Twelve wrestlers enter this weekend's Class AA Section 1 Tournament at Chartiers-Houston High School as returning champions, but at least three will fall short of claiming another title, as a pair of returning champions are entered in each of three weight classes -- 120, 132 and 160.
South Side Beaver's Nathan Reckner (23-2) and Chartiers-Houston's Richie McGinnis (27-11) are entered at 120. Reckner is a three-time section champ who won his previous titles at 103, 112 and 120. McGinnis is a two-time champ, who won previously at 103 and 106.
"The top three kids in the WPIAL rankings at 120 are from our section, and Richie will probably be the No. 3 seed," said Chartiers-Houston coach Bill Sutton, who pointed out that South Fayette's Mike Carr is also entered at 120. "Richie lost to Carr at the section team tournament."
South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry (29-1) and Burgettstown's Stephen Kotouch (22-9) are entered at 132. Gentry is the defending champion, who also won a title at 125 in 2011. Kotouch won at 126 last season.
South Fayette's J.J. Walker (22-5) and South Side Beaver's Connor Payne (27-6) are entered at 160. Walker won section and WPIAL titles last year at 152. Payne won a section crown at 135 in 2011, then lost to Walker in last year's 152 title match.
"Walker pinned Connor in last year's section finals," South Side Beaver coach Jerry McCoy said. "I'm expecting to see both back in the finals again. Connor would welcome a rematch."
Payne dropped to 160 after spending most of the season at 170. Walker and South Fayette teammate Grant Fetchet (27-6) had the option of moving down one weight class, but decided to stay at 160 and 152.
"Grant and J.J. moved down for one match during the PIAA team tournament, but decided it wasn't an option for the long run," South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard said. "Neither felt comfortable moving down. And both have done well at their current weight."
Chartiers-Houston's Tanner Sutton (33-5) joins Reckner as the only three-time champs entered in this weekend's section tournaments. He's won titles at 125, 130 and is the defending champion at 145.
Sutton's teammate Garrett Vulcano (34-2) is a two-time champ. Vulcano won titles at 160 and 170 and is now entered at 195.
The other four returning champions are South Fayette's Seth Carr (27-3) and Michael Fetchet (30-1) and Freedom's Boe Bonzo (18-3) and Tyler Cousins (22-8).
Carr is the defending champ at 113. Michael Fetchet won at 160 and is now at 170.
"Last year, we had 10 of 12 entries qualify for the WPIAL tournament [by placing among the top five in their weight classes]," Chaussard said. "This year, we have a full lineup so I'm hoping to have at least 10 qualify."
Bonzo won at 119 as a freshman and has placed second the past two years at 130 and 145. Cousins has moved to 220 after winning at 195 last year. Both have missed time with injuries, but both are expected to wrestle.
"Boe has been rehabing from a knee injury," Freedom coach Jim Covert said. "We've had him doing a lot of water training since the Burgettstown tournament. Cousins had surgery for a bad cauliflower ear earlier in the season, but should be ready to go for sections."
Full house for Ellwood
Ellwood City has something in common with Class AA powerhouses Burrell, Chartiers-Houston and South Fayette. The four are the only schools in Class AA that have an entry in all 14 weight classes at this weekend's section tournaments.
"I didn't realize there were only four schools with a full lineup," Ellwood City coach Craig Albert said. "That's something to be proud of. We've worked very hard to get the program back to where it is now."
Ellwood City dropped its wrestling program after the 2001-02 season. The program was reinstated last year with Albert serving as John Barnes' assistant coach. Albert took over this year after Barnes stepped down.
"We have 16 kids on the varsity and 10 on the junior high team," Albert said. "And we only have a couple seniors."
Ellwood City's top entries in Saturday's Section 1 tournament are Brad Grinnen (22-4 at 195) and Mike Sinclair (16-12 at 220).
"We were fortunate enough to qualify for the WPIAL team tournament," Albert said. "The experience the kids picked up that night will help prepare us for Saturday's tournament."
First Published February 14, 2013 5:00 AM