The 45th annual Midwestern Athletic Conference wrestling tournament features 11 returning champions, a different format, and a returning team champion that's short-handed. The 14-team tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at South Side Beaver High School.
"Our goal is to keep our streak alive," said Hopewell coach Jason Martsolf, referring to the Vikings four-year streak of team titles. "But it will not be easy. We're not as deep as we were last year and we're going to be short-handed."
Hopewell will be without heavyweight Damon Sims Jr. who is recovering from a football injury. Sims was a member of Aliquippa's football team, which won a WPIAL title and placed second in the PIAA. Hopewell has a co-operative agreement with Aliquippa for wrestling.
"[Sims] has a knee injury that requires rest," Martsolf said. "I doubt that he will be available for the MAC tournament. That's disappointing, since he's a defending champion and would have been a heavy favorite to repeat."
Hopewell may also be without Damon Drositis, last year's 170-pound champion. Drositis was not in the lineup last weekend when the Vikings competed at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic.
"We have some young kids in our lineup," Martsolf said. "How quickly these kids develop will determine our fate in the team standings."
Drositis and Sims are two of three Hopewell wrestlers who won MAC titles last year. The other is Filippo Crivelli, who won the 126-pound title last year. Crivelli competed at 138 at the DeAugustino Classic and won the title with a 4-3 win against Keystone Oaks' Brett Beltz.
West Allegheny was the MAC runner-up last year. The Indians had two champions, who have since graduated, and three runners-up, including two underclassmen. Dante Bizzari placed second at 106 and is now at 113. Kyle Scott was the runner-up at 120, and now he's at 132.
"It's hard to say where our stiffest competition will be," Martsolf said. "West Allegheny and Montour have strong lineups that make them a threat. South Side Beaver has three kids who are capable of wrestling in the finals. We'll need a strong effort from everybody to repeat as team champions."
Other teams entered in the 14-team field are: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Ellwood City, Freedom, Laurel, Mars Area, Moon and Summit Academy,
"The PIAA's changes to the scheduling point system forced us to switch formats for the tournament," South Side Beaver athletic director Ron Ledbetter said. "We ran a pool tournament last year, but had to switch to a double-elimination format this year. The format we used last year would have cost each team six scheduling points."
The MAC tournament is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Only eight individuals have won four titles in its history. That number could increase by two, as Freedom's Boe Bonzo and South Side Beaver's Nathan Reckner are three-time champions. Reckner returns at 120. Bonzo has moved up to 152 after winning his third at 145. West Allegheny and Freedom each boast two individuals who have won four MAC titles. Aaron McKinney and Troy Reaghard are four-timers from West Allegheny. Freedom's four-timers are Kurt Brenner and Damian Rose. South Side Beaver' David Demore is among three other four-timers. The others are Kellen Campbell, Zach Kelley and John Denk from West Allegheny.
Ambridge has two returning champions: Mike Roberts and Elliott Baran. Roberts is the defending champion at 106. Baran has moved up one weight class to 195.
Other returning champions are: Mars Area's Richie Boeh, South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry, Ellwood City's Brad Grinnen, and Montour's Cole Macek. Boeh has moved from 113 to 126. Gentry returns at 132. Grinnen returns at 195. Macek is back at 220.