The defending champion and the most successful team are the favorites at the Allegheny County Wrestling Championships, which begin at 10 a.m. Friday at Fox Chapel Area High School.
Hampton is the defending champion and co-favorite along with North Allegheny. The Tigers have finished among the top five in the team standings nine times in 11 years, including the past six.
"Hampton and North Allegheny are obviously the teams to beat," North Hills coach Jose Martinez said.
Ron Frank, the tournament director and coach at Fox Chapel, agrees with Martinez.
"North Allegheny and Hampton have to be considered the co-favorites," Frank said. "But North Hills, South Fayette and Central Catholic are also teams to watch."
This year's tournament comprises 39 teams.
"It's the only scholastic contest during the school year where any student/athlete from Allegheny County is invited to participate," Frank said. "We have athletes participating from the biggest schools to the smallest schools, from the WPIAL and the City League. It's a tribute to wrestling in Allegheny County, a tribute to the Fox Chapel School District, and a tribute to the parents and alumni from Fox Chapel who put on this tournament."
North Allegheny's lineup features a pair of returning champions, Dom Forys and Alex DeCiantis. Forys has moved to the 120-pound weight class after claiming county titles at 103 and 113 the past two years. DeCiantis won his county title at 170 and is entered this year at 182.
"This will be Alex's first appearance at 182," said North Allegheny coach Jamie Kyriazis, referring to the fact that DeCiantis has been competing at 195. "He got a late start because of the football team's great successs. He's got to be considered a strong favorite at 182."
Forys is in the same weight class  as Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph, who won the 130-pound county title last year.
"That's clearly a match that everybody is hoping for," Kyriazis said. "It's not often that you get two defending champs in the same weight class."
Hampton has a pair of finalists returning. Noah Shulman is the defending champion and favorite at heavyweight. Jake Hart was a county, WPIAL and PIAA runner-up at 195 last year. He returns as the favorite.
"We want to be the first team in county history to win three team titles," said Bursick, referring to the fact that Hampton, North Allegheny and Shaler are the only teams that have won two county titles. "To reach that goal, we need to have a contribution from every kid in our lineup."
North Hills is also a team to watch. The Indians won the team title at West Mifflin's Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic the weekend of Dec. 28-29, by outscoring Belle Vernon, 203-201.
"Our goal is to finish among the top four and be in the running for the team title." said North Hills coach Jose Martinez, who realizes his squad is facing an uphill battle because the Indians are not fielding a full lineup.
"Hampton and North Allegheny have more depth than we do. They will each have a full team. We will have 12 maybe 13 entries. To win the tournament you have to have a full team."
North Hills' lineup features three silver medalists from last year's county tournament. Twins Tyler and Drew Walker finished second at 120 and 126 last year. The two have moved up one weight class to 126 and 132. Indians teammate Jonathan Avon was a runner-up at 145 last year and is now at 160.
"North Hills and South Fayette are sleeper teams to watch," Kyriazis said.
South Fayette's lineup features a pair of silver medalists. Seth Carr was the runner-up at 113 and returns at the same weight. Michael Fetchet has moved to 170 after placing second at 160 last year.
The only other returning champion is Elizabeth Forward's Lukas Etzel, the defending champion at 126. He's in the same weight class with Tyler Walker.
A wrestler to watch in the 220-pound weight class is Highlands junior Allan Cratsenberg, who decided to play basketball this year, but returned to the wrestling team a week ago. He placed fourth at 195 last year.hsother