Dom Forys, Jesse Rodgers, Gage Curry and Jonathan Avon shared the spotlight at the 2013 Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament, as all four claimed individual titles as underclassmen.
One of those four will not return for the 2014 tournament, which begins Friday at Fox Chapel Area High School. Rodgers, a senior at North Allegheny, will miss the 13th annual tournament with a knee injury that may have ended his high school career.
“Jesse suffered a knee injury at the Ironman Tournament in December,” North Allegheny coach Jamie Kyriazis said. “You hate to see anybody get injured, but it’s especially hard when it’s a senior. We’re certainly going to miss him this weekend.”
Rodgers, a four-year starter and PIAA place-winner, won a county title at 138 pounds last season and would have been favored to retain his title. Rodgers had accepted a scholarship from Rider University in New Jersey prior to the injury.
“Jesse has been doing physical therapy with hopes of coming back for the [individual] postseason tournaments, but it’s too soon to know whether that will be possible,” Kyriazis said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how quickly he recovers.”
Forys, a North Allegheny senior and Pitt recruit, returns this weekend with hopes of becoming only the second wrestler in Allegheny County history to win four titles. He will compete at 126 pounds. Sean Clair, a 2005 Plum graduate, is the only four-time county champion.
“It’s obvious by looking at past results that winning four county titles is not easy,” Kyriazis said. “It would be great to see Dom win a fourth title.”
Curry, a sophomore at North Hills, is the defending champ and strong favorite to win at 106 pounds.
“Gage has a chance to become a four-time county champion,” North Hills coach Jose Martinez said. “He just needs to stay healthy.”
Avon, a senior at North Hills, is a two-time county finalist and one-time champ. He returns at 160 to defend the title he won last year, but is seeded third in a strong weight class.
“The 160-pound weight class is the strongest in the tournament,” Martinez said. “There are five quality wrestlers who are capable of making it to the finals.”
Pine-Richland’s Brendan Burnham, a PIAA place-winner, is the top seed, despite losing to Avon in last year’s county title match. Burnham moved down to 152 for the postseason tournaments and placed seventh in the PIAA in Class AAA. Avon stayed at 160 and fell one win short of a PIAA berth.
“The tournament uses a point system to seed its wrestlers and Burnham picked up points for placing at Hershey,” Martinez said. “Given that system, Burnham deserves the No. 1 seed.”
South Fayette’s Jared Walker, a two-time WPIAL Class AA champion and two-time PIAA qualifier, is seeded second. He has finished no higher than sixth in two county appearances.
“Jonathan [Avon] was supposed to face Burnham in the finals of the Chartiers-Houston tournament [the opening week of the season], but Burnham defaulted with an injury,” Martinez said. “It would be great to see them face off in the finals on Saturday.”
Penn Hills’ Te’Shan Campbell is seeded No. 4, Carrick’s Markus Kratochvil is No. 5, and Upper St. Clair’s Brooks Wilding is No. 6. Campbell was fifth at 160 last year, while Wilding was seventh at 145.
“It’s clearly the strongest weight class in the tournament,” Kyriazis agreed. “That could be the best match in the finals.”
Other North Xtra wrestlers seeded No. 1 are Shaler’s Mike Heinl and North Hills’ Michael Bonsmann. Heinl, last year’s county runner-up at 106, is the top seed at 120. Bonsmann is seeded No. 1 at 220.
“North Allegheny is the favorite in the team race, even without Rodgers,” Martinez said. “I don’t think any team can match their overall depth. They have a lot of kids who are capable of placing.”
North Allegheny has been the most successful team in the 12-year history of the tournament. The Tigers have won three team titles and placed among the top five teams a total of 10 times. The Tigers also rank first with 23 individual county champions.
“We will have two starters out of the lineup, but I still think we are the favorite,” said Kyriazis, who also pointed out that Drew Landefeld, a 145-pound senior, is out for this weekend.
Also entered in the 40-team field are Allderdice, Avonworth, Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brashear, Carlynton, Carrick, Central Catholic, Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, Fox Chapel, Gateway, Hampton, Highlands, Keystone Oaks, McKeesport, Montour, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, North Catholic, Obama Academy, Penn Hills, Perry, Plum, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, South Fayette, South Park, Thomas Jefferson, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny, West Mifflin, Westinghouse and Woodland Hills.