Individual titles in 14 different weight classes are on the line Saturday at the Catawba Valley 2A and Northwestern 3A/4A wrestling tournaments.
The CVAC tournament takes place Saturday at 9 a.m. at East Burke High School, while the NWC tournament is at Alexander Central High School at 10 a.m.
Defending CVAC regular season and tournament champion Newton-Conover returns four champions from last year’s tournament, including Ian Canrobert (41-2), Coleman Carter (31-8), Addison Klutz (38-4) and Tyler Benfield (39-3).
Last season, the Red Devils won eight of the 14 individual weight classes and garnered two runner-up finishes on their way to scoring 232 points, enough to claim the CVAC team championship.
“We approach the CVAC tournament as the first step into the postseason,” said N-C coach Eddy Clark. “Our kids have worked hard and are excited about being able to compete in the tournament.”
Bandys finished second last season, 51 points behind the Red Devils.
“Our guys have been working hard,” said Bandys coach Sean McIntosh. “I’ve got some individuals that aren’t all-conference yet, but if they win the tournament, they can be all-conference wrestlers. I feel like we can have a few champions this weekend, have a few placers and give Newton-Conover a run for its money.”
Bunker Hill came in third place in 2011. Coach Jake Kittrell said his team is anxious to compete.
“We really do have a tough conference,” he said. “It is always exciting to go up against some of the best competition in the state. Our team is young, and we have no returning state qualifiers, so it will be a great test to see how my wrestlers stack up against tough competition.”
Fifth in the tournament last season, Maiden made a run this season at second place in the CVAC.
A strong run Saturday could propel the team into the postseason.
“We still have a lot of stuff on the table for our season,” said Blue Devils coach Sean McGovern. “We accomplished what we wanted to with our team goals. We got our best conference finish. Individually, we have a lot on the board. We left that for this week. That’s what this week will be for them.”
In the Northwestern conference, Fred T. Foard and St. Stephens are favored.
Foard edged St. Stephens 206.5-158.5 last season to earn its second-straight NWC tournament title.
A number of Tigers in the finals last year return, including champion Hayden Albert (34-0) and runners-up Caleb Griffin (33-3) and Zach Edwards (33-4).
Combine that with consolation finals participants Michael Vincent (33-7), Ben Pitts (28-9) and Jeremy Fredell (34-4), and the Tigers are poised to repeat.
“We just want to use this as a spring board going into the duals,” said Foard coach Mike Carey. “We want to get healthy since we have several kids that are beat up. So our line-up may not be what it normally is. We need to get some kids some wins so they can get some confidence. We will start the duals with one of the better teams in the state in Enka, so we need to feel good mentally and physically if we want to advance.”
The Indians, however, can’t be counted out.
Individual champion Blake Rogers (20-4) returns for St. Stephens, along with runner-up Ian Martin (42-2), consolation champions Bradley Bader (27-3) and Dale Huffman (38-7) and consolation runner-up Zach Fincannon (30-11).
“I enjoy the conference tournament because it gives kids an opportunity to compete for an individual championship while trying to win as a team,” said Indians coach Billy Baker. “ I feel like we have several kids that have the potential to win the tournament and several others with a lot to prove. I feel like Fred T. Foard is the obvious favorite and several teams will be in a dogfight for second place.”