Even before Montoursville knocked off defending District 4 Duals champion Benton on Monday night, this tournament, which is the beginning of the wrestling postseason, was shaping up to be one of the most wide open Class AA district tournaments since the it began more than 10 years ago.
There's no reason not to believe that either of the top six seeds in the tournament could walk out of The Jungle in Milton on Saturday as a district champion. And you definitely can't even count out 15th-seeded Milton with its balanced lineup. Just look at how this season has played out.
Top seed Towanda beat No. 6 Wyalusing, who beat Milton. No. 2 seed Central Columbia handed Towanda its only loss of the season, but was also beaten by No. 3 Muncy who still hadn't put together its full lineup. And maybe the biggest sleeper in the tournament, the team nobody is talking about, is No. 4 seed Mifflinburg. The Wildcats' lone loss came to Class AAA favorite Shikellamy, and they hold wins over district dual qualifiers Danville, Jersey Shore, Warrior Run and Lewisburg.
There's never a doubt the Saturday for the District 4 Duals is one of the best wrestling weekends every season. The four quarterfinal matches provide a seemingly endless supply of excitement and fantastic individual matchups.
We're going to break down the eight first-round matches to be wrestled either tonight, or Thursday, depending on the weather, and eventually tell you who we feel will be punching their ticket to Hershey when the dust settles. And keep in mind, with the expanded PIAA Tournament this year, both the Class AA champion and runner-up advance directly to Hershey for Thursday's first round.
No. 17 Montoursville at No. 1 Towanda
This matchup is chock full of fantastic wrestlers who are going to litter both the district and regional brackets in just a few short weeks. On the surface it doesn't seem like a Montoursville team that had to win Monday's pigtail match just to get into the 16-team field could battle with a one-loss Towanda team looking for the 700th dual meet win in school history. But the Warriors have the ability to match up some of their best wrestlers mainly David Batkowski and Luke Frey against some of Towanda's best, and in this case I think the Warriors' grapplers are a little better. It'll be interesting to see how the Black Knights shuffle their wrestlers from 171 through 215 pounds, because there may be bonus points to be had. Don't be surprised if this match is a lot closer than the seeds might be.
Prediction: Towanda 38, Montoursville 34.
No. 9 Lewisburg at No. 8 Troy
Green Dragons head coach Jim Snyder didn't hesitate to say that his team was beat up and tired following last week's rivalry win over Milton. Lewisburg has wrestled all 20 of its matches since Jan. 4, when most of the team returned following the football team's run to the Class AA East Final. And not only have they been competing, but the Green Dragons have also been holding practice on match nights just to make sure the kids are going to be conditioned properly for the end of the season. So wrestling just one match through the course of this week could leave them well-rested and as a tough out in this tournament.
Prediction: Lewisburg 41, Troy 31.
No. 12 Hughesville at No. 5 Line Mountain
This might be the biggest upset ripe for the picking in the tournament. And after all, the 5/12 matchup in the NCAA basketball tournament every year is the most common upset to occur. The Eagles already feature two of the district's top wrestlers in returning state champion Zain Retherford and state qualifier Adam Kritzer. But others like Seth Lansberry and Mason Zimmerman need to help Line Mountain build a lead before getting to the upper weights where Hughesville is tough to beat at 189, 215 and 285 pounds. There's so many intriguing toss-ups in this match that it may be the best one for the viewing audience of all the first-round matches.
Prediction: Line Mountain 35, Hughesville 30.
No. 13 Warrior Run at No. 4 Mifflinburg
Warrior Run got into the tournament by going 5-0 at the East Juniata Duals on Saturday, beating Danville for the tournament championship. The problem for the Defenders is that Mifflinburg has the ability to match up with their strength in the lower weights, and the ability to deliver a knockout blow up top. Mifflinburg is quietly the darkhorse in this tournament because their balance through the lineup doesn't leave too many holes to exploit.
Prediction: Mifflinburg 44, Warrior Run 27.
No. 14 Danville at No. 3 Muncy
Even though they're the third seed, Muncy may come in as the favorite as the returning district runner-up. The big question surrounding the Indians is the health of 130-pounder Heath Strickland. He missed the beginning of the season recovering from a knee injury and didn't wrestle until Jan. 7 in Easton. He went 4-1 in the time he was back and hasn't wrestled since Jan. 13. The long-term goals of the Indians could be affected with his absence, but the short-term tonight shouldn't be.
Prediction: Muncy 52, Danville 25.
No. 11 North Penn at No. 6 Wyalusing
In its first year of having a program that has combined Mansfield, North Penn and Liberty, the Panthers have done one of the most important things in wrestling by filling a lineup. Nathan and Tyler Stettler are the key cogs for the lineup, but Tyler runs into a tough matchup with Mike Cobb from Wyalusing at 171 pounds. Wyalusing has been considered one of the top four teams in the district this year and holds a 55-15 win over the Panthers from mid-December. It's safe to say you may be able to expect the same tonight.
Prediction: Wyalusing 57, North Penn 15.
No. 10 Sullivan County at No. 7 Canton
It's only taken first-year head coach Bob Hembury one year to put Sullivan County into the District 4 Duals since replacing long-time coach Hal Stockdill, and Hembury's built one of the top lightweight lineups in District 4. Freshman Shawn Nitcznski has been ranked in the top 10 in the state all season and a potential matchup with him and Canton's Daniel Killian alone should be worth the price of admission. Where Canton is going to get its biggest boost is in the upper weights where they have wrestlers like Codie Ross and Kaleb Route who are capable of getting six points each time out.
Prediction: Canton 46, Sullivan County 28.
No. 15 Milton at No. 2 Central Columbia
This may be the most intriguing matchup because of the situation facing the Blue Jays. Central Columbia will be without the services of returning state qualifier Ben Emmett, who received a flagrant misconduct against Lewisburg last week and has to sit out one match. That match was supposed to be a non-league match against Muncy on Tuesday night, but that match was postponed because of the weather. What the Blue Jays do with their lineup from 145 to 160 pounds will be key. They could keep Herbie Shannon at 145, move Kurt Meske to 152 and find a replacement for 160. Or they can keep Meske at 160, depending on whether the Central coaches prefer to match him up with Ryan Preisch or Pat Shaw. The most important matches will be at 103 and 112 pounds where bonus points will be huge.
Prediction: Central Columbia 35, Milton 28.
Quarterfinal Predictions:?Towanda over Lewisburg; Line Mountain over Mifflinburg; Muncy over Wyalusing; Central Columbia over Canton
Semifinal Predictions:?Towanda over Line Mountain; Muncy over Central Columbia
Finals Prediction:?Muncy over Towanda