BROOKVILLE — Some of the top wrestling squads in the state will be making their way to Brookville Junior-Senior High School today to participate in the 16th-annual Johnson Motors Ultimate Duals.
"It's the second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-ranked teams in the state, all in our gym (today)," Brookville head coach Dave Klepfer said. "There's really no breaks."
The six participating teams are host-Brookville, Fort LeBoeuf, Biglerville, Reynolds, Pen Argyl and Benton, all of which have state-ranked wrestlers on their respective teams. The headlining match-up will feature District-IX powerhouses and rivals, Fort LeBoeuf and Reynolds at 7 p.m. tonight.
Three new teams, Biglerville, Pen Argyl and Benton, will begin the day along with Brookville; the duals will be a one-day, two-mat format with matches beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Brookville is coming off a heartbreaking loss against Class AAA squad DuBois Tuesday night, and Klepfer said the most important job he faces is making sure his wrestlers are ready for a competitive day.
"I just have to get the team rebounded now and get them thinking the same way we (coaches) do, getting them excited about it," Klepfer said. "It's an opportunity to go in there and prove to a lot of people that you have a good program and you have a bunch of good individuals as wrestlers."
Klepfer said that while Reynolds and Fort LeBeouf are the highest-ranked squads that will be competing, he knows every team is tough and expects there not to be any breaks.
The Raiders, who have struggled in the Duals, going 15-37, do not have high expectations but still will enter the competition to win as much duals as possible.
"I think if you try to set yourself up for all of these goals and expectations in the middle of the season, it can come back to get you at the end," Klepfer said. "What I really expect and want is for our guys to just compete as hard as they can and get ready for the team duals in a few weeks, because that's the season."
Last year, Brookville went 3-1, winning 43-21 over Fort LeBoeuf, 50-22 over Northern Lehigh and 51-18 over Mercer. Brookville's only loss last year came to Reynolds (36-22).
Reynolds will be tough competition yet again this year, as it has a 46-8 record at the Ultimate Duals and are currently undefeated on the season.
At 132 pounds, Dylan D'Urso is a senior captain for Reynolds, and his undefeated 19-0 record will be tough to combat. Also, at 138 pounds, junior Austin Matthews has lost just one match this season with a 24-1 record.
Taylor said he is most looking forward to the competitive atmosphere that the Ultimate Duals always provides.
"This is something our team and our community looks forward to every year," Taylor said. "The guys that developed the Ultimate Duals, they definitely provide us with the competition we need every year as a team and individually to get ready for the postseason."
Taylor is expecting rival Fort LaBoeuf or Brookville to be the toughest competition for Reynolds.
"Brookville is a very storied program; we respect them very much," Taylor said. "Even though they've had some down years (recently), they are a rich tradition-type team like we are."
The biggest key for any team to go undefeated, according to Taylor, is momentum. Each wrestler must be both physically and mentally in shape in order to compete at a high level throughout the entire day.
"How well you trained yourself is going to determine the physical nature; what we try to do is after their match, get them rest," Taylor said.
Fort LaBoeuf is returning to the Ultimate Duals for just the second year, but the Bison were successful last year, going 3-2 with wins over Northern Lehigh (45-20); Mercer (49-16); and Ridgway (49-13).
Two returning state-medalists — George McGuire (113 pounds) and Evan Daley (220 pounds) will represent the Bison today.
Biglerville will be making its debut at the Ultimate Duals. The Canners are having a successful season this year with an 18-1 record.
Two of the best returning wrestlers for Biglerville are Laike Garner, who was a state runner-up last year at 130, and Trevor Hernandez, who qualified at the state level last season at 119.
Although the Canners have not participated in the Duals before, Biglerville head coach Bob Gano said he knows to expect "good, tough competition."
"They're all pretty good," Gano said. "Obviously, Reynolds and Fort LaBoeuf have that pedigree of at least getting to the state dual finals, if not winning at some point."
Biglerville will add another competitive team to the field today, as the Canners were runners-up in District-III.
Gano, like Klepfer, said he does not want to set too lofty of goals for his team, but he hopes to remain competitive.
"I guess my main goal is to wrestle well," Gano said. "If we wrestle well and compete and perform well, and we don't win a match, that's okay as long as the kids have wrestled up to their abilities."
The Benton Tigers are also a new addition to the field this year.
"I would expect that it's going to be extremely difficult, which is good," Benton head coach Russ Hughes said. "We're going through some growing pains. We're a young team, but they show up, and they fight, which is something I expect."
Benton's Colt Cotten placed fourth overall at the state level last year at 132. The Tigers also have two returning state qualifiers — Matt Welliver (120 pounds) and Brandon Lontz (138 pounds) — and two returning regional qualifiers — Jeric Kausnic (152 pounds) and Jake Mankey (182 pounds).
Hughes said he expects one of the toughest fields the Ultimate Duals has ever seen.
"This is probably one of the better years they've had," Hughes said. "Everyone is going through their growing pains of wrestling right now, and whoever steps up and accepts the challenge will win it."
The final team in the six-squad field will be Pen Argyl, which is joining the tournament this year also. The Green Knights were the runners-up last year in District-XI, second only to Bethlehem Catholic.
Junior Mike Racciato won a state title and is continued to be ranked No. 2 in the 145-weight class.
Klepfer has been studying the field and said he knows his team will be prepared by today's first match-up against Benton at 8:30 a.m.
Brookville's road will continue with Fort LeBoeuf at 11:30 a.m.; Bigerville at 1 p.m. and Reynolds at 4 p.m. before finishing off the day against Pen Argyl at 5:30 p.m.
"We know that this is going to be a real good test for us," Klepfer said. "We're still not back to 100 percent (in terms of injuries), but once we get our lineup straightened out, we're pretty confident that we're going to be able to compete with just about anybody in AA."