Canon-McMillan's Solomon Chishko and Kittanning's Jason Nolf enter the 2013-14 high school wrestling season with a chance to join the WPIAL's most exclusive club.
Both have won three WPIAL individual titles. Only 88 individuals have won three or more titles since the WPIAL conducted its first championship tournament in 1936.
Of the 86 previous members of that club, only 22 have reached the four-time champions club, with Derry's James Gulibon as the last to join the exclusive group.
Chishko, a Virginia Tech recruit who has a 101-7 career record, has won WPIAL Class AAA titles at 130, 138 and 145 pounds since breaking into the Big Macs starting lineup as a freshman. He also claimed a PIAA title last season after placing third in the state the previous two years.
"It's awesome to see that Solomon has a chance to join such an exclusive list of WPIAL wrestlers," said Jason Cardillo, Canon-McMillan's first-year head coach. "Winning a fourth WPIAL title and second PIAA title would be a great way to end his career."
Nolf, a Penn State recruit who has an almost perfect career record of 132-1, has won WPIAL Class AA titles at 103, 113 and 132 at Kittanning. He also won PIAA titles during his freshman and junior seasons and placed third as a sophomore.
His only loss came in the PIAA semifinals in 2012.
A third PIAA title would place Nolf on an elite list of only 53 individuals who have won three or more PIAA titles.
Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller and Solanco's Thomas Haines have a chance to reach the PIAA's most exclusive club of four-time champions, which has only 10 members. Gulibon, a 2012 graduate currently wrestling at Penn State, is the most recent member of that club.
Nolf and Chishko are among six WPIAL wrestlers who enter the season with at least two WPIAL titles on their resume. Hempfield's Sam Krivus (40-3 at 120 pounds last season) and Latrobe's Zack Zavatsky (42-2 at 160) have won a pair of Class AAA titles, while Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi (38-4 at 138) and South Fayette's Jared Walker (34-9 at 160) have won two Class AA titles.
A total of 18 wrestlers enter the season with at least one WPIAL title to their credit.
Nolf and Chishko are also among nine WPIAL wrestlers who have accepted NCAA Division I scholarships.
Zavatsky will join Chishko at Virgina Tech.
Gavazzi, North Allegheny's Dom Forys (43-5 at 113) and Canon-McMillan's Brendan Price (38-9 at 106) have accepted scholarships to Pitt.
Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith (45-4 at 132) has chosen Bucknell. Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri (45-7 at 120) has picked Cornell. And Peters Township's Ty Buckiso (34-5 at 126) has chosen The Citadel.
Kiski School's Zach Kelly (29-9 at 132) will join Smith at Bucknell.
Burrell shoots for eighth title in a row
Canon-McMillan and Burrell are the defending WPIAL team champions. Both enter the season with a streak of titles, but only one is favored to repeat.
Burrell has won a WPIAL record seven consecutive Class AA titles. The Buccaneers are a strong favorite to repeat with nine starters returning from last year's squad, including a trio of PIAA qualifiers -- John Andrejcik (31-11 at 132), Steven Edwards (43-10 at 138) and Alan Beattie (36-10 at 285).
"We enjoy having that bull's-eye on our back every year," said Burrell's first-year head coach Josh Shields, a 2006 alumnus. "It motivates us to work harder than everybody else."
It's a much different story in Class AAA, as Canon-McMillan will be hard pressed to claim a fifth consecutive title. The Big Macs must replace seven starters who graduated, including four PIAA qualifiers and two champs. Chishko, Macri and Price, a trio of PIAA qualifiers, are the top returnees.
"We were hit hard by graduation losses, but we still have a solid team," Cardillo said. "Winning a WPIAL title is never easy, but we're going to give it all we got."
Franklin Regional is the clear favorite in Class AAA. The Panthers came within five points of upsetting Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL title match and all but one starter is back from that squad.
Franklin Regional's lineup features four two-time PIAA place-winners: Michael Kemerer (38-6 at 126), Tyler Smith (45-4 at 132), Josh Maruca (43-8 at 138) and Josh Shields (44-6 at 145). Smith won a PIAA title last season and Kemerer is a two-time runner-up.
"Our goal is to win a WPIAL title and go as far as we can go in the state tournament," Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said. "If we can stay healthy, we have the talent required to reach those goals."
Since the season ended, Frankin Regional has added two transfers from the Saegertown School District to its lineup: Spencer Lee and Devon Brown.
Lee is considered the top freshmen in the state, while Brown is a junior who won a PIAA Class AA title at 106 pounds last season. Both represented Team USA at the 2013 FILA Cadet World Championships.
"Devon was ruled ineligible by the WPIAL," Mausser said. "He's appealing the decision and will have a hearing with the PIAA during the first or second week of December. He's practicing with us with hopes of winning the appeal."
Lee's family moved to Murrysville after his father accepted a new job at Carnegie Mellon University. Brown moved to this area with his grandfather, who has had heart problems and wanted to be closer to better cardiac care.
2013-14 Preseason Rankings
School & Last season's record
1. Franklin Regional 23-4
2. Latrobe 11-6
3. North Allegheny 18-5
4. Canon-McMillan 19-0
5. Kiski Area 16-3
6. Connellsville 19-3
7. Belle Vernon 16-4
8. Greensburg Salem 16-4
9. Peters Township 15-3
10. Ringgold 12-9
1. Burrrell (16-7)
2. South Fayette (10-3)
3. Jefferson-Morgan (11-6)
4. Burgettstown (11-5)
5. Valley (10-13)
6. Bentworth (13-7)
7. Yough (17-4)
8. Chartiers-Houston (11-8)
9. Avella (7-7)
10. Kittanning (13-5)
Returning WPIAL Champions
Name, School, Yr.
Luke Pletcher, Latrobe, So.
A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg, Jr.
Sam Krivus, Hempfield, Jr.
Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional, Jr.
Josh Maruca, Franklin Regional, Jr.
Solomon Chishko, Canon-McMillan, Sr.
Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe, Sr.
Zach DeLuca, Central Catholic, Sr.
Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area, Sr.
Austin McDermitt, Burgettstown, Jr.
George Phillippi, Derry, Soph.
Greg Bulsak, South Park, Soph.
Pat DeWitt, Valley, Sr.
Jason Nolf, Kittanning, Sr.
Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi, Sr.
Jared Walker, South Fayette, Jr.
Jake Temple, Avella, Sr.
Alan Beattie, Burrell, Jr.