The 58th annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association Wrestling Tournament has lost a bit of its luster with the knee injury sustained by Derry Area senior Jimmy Gulibon, but there's certainly not a lack of talent in this year's 19-team field.
"I'm sure everybody would like to see Jimmy wrestle, but there's still a lot of talented wrestlers to watch this weekend," Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said.
"Westmoreland County has one of the strongest counties in the country for wrestling. Every year there's an impressive list of wrestlers from this county moving to the college ranks."
Gulibon, a three-time WPIAL and PIAA champion who has accepted a scholarship from Penn State University, sustained a knee injury during the finals of the Powerade Christmas Tournament and will not participate in the WCCA Tournament.
Gulibon is a three-time WCCA finalist and two-time champion. He lost, 4-3, in last year's 125-pound title match to Franklin Reginal graduate Nico Megaludis, who is now starting as a freshman at Penn State.
"When I moved to Pennsylvania last year, the first tournament I saw was the Westmoreland County Tournament," Burrell coach Bud Sines said. "It was a real treat watching Gulibon and Megaludis in their title match."
Gulibon would have been one of seven wrestlers who entered the tournament as a returning champion.
Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon is the only returning two-time champion. He won as a 171-pound freshman and as a 189-pound sophmore. McCutcheon is now competing at 195, but is considering a drop to 182 for the postseason.
The other returning champions are Belle Vernon Area junior Nathan Russo, Penn-Trafford senior Willie Bohince, Burrell junior Dakota DesLauriers, Greensburg Salem junior Tyler Reinhart and Greater Latrobe senior Ty Lydic.
Russo won at 103 last year and is now competing at 113. He will most likely be seeded second behind Franklin Regional freshman Michael Kemerer, who moved to the top of the rankings after winning a title at the Powerade Tournament.
"There are a lot of good freshmen in this tournament, especially the group of kids Eric Mausser has at Franklin Regional," Belle Vernon coach Jack Jolley said.
Bohince is a two-time finalist who placed second as a 103-pound sophomore and first as a 112-pound junior. He is entered at 120, along with Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith, who was second at 119, and Kiski Area's Ryan Hardaway, who was third at 103 last year.
DesLauriers has moved to 182 after winning at 171 last season. Also entered at 171 are Hempfield's Kyle Spangler, who placed fourth at 160, and Belle Vernon's Adam Nichelson, who finished fourth at 171.
"Dakota faced Spangler in the finals of the Powerade Tournament," Sines said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see them meet again this weekend."
Reinhart won at 103 as a freshman, but missed most of last season with an injury. He is entered at 132, along with Frankin Regional freshman Josh Shields, who placed fourth at Powerade.
"The county tournament is going to be a doozy," Greensburg Salem coach Randy Parsley said. "Each of the top eight teams have at least a couple quality kids. And the top teams have quite a few top kids. I'm glad to see Tyler is healthy for this year's tournament."
Lydic won as a 130-pound sophomore, but finished a disappointing fourth last year at 135. He is entered at 145, along with Norwin's Heath Coles, who beat Lydic, 5-3 in overtime, in the consolation final last year.
"I'm expecting a rematch between Ty [Lydic] and Coles in the county finals," Latrobe coach Marc Billett said. "I'm sure both are hoping for a rematch."
Tyler Smith is one of six returning silver medalists. Greensburg Salem has three returning runners-up -- Austin Caldwell, Zach Voytek and Anthony Cable. Caldwell lost in the 103-pound final and is now at 106. Voytek was a runner-up at 145 and is now at 152. Cable has moved to 170 after placing second at 160.
The other returning silver medalists are Hempfield's Joey Alessandro and Latrobe's Bryar Pletcher. Alessandro was a runner-up at 112 and is now at 126. Pletcher was the runner-up at 140 and is now at 152.
The team title is up for grabs. A different champion has been crowned each of the past six years. Here are the last six team champions: Mount Pleasant (2006), Hempfield (2007), Burrell (2008), Kiski Area (2009), Penn-Trafford (2010) and Latrobe (2011).