It's a bit surprising to discover that a perennial power such as Canon-McMillan has never won the team title at the Tri-County Wrestling Tournament, which begins tomorrow at Ringgold High School.
Canon-McMillan has been a participant three of the four years the tournament has been in existence, but the Big Macs have placed no higher than second in the team standings. That should change this year -- the Big Macs are a prohibitive favorite to win the team title.
"Canon-McMillan is definitely the front-runner," Peters Township coach Jason Carpetta said. "In fact, I don't see anybody touching Canon-McMillan when you consider the lineup they have. It's clearly a battle for second place."
Canon-McMillan placed third in the inaugural Tri-County Tournament in 2009, then finished second the next two years. The Big Macs skipped last year's tournament to attend the Virginia Duals.
"We're back because the Virginia Duals is no longer an option to us now that the PIAA changed its scheduling rules," Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary said. "Our goal is to win the [Tri-County] title for the first time."
A precursor to the Tri-County Tournament was the Washington County Tournament, which began in 2006. That tournament lasted only three years and Canon-McMillan won all three titles. In 2009, teams from Greene and Fayette counties joined the picture to form the Tri-County Wrestling Tournament.
"The only team [from Washington, Greene or Fayette] not attending this year's tournament is Connellsville," tournament director Frank Vulcano Jr. said. "[Connellsville] is going back to the Battlefield Duals."
Connellsville has won three of the four Tri-County Tournament titles and would have been the defending champion.
"It's too bad that Connellsville isn't attending," Mary said. "But the tournament is still strong. Every team has at least a few studs. We're looking forward to the tournament."
Canon-McMillan is considered a strong favorite to win its first Tri-County title, despite the fact that Solomon Chishko is still on the injured list. Chishko, a 2011 Tri-County champion, sustained a broken elbow at the Super 32 Tournament and is still on the mend.
"Solomon will be back later this month," Mary said.
Canon-McMillan's lineup actually features a pair of Tri-County Tournament returning champions. Connor Schram won titles at 103 and 112 in 2010 and 2011. Big Macs teammate Cody Wiercioch is also a two-time returning champion, as he won titles at 152 and 160 while competing for Charleroi in 2010 and 2011.
"Even if Connellsville was coming, Canon-McMillan would still be the team to beat," Ringgold coach Bob Bove said. "It should come down to a battle for second place."
Peters Township was the runner-up last year, and Jefferson-Morgan was third. The Rockets have four returning finalists.
John Demaske and Dustin Conti won titles for Jefferson-Morgan last year at 113 and 170. Demaske has moved to 126 and Conti to 170. The Rockets also have a pair of returning runners-up. Brendan Howard returns at 106 after placing second last year. Jason Miller was the runner-up at 120 last year and is now at 132.
Peters Township had four county finalists last year, but three have graduated. The only returnee is Ty Buckiso, who won the 120-pound title. Buckiso is entered at 126, which places him in the same weight class as Schram.
"One nice thing about this tournament is that almost everybody will be entered at the weight class they will participate in during the postseason," Carpetta said.
Chartiers-Houston's Tanner Sutton, Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi, McGuffey's Brent Blaharczyk and Waynesburg's A.C. Headlee are the other four returning champions.
Lions an Allegheny threat
South Fayette is a a team to watch at the 39-team Allegheny County Championships, which begin tomorrow morning at Fox Chapel High School.
The Lions lineup features a pair of returning 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.
Elizabeth Forward's Lukas Etzel is one of five returning champions. He's the defending champion at 126. He's in the same weight class as North Hills' Tyler Walker, who placed second at 120 last year.
West Mifflin's James Harrison and Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta are returning silver medalists. Harrison was second at 106 last year and is now at 113. Zanetta returns at 132.