Valley High School wrestling coach Steve Ansani started the season with three wrestlers who had won at least one section title in their careers.
Only one is entered in Saturday's Class AA Section 3 tournament at Avonworth High School.
Dylan Clarke, a 160-pound senior who had a 10-5 record, sustained a knee injury at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament on Jan. 11.
"Dylan tore a meniscus," Ansani said. "This is the second straight year an injury ended his season. Last year, he suffered a dislocated elbow. I really feel bad for Dylan. He deserved a better fate, especially since it's his senior year."
Clarke claimed a section title as a sophomore at 160 pounds.
Ansani received another jolt when Jihad Ratliff, a 113-pound sophomore who had 51 career wins, quit the team.
"Jihad told me ... he didn't want to wrestle anymore," Ansani said. "I was shocked. He won a section title [at 106] last year. He would have been the top seed in the section and one of the top seeds in the WPIAL tournament."
Ansani's returning section champion is Pat Dewitt, a 126-pound senior who has won previous section titles at 106 and 126. He enters the tournament with a 30-0 record.
"Dewitt is wrestling very well," Ansani said. "He's done a great job of staying focused this year."
Valley also has two-time section runners-up in Terrell Fields and Marcus Davenport.
Fields (25-1) was the runner-up to Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers the past two years. He returns at 182 as the section and WPIAL favorite.
Davenport (24-3) has been a runner-up at 152 and 160, and is now competing at 195.
"Fields and Davenport have come so close," Ansani said. "It's time for them to step into the spotlight."
A full roster for Burrell
WPIAL Class AA finalists Burrell and South Fayette are the only teams with 14 wrestlers entered in Saturday's sectionals. Burrell had 12 wrestlers earn WPIAL berths at last year's section tournament.
"Our goal is to have all 14 qualify for the WPIAL tournament [by placing among the top five in their weight classes]," Burrell coach Josh Shields said. "We want to keep the team together as long as possible."
Burrell's lineup features three individuals who have won previous section titles, including two-time champ Steven Edwards (33-4 at 152). Edwards claimed his titles at 132 and 138.
Corey Falleroni (28-10 at 145) and Alan Beattie (32-5 at 285) are also returning champs. Falleroni is a two-time section finalist who won at 145 as a sophomore and placed second at 152 last year.
Returning section champs
Mount Pleasant has two returning champions entered in Saturday's Class AA Section 2 tournament at Charleroi Area High School in Mike Novak (11-5 at 126) and Ethan Charlesworth (25-8 at 160).
Charlesworth is a two-time section finalist who placed second at 138 as a sophomore and first at 152 last year.
"Ethan wrestled at 152 all season, but we decided to move him up to 160 for the section tournament," Mount Pleasant coach Mike Long said. "The 152-pound weight class is much stronger. We felt moving Ethan up would give him a better chance to advance."
Novak has moved up to 126 after winning at 120 last year. Austin Mears (21-6 at 145) was a runner-up at the same weight last season.
High hopes at Derry
Derry Area coach Mike Weinell enters the Section 2 tournament with hopes of improving on last year's total of six WPIAL qualifiers.
"We have 12 kids entered," Weinell said. "We're hoping to get eight moving on to the WPIAL tournament."
George Phillippi (28-4 at 120) is a returning champ for the Trojans, while Stone Kepple (25-7 at 126) and Jarrett Dorazio (20-10 at 160) were third-place finishers.
"George has four losses this season and all four were to quality Class AAA opponents," Phillippi said. "He's more aggessive on his feet this year."
Kepple was at 120 last year, while Dorazio was at 152.