During the first three years of the Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament, premier match-ups highlighted the finals.
Whether two top-ranked wrestlers in the state squared off in the finals or two underclassmen, competition has been at its highest level.
As the 2013 edition of the event kicks off tonight at 5 p.m. at Lake-Lehman, there are rivalries set to pick up after last year's tourney. That's because 14 finalists from last year's event return for another go around, including eight champions looking to repeat. When you count gold medalists from previous events, 10 past champions will be competing this weekend.
A pair of seniors in Wyoming Valley West's Kyle Krasavage and Wyoming Area's Andy Schutz are shooting for their third titles. Only one can get the three-peat though, since they are both in the 126-pound weight class. Hazleton Area's Larry Romanchik, a sophomore defending champ, is also in the bracket. Krasavage gave a verbal commitment to Division I Hofstra on Thursday.
Coughlin's Bobby Hawkins (113) and Brad Emerick (285), Crestwood's Matt Hammerstone (145), Hazleton Area's Taylor Schermerhorn (220), Meyers' Justin Elick (132), Pittston Area's Angelo Lussi (160) and Valley West's Travis Roper (132) are looking for their second titles.
Those athletes named are all standouts, but a few stars haven't had the luxury of winning this tournament yet, being hit with bad luck. Such as Dallas' Dominic DeGraba (113) and Lake-Lehman's Austin Harry (132), who were state qualifiers last year. Also not listed are Valley West's Derrick Simms (152) and GAR's A.J. Luton (120), who were a win away from the PIAA Championships in 2012.
The first two rounds of championships and consolations will be held tonight and action will pick up Saturday morning at 9:30 with the semifinals. Finals are slated for tomorrow afternoon.
2012 winner: Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Wyoming Valley West
Dark Horse: Tunkhannock
The skinny: Last year, the Spartans won by the slimmest of margins, just a half point over second-place finisher Coughlin. This time, Valley West seems to have more depth than the rest of the field and should be able to win easily. Don't forget about perennial contender Pittston Area. The Patriots along with Hazleton Area could make things interesting by putting pressure on the Spartans and Crusaders.
2012 winner: Bobby Hawkins, Coughlin
Top Seed: James Wright, Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Wright over Kyle Holmgren, Hanover Area
Dark Horse: Pat Heck, Wyoming Area
The Skinny: As always, this is the weight packed with freshmen and sophomores so surprises are sure to occur and anything can happen.
2012 winner: Larry Romanchik, Hazleton Area
Top Seed: Dominic DeGraba, Dallas
Prediction: DeGraba over Bobby Hawkins, Coughlin
Dark Horse: Jake Richards, Tunkhannock
The Skinny: DeGraba finished fourth last year, while Hawkins is a returning champ. But DeGraba then went on a run all the way to states. It could be a classic final.
2012 winner: Travis Roper, Wyoming Valley West
Top Seed: A.J. Luton, GAR
Prediction: Tyler Lutecki, Pittston Area over Luton
Dark Horse: Jon Lagoski, Wyoming Valley West
The Skinny: Dallas' Aaron Klimovitch is also in the bracket and could make things interesting if he faces Lutecki in the semis. The eight participants in the weight are the least of any in the tournament.
2012 winner: Kyle Krasavage, Wyoming Valley West
Top Seed: Andy Schutz, Wyoming Area
Prediction: Krasavage over Schutz
Dark Horse: Kashif Alston, Meyers
The Skinny: This is probably the toughest weight class in the whole tournament with three past champions. Krasavage and Schutz are very similar and even notched their 100th wins on the same day earlier this season. Krasavage gets the slight advantage just because he's been in more bouts this season. There are also up-and-comers slotted here with Lake-Lehman's Jimmy Stuart and Pittston Area's Dave DeLeo. It should be a fun bracket to watch.
2012 winner: Andy Schutz, Wyoming Area
Top Seed: Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman
Prediction: Harry over Travis Roper, Wyoming Valley West
Dark Horse: Dan Ritz, Crestwood
The Skinny: This may be the next toughest weight after 126. It wouldn't be a surprise if any of the top five seeds – Harry, Meyers' Justin Elick, Roper, Wyoming Area's Carm Mauriello, or Ritz – came away with the gold medal.
2012 winner: Frankie Mahmoud, Coughlin
Top Seed: Nathan Cheek, Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Nick Heck, Wyoming Area over Cheek
Dark Horse: Josh Mussoline, Hazleton Area
The Skinny: Lake-Lehman's Josh Sayre is seeded third and is set up to face Mussoline in today's quarters with the winner likely seeing Heck in the semis where things could get awfully interesting.
2012 winner: Darren Stucker, Meyers
Top Seed: Kevin Laubach, Berwick
Prediction: Matt Hammerstone, Crestwood over Laubach
Dark Horse: Dalton Ray, Tunkhannock
The Skinny: Valley West sophomore Cody Cordes is the No. 3 seed and could see Hammerstone in the semifinals. That could be one of the best semifinals of the tournament.
2012 winner: Anthony Talanca, Berwick
Top Seed: Derrick Simms, Wyoming Valley West
Prediction: Simms over Ben Siegel, Tunkhannock
Dark Horse: Justin Wilk, Pittston Area
The Skinny: In the top part of the bracket, Simms could see Wilk in the semifinals. Wilk is capable of pulling the upset, which would make the bracket wide open and possibly put Wilk in line to claim the title.
2012 winner: Matt Hammerstone, Crestwood
Top Seed: Angelo Lussi, Pittston Area
Prediction: Lussi over Maurice Wood, Nanticoke
Dark Horse: Bobby Wright, Lake-Lehman
The Skinny: The bottom half of the bracket is difficult and will be hard for No. 2 seed Jamaar Taylor from GAR to survive. In addition to Wood and Taylor, Hazleton Area's Adam Fredmund and Dallas' Logan Brace are slotted there. This is the only weight each team has a participant.
2012 winner: Charlie Generotti, Tunkhannock
Top Seed: Kris Roccograndi, Dallas
Prediction: Will Masteller, Berwick over Paul Cole, Coughlin
Dark Horse: Derek Spachman, Hazleton Area
The Skinny: A semifinal between Cole and Roccograndi could be a classic showdown. Cole would have to get past Spachman in the quarters first of a brutal top half of the bracket.
2012 winner: Stave Radzwilla, Hanover Area
Top Seed: Brady Butler, Lake-Lehman
Prediction: Connor Martinez, Dallas over Steve Longazel, Hazleton Area
Dark Horse: Longazel
The Skinny: The Hazleton Area freshman is capable of pulling upsets. Eight of his 12 wins this season are via fall and none of his five losses were by pin. He should give Butler all he can handle in the semifinals.
2012 winner: Chad Hoffman, Hazleton Area
Top Seed: John Minich, Pittston Area
Prediction: Minich over Andrew Muckin, Tunkhannock
Dark Horse: Chris Erickson, Berwick
The Skinny: This is a bracket where records don't mean much as only the two seeds – Minich and Muckin – have records above .500. What it does mean is that it wouldn't be much of a shock if No. 5 seed Erickson made it to the finals.
2012 winner: Taylor Schermerhorn, Hazleton Area
Top Seed: Zac Faust, GAR
Prediction: Faust over Schermerhorn
Dark Horse: Jake Vaxmonsky, Pittston Area
The Skinny: This would be a rematch of last year's final in which Schermerhorn pinned Faust in 5:05. The Grenadier has been on a roll this season so far with just two losses and the sophomore seems ready to claim a gold medal.
2012 winner: Brad Emerick, Coughlin
Top Seed: Emerick
Prediction: Emerick over Ryan Monk, Dallas
Dark Horse: Matt Dubaskas, Wyoming Valley West
The Skinny: Emerick should breeze to his second straight title here, but Monk will give him a test in the finals in what could be a District 2 Class 3A finals preview as well.