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By Willie Saylor, WIN Staff
While the final results are always up for grabs, the national wrestling media does a good job identifying the major players in pursuit of a team title prior to the start of each season.
Last year, Clovis (Calif.) and St. Johns (Mich.) were pleasant surprises as they finished significantly higher in the final polls than pundits projected in the preseason.
Other than those two, much of the 2010-2011 season played out according to plan. Most of the final Top 20 had been pegged by national writers to perform at such levels.
And while any additional teams will find it a tall task to break into the national rankings, this year offers a bit more intrigue at the top, and in pursuit of a mythical national team championship.
There are so many “loaded” teams, that projecting “the best” high school team in the preseason is a loaded question. Certain teams seem suited for certain formats. For instance, it’s a general consensus that Clovis will be more suited for duals, while St. Paris-Graham (Ohio) and Canon-McMillan (Pa.) will be better tournament-format squads.
It all makes for a high school season with much anticipation. And it’s here!
Many of the country’s top teams will open action this week. No. 3-Brandon (Fla.) wrestles at the Cougar Invitational, while several Iowa powers get going this week. Bettendorf will be at the Keith Young Invite. No. 17 Iowa City West and No. 21 Southeast Polk (Iowa) head to Gardner-Edgerton, Kan.
Here, we’ll give you a map of the events that should prove to determine what the final rankings look like when the dust settles next March.
Walsh-Jesuit Ironman, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
In its 18th year, the Ironman annually goes a long way in determining a national team champion. Serving as an unofficial kickoff to each new season, the Ironman always features several key players on the national scene. And this year is no different with nine squads appearing in WIN’s preseason Top 25.
Teams: No. 1 St. Edward (Ohio); 2. Blair Academy (N.J.); 5. St. Paris-Graham (Ohio); 9. Christiansburg (Va.), 15. Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), 19. Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.); 20. Montini Catholic (Ill.); 22. McDonough School (Del.); 24. Broken Arrow (Okla.); Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Pa.); Massillon Perry (Ohio); Collins Hill (Ga.), Caesar Rodney (Del.); Moeller (Ohio); Park Hill (Mo.).
Mid-America Nationals, Tulsa, OK
We’ll get a good preview of how some of the best in Oklahoma stack up this year. Hosts Tulsa Union were state runner-ups at both the Reno Tournament of Champions last year, and at their 6A state tournament. Collinsville and Tuttle were the Sooner State’s state champions in 5A and 4A, respectively.
Allen may be without a significant portion of the line-up due to their nationally-ranked football team.
Teams: No. 10. Allen (Texas); Tulsa Union (Okla.); Collinsville (Okla.); Tuttle (Okla.)
Reno Tournament of Champions, Reno, Nev.
Reno offers monster-sized brackets and features talented teams from across the U.S. The top four teams from last year return, with a great addition to the field in Bakersfield, who were runner-ups in California last year.
Teams: No. 16. Bakersfield (Calif.); Columbia (Idaho); Easton (Pa.); Gilroy (Calif.); Maple Mountain (Utah); Poway (Calif.); Roseburg (Ore.); Tulsa Union (Okla.)
Kansas City Wrestling Classic, Kansas City, Kan.
Allen (Texas) and Bettendorf (Iowa) headline this event, along with KC Classic regular, and perennially tough Collins Hill (Ga.). Beyond the team aspect, there is a plentitude of ranked individuals here, including a ton of Fargo All-Americans.
Teams: No. 10. Allen (Texas); Bettendorf (Iowa); Collins Hill (Ga.); Kearney (Mo.); Park Hill (Mo.); Blue Springs (Mo.); Tuttle (Okla.); Collinsville (Okla.).
Beast of the East, Newark, Del.
With large brackets, the Beast always tests one’s deep tournament strength. Eighty-five schools will be represented.
Teams: No. 2. Blair Academy (N.J.); 9. Christiansburg (Va.); 15. Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), 19; Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.); 22. McDonough (Del.); Bergen Catholic (N.J.); Caesar Rodney (Del.); Central Dauphin (Pa.); Colonial Forge (Va.); Delbarton (N.J.); Jackson Memorial (N.J.); Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Pa); Timberlane (N.H.)
Dvorak Invitational, Machesney Park, Ill.
Probably the best individual annual tournament in Illinois, the Dvorak goes a long way in determining the state’s premier team. It also often features power schools from Iowa, and this year is no different, with Iowa City West coming to town again.
It will also be the first big test for a refortified Glenbard North squad, which added a few transfers to an already talented line-up.
Teams: No. 17. Iowa City West (Iowa); 20. Montini Catholic (Ill.); 25. Glenbard North (Ill.); Machesney Park (Ill.); Oak Park-River Forest (Ill.).
POWERade Tournament, Canon-McMillan HS, Canonsburg, Pa.
A very deep tournament in one of the country’s wrestling hotbeds, the POWERade features 44 teams this year. It will be our first look at Canon-McMillan on a national stage. The returning Pennsylvania large-school champs should have placers up and down their line-up. But how tight can they keep it with Blair?
Teams: No. 2. Blair Academy (N.J.); 7. Canon-McMillan (Pa.); Central Dauphin (Pa.); Collins Hill (Ga.); Franklin Regional (Pa.); Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Pa.); Walsh Jesuit (Ohio).
The Clash X, Rochester, Minn.
The premier dual tournament in the country, the Clash will have a direct impact on who wins the national team title at the end of the season. Projecting a winner is nearly impossible with so many good teams in attendance. It will come down to seedings, match-ups and one-point bouts. Eleven teams present here won their respective state tournaments last year. This is a biggie, folks.
Teams: No. 1. St Edward (Ohio); 3. Brandon (Fla.); 5. St. Paris-Graham (Ohio); 6. Clovis (Calif.); 8. Carl Sandburg (Ill.); 9. Christiansburg (Va.); 12. Apple Valley (Minn.); 13. Simley (Minn.); Moeller (Ohio); Colonial Forge (Va.); St. Michael-Albertville (Minn.); Kasson-Mantorville (Minn.); Baylor (Tenn.).
The Cheesehead, Kaukauna, Wisc.
With a unique “hybrid” tournament format and one of the most talented fields in the country, The Cheesehead has become one of THE go-to events annually. Another great field is in the works this year. Allen should be at full strength by this time and a strong Iowa contingent heads to Wisconsin this year … as well as Minnesota’s two best teams.
Teams: No. 10. Allen (Texas); 12. Apple Valley (Minn.); 13. Simley (Minn.); 20. Montini Catholic (Ill.); 21. Southeast Polk (Iowa); Bettendorf (Iowa); Collins Hill (Ga.); Lockport (Ill.); Marmion (Ill.); Mt. Carmel (Ill.); Waverly Shell-Rock (Iowa).
Doc Buchanan, Clovis, Calif.
The Doc B is one of the premier individual tournaments in California. Consider it a prelude to the state tournament.
Teams: No. 6. Clovis (CA); 16. Bakersfield (Calif.); Poway (Calif.); Roseburg (Ore.)
Virginia Duals, Hampton Roads, Va.
A potential clash of two top-ten teams looms as Canon-Mac and Christiansburg are both here. But getting to the finals might be tricky. Watch out for a solid South Plainfield squad.
Teams: No. 7. Canon-McMillan (Pa.); 9. Christiansburg (Va.); 22. McDonough (Del.); South Plainfield (N.J.); Timber Creek (N.J.)
Detroit CC Super Duals, Novi, Mich.
For supremacy in Michigan, No. 4 St. Johns will take on No. 11 Detroit CC. Last year, this was a four-point win for St. Johns. Now they have Ben Whitford, top-ranked at 138 pounds.
NHSCA Wrestling Festival, Pleasant Valley, Pa.
The national title could be on the line as No. 1 St. Edward (Ohio) will dual No. 2 Blair Academy (N.J.).
No. 5 St. Paris (Ohio)-Graham vs. No. 1 St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio
Another week, another big dual for Eds.
St. Edward Double Duals, Lakewood, Ohio
Just in case you thought St. Ed’s schedule was soft, they’ll wrestle a third top-5 opponent in as many weeks. And, it could be for all the marbles. This is St. Johns’ shot to throw their hat in the ring as a contender.
Teams: No. 1. St. Edward (Ohio); 4. St. Johns (Mich.); 11. Detroit Central Catholic (Mich.)
Tulsa Union vs. No. 24-Broken Arrow, Broken Arrow, Okla.
Union looks for revenge after having their dream season halted by BA last year.
No. 2 Blair Academy vs. No. 5-St. Paris-Graham, St. Paris, Ohio
Depending on the way things play out, this could be the big one.