valley vs. Malcolm Harris, Johnstown. Champion: Loht. Comment: Loht stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
130 POUNDS: Finalists: Tanner Hough, Westmont Hilltop vs. Leo Wortman, Bellefonte. Champion: Hough. Comment: P-O's Andrew Greenawalt lost to Wortman, 3-2, and he could avenge that loss.
135 POUNDS: Finalists: Dillon Gavlock, Central Mountain vs. Wendell Myers, Altoona. Champion: Gavlock. Comment: The semifinal between Altoona's Myers and P-O's Kenny Myers could be a barnburner.
140 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Schultz, Lewistown vs. Jake Hines, Altoona. Champion: Schultz. Comment: It's a tough weight class, but Hines could pull this battle of Jakes off.
145 POUNDS: Finalists: Brian Brill, Central Mountain vs. Logan Walstrom, Philipsburg-Osceola. Champion: Brill. Comment: Walstrom could get challenged from Westmont's Tanner Patton in semis.
152 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyler Buckwalter, Central Mountain vs. Nick Taylor, Bald Eagle Area. Champion: Buckwalter. Comment: One of Taylor's losses was an 11-10 shootout against Walstrom.
160 POUNDS: Finalists: Coleman Hoffman, Bald Eagle Area vs. Bradley Grieb, Bellefonte. Champion: Hoffman. Comment: Grieb will get a big test from Central Mountain's Nathan Powers in semis.
171 POUNDS: Finalists: Jacob Taylor, Bald Eagle Area vs. Blaze Buckwalter, Central Mountain. Champion: Taylor. Comment: Hard to believe Taylor is only a sophomore.
189 POUNDS: Finalists: Ryan Burnheimer, Westmont Hilltop vs. Gervon Simon, Johnstown. Champion: Burnheimer. Comment: These two could have settled this in Johnstown.
215 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyson Searer, Lewistown vs. Nathan Sharkey, Bald Eagle Area. Champion: Searer. Comment: Searer gave K.J. Walters all he could handle in the district finals last season.
285 POUNDS: Finalists: Josh Duplin, Westmont Hilltop vs. Zach Corl, Central Mountain. Champion: Corl. Comment: I know Duplin beat him, but Corl will be looking for revenge.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Tom Traxler, Bellefonte.
TEAM CHAMPION: Central Mountain. Comment: Going against the theory of new tournament team should win title.
LAST WEEK'S DISTRICT 6 CLASS AA RECORD: 15 of 30 correct.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.