Central Cambria coach Bob Nikloshen has compared the battles between Red Devil 160-pounder Tony Risaliti and Forest Hills' Cody Law to the fight in Rocky IV between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago.
They've wrestled so much and spent so much time together you almost expect Law to go nose to nose with Risaliti and tell him "I must break you."
But, as everybody knows by now, they're friends. They've worked out together at Young Guns, talked about how cool it would be to wrestle in the district, regional and state finals.
They're about to find out how cool that would be.
Law holds a 3-1 edge in the four bouts they've wrestled this year but they've split in the posteason, with Risaliti winning a District 6 title and Law winning a Southwest Regional crown. Now comes the PIAA Championships.
They'll have to get through some very tough brackets to wrestle a fifth time. In Risaliti's bracket alone, he might have to beat Central Columbia's unbeaten Kurt Meske (37-0) in the quarterfinals and Tri-Valley stud Sam Scheib (38-3) in the semifinals.
But, I'll think they'll do it and wrestle in the finals. Too bad they'll have to share the Giant Center floor with the consolation bouts because they deserve to be out there alone.
Anyway, I'm picking Law over Risaliti in my PIAA Class AA predictions. Law seems to have the advantage on his feet, and that will make the difference. Risaliti will have to be at his best to beat Law, especially on his feet, and he was in the district finals.
If he can find the solution to that, then he could become Central Cambria's second state champ, joining the late Nate Morris (2003) as a gold medalist.
Off The Mat rankings has predicted Risaliti's teammate, Ben Rager, will make the 126-pound finals and become a trivia question: Who did Derry Area's Jimmy Gulibon beat to earn his fourth state title? Gulibon, by the way is my pick for Outstanding Wrestler.
Rager is certainly capable of that, but I haven't gone in that direction. In fact, I'm picking his first-round opponent, Schuylkill Valley's Arty Walsh, a state champion as a 112-pound freshman in 2009, to make the finals. Rager finished fourth at the Southwest Regional, suffering his first two losses, so he'll have to pick his game up in Hershey.
I'm not picking any area wrestlers to win titles. I'm picking Claysburg-Kimmel's Ty Dively to make the 138-pound finals, where he'll lose to Pen Argyl's returning state champion Mike Racciato. Penn Cambria's Nick Szala is capable of upsetting Racciato in the quarterfinals. How fitting would a Dively-Szala finals bout be considering how 138 has been at districts and regionals?
Other area guys like C-K's James Dodson (132), Bedford's Ryan Easter (113), Moshannon Valley's James Stodart (195) and Northern Bedford's Quinton Hixson (285) have shots, but the odds are against them.
Bethlehem Catholic, which breezed to the PIAA Duals championship, should run away with the team title.
Most of these picks were extremely difficult. Should be interesting to see what happens. Here's a closer look at them:
106 POUNDS: Finalists: Darian Cruz, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Korbin Myers, Boiling Springs. Champion: Cruz. Comment: C-K's Brown, Ligonier Valley's Patrick could play upset roles.
113 POUNDS: Finalists: Jason Nolf, Kittanning vs. Vito Pasone, Meyers. Champion: Nolf. Comment: Nolf is way too strong from the top position, so he'll get another title.
120 POUNDS: Finalists: Zeke Moisey, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Nick Roberts, North Star. Champion: Roberts. Comment: B-A's Jared Woomer can't be counted out of a very tough top bracket, which includes Sharon's unbeaten Jarray Norris (39-0).
126 POUNDS: Finalists: Arty Walsh, Schuylkill Valley vs. Jimmy Gulibon, Derry Area. Champion: Gulibon. Comment: In addition to Walsh, look out for CC's Rager, Charleroi's Toth and Keystone Oaks' Zanetta.
132 POUNDS: Finalists: Randy Cruz, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Laike Gardner, Biglerville. Champion: Gardner. Comment: Two returning state runners-up will be hard to beat.
138 POUNDS: Finalists: Mike Racciato, Pen Argyl vs. Ty Dively, Claysburg-Kimmel. Champion: Racciato. Comment: Penn Cambria's Szala will take on Racciato in quarterfinals.
145 POUNDS: Finalists: Evan Delong, Kane vs. Zach Beitz, Juniata. Champion: Beitz. Comment: Forest Hills' Brydon has the potential to earn a rematch with Beitz.
152 POUNDS: Finalists: Pete Renda, Brandywine Heights vs. Cody Copeland, Greenville. Champion: Copeland. Comment: Conemaugh Township's Berchick can't be counted out of top bracket.
160 POUNDS: Finalists: Cody Law, Forest Hills vs. Tony Risaliti, Central Cambria. Champion: Law. Comment: Risaliti definitely has a tougher bracket than his buddy, but he can get through it.
170 POUNDS: Finalists: Elliot Riddick, Bethlehem Catholic vs. Tristan Sponseller, Bermudian Springs. Champion: Riddick. Comment: Tough draw for Ridge's Dibert with Riddick in first round.
182 POUNDS: Finalists: Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell vs. Wes Phipps, Grove City. Champion: DesLaurier. Comment: Phipps was second at 171 last year, and DesLauriers was third.
195 POUNDS: Finalists: Logan Stout, Brookville vs. Ryan Solomon, Milton. Champion: Solomon. Comment: Good thing Mo Valley's Stodart finished third instead of fourth because the bottom bracket is a beast.
220 POUNDS: Finalists: Eric Laytos, Lackwanna Trail vs. John Rizzo, Richland. Champion: Rizzo. Comment: I can still see NBC's Suter cradling Laytos for a fall in last year's tournament.
285 POUNDS: Finalists: Corey Garry, Fort Cherry vs. Nate Grendelis, Chartiers-Houston. Champion: Garry. Comment: NBC's Hixson can't be counted out of making the finals.
OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Jimmy Gulibon, Derry Area.
TEAM CHAMPION: Bethlehem Catholic. Comment: Everybody else is battling for second.
PREDICTION RECORD: 94 out of 148 situations overall, 19 out of 29 situations in Northwest Regional Class AAA, 17 out of 29 in Southwest Regional Class AA.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter @ToddIrwin1.