For what appears to be the first time in the 74-year history of the PIAA Wrestling Championships, the 56 finalists will not be the only ones under the spotlight.
In a proposal last year to save time and be more wrestler friendly, the PIAA decided to change the schedule for this weekend's tournament at Giant Center in Hershey. That means all four placing bouts in each classification – championship, third, fifth and seventh – will all be held at the same time. And the parade of champions in both classifications will consist of all 112 medal participants.
In previous years, the 2A finals started at 2:30 p.m., which was following the third, fifth and seventh-place bouts, which started at approximately 12:30 p.m. This year, both will kick off at 2 p.m.
The Class 3A championship bouts started at 8 p.m. in previous years and it was not out of the ordinary for the last two or three matches to begin after 11 p.m. This weekend, the 3A finals will start an hour earlier, at 7 p.m., and will be accompanied with the medal matches just like in 2A. In previous years, the medal round was held at 6 p.m.
In 2006, Wyoming Valley West heavyweight Trevin Cowman stepped on the mat for his gold medal match just after 11 p.m. The next year, when the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductions ran long, Hazleton Area's Nate Eachus didn't win his 189-pound gold medal until the clock struck 11 p.m. That year, the 285-pounders didn't end until nearly 11:30.
The PIAA also changed the starting times for the final two days. In previous years, wrestling would start at 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday with weigh-ins and skin checks starting at 7. This year, the start times will be 9 a.m. all three days.
It's expected that the changes will only be on an experimental basis to see how it goes and what kind of reaction is had.
The state of Ohio also uses the format of the medal rounds held at the same time as the finals and many big tournaments across the state also have the same arrangement.
Here are some other interesting tidbits to watch for this weekend's PIAA Championships.
CLASS 2A DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: If Lackawanna Trail's Eric Laytos wins his second state title in three years, the 220-pounder might have to go through a two-time champ in Richland's John Rizzo. Rizzo won his previous two titles at 285 before dropping down this season. The two can only meet in the finals.
Derry Area's Jimmy Gulibon (126 pounds) will attempt to win his fourth state title and Kittaning's Jason Nolf (113), North Star's Nick Roberts (120) and Pen Argyl's Michael Racciato (138) are also looking for another state title.
CLASS 2A UNBEATENS: Ten wrestlers, including Laytos and Nolf begin the 2A event with an unblemished mark. The most interesting may be at 182 where Dakota DesLauries from Burrell (42-0) and Grove City's Wes Phipps (36-0) could meet in the finals. DesLauries has the most wins of any unbeaten in 2A.
3A DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: A total of nine past champions are looking for a repeat performance in Class 3A. Only eight are guaranteed to leave Hershey with a gold medal though, because Central Mountain's Brian Brill (38-0) and Chance Marsteller (39-0), a sophomore from Kennard Dale, could square off in the final. Another notable returning champ is Canon-McMillan's Cody Wiercioch, who previously won a state title in 2010 as a freshman in Class 2A for Charleroi and was runner-up in 2A last season.
The remaining past champions going for another gold are Billy Rappo (113, Council Rock South), Conner Schram (120, Canon-McMillan), Corey Keener (126, Blue Mountain), Mitchell Minotti (145, Easton), Thomas Haines (220, Solanco) and Averee Robinson (285, Susquehanna Township).
CLASS 3A UNBEATENS: The 3A event will feature 11 grapplers without a loss with the most notable locally being Coughlin's Brad Emerick at 39-0 at 285 pounds. Another 285-pounder is also unbeaten with Chambersburg's Dawson Peck at 10-0. The two could only see each other as unbeatens in the finals. Schram (22-0), Minotti (37-0), Brill (38-0), Marsteller (39-0) and Haines (40-0) highlight the rest of the 3A undefeateds.
MOST WINS: The most wins in the state entering the tournament belong to Fort LeBoef's Evan Dailey (47-4) at 220 pounds in Class 2A, while Norristown's Shane Springer has the most in either classification with a 50-5 record in 3A's 170-pound bracket.
The state record for wins in a season of 57 will be safe for another season. The most any grappler can get is five after falling into the loser's bracket in the first round and wrestling back to take third.
What: PIAA Championships
When: Thursday through Saturday
Where: Giant Center, Hershey
Local Flavor: Nine wrestlers from the WVC will participate.
At Stake: The top eight in each weight class earn a state medal.