WHO WILL WEAR THE CROWN? Multiple area schools roll through the area for King Of The Mountain

Johnathan Shreffler (left) takes on Peyton Smay of Clearfield High School at the Top Hat Tournament in Williamsport. The Lock Haven Express will have exclusive coverage of the entire King Of The Mountain Tournament. (FOR THE EXPRESS/FILE PHOTO)

MILL HALL — In a tournament that has produced many surprises over the years, one thing will be certain as the 2016 King of the Mountain wrestling tournament unfolds this weekend at Central Mountain High School.

The certainty is that there will be a “new” tournament champion crowned as 2015 titlist Bethlehem Catholic is not in the field this time around.

Although Becahi and third-place Nazareth will be among the missing, no less than seven of the top ten finishers from one year ago will return, led by runner-up Boyertown.

Some of the teams joining the Bears with hopes of taking home the crown this time around after a strong tournament finish last year will be Council Rock South (4th), Exeter Township (5th), Huntingdon (6th), Greater Latrobe (7th), Mifflin County (8th) and Owen J. Roberts (10th).

Individually, headlining the returners will be three defending state champions in Penn Trafford’s Cameron Coy (145-AAA), Huntingdon’s Jacob Oliver (170-AA) and Bishop McDevitt’s Cole Nye (220). Coy won his 2015 KOM title at 145, Oliver finished as the runner-up to Becahi’s Mikey Labriola at 170 and Nye wound up as the bronze medalist with his third-place win over Owen J. Roberts’ Conner Mitchell at 220.

Locally, the Express coverage area will be represented by two teams as the Central Mountain Wildcats and Bellefonte Red Raiders will both be in the 2016 field.

The Wildcats are coming off a solid performance that won for them the team title in the 2016 Tom Best Memorial Tournament last weekend.     In that tournament, the Wildcats came away with a dozen place-winners, including champion Geo Barzona who won the title at 120.

Also making the place-winner chart for CM were Seth Andrus, second at 126; Tanner Weaver, third at 170; Cody Coleman, fourth at 113; Asher Corl, fifth at 152; Caleb Turner, fifth at 182, Mahlik Houtz, fifth at 220; and Richard Thompson, fifth at 285.

Rounding out the CM placers were Logan Long, sixth at 138; Jonathan Shreffler, seventh at 106; Colton Weaver, eighth at 145 and Brandon Miller, eighth at 160.

“Winning the Top Hat was a goal the team was able to achieve with a very balanced effort with the 12 place winners,” said CM head coach Biff Walizer. “On the flip side, some individuals know they could have placed higher in their respective weight classes.”

In last year’s KOM tournament, the only Wildcat place-winner who returns is Barzona, fifth at 113 one year ago.

“We only have one returning place winner from last season’s KOM,” said Walizer. “We are going to need an improved effort from everyone in order to finish in a respectful position as a team this coming weekend. This is the last shot for our seniors to get themselves on the KOM podium. Up to this point, Geo is the only one of our five senior starters to crack the top 8. Getting on the podium would be a great accomplishment for them to be able to look back on.”

Bellefonte opens its season with participation in the KOM, a rough way to get things untracked for coach Mike Maney and his troops. However, having been there and done that before, Maney knows what he and his matmen can expect.

“Each year the KOM is one of the toughest tournaments in the state,” said Maney. “For us, it is one of our first competitions of the season so it gives us a quick test of where the wrestlers stand early in the season. We always leave the tournament with plenty to work on which is one of the reasons why we go to the tournament. We want to seek out the best competition because it will only help us to better prepare for the post-season.”

Leading the Red Raiders into the 2016-17 season are a pair of state qualifiers form one year ago in Brock Port and Chase Gardner. Port is a two-time PIAA place-winner at the state level.

In addition to Gardner and Port, other Raider lettermen back for another season are Cole Stewart, Cam Copollo, Lukas McClure, Brien McChesney, Max Mondy and Sean Irvin.

Port and Gardner were both place-finishers in last year’s KOM tournament, Port finishing second to eventual PIAA state champion Coy, while Gardner wound up eighth, dropping his consi final bout to Sean Kalmeyer of North Allegheny.

Working with a lineup that features veterans and young guys sprinkled throughout, Maney know what his troops are going to have to do to be successful in this year’s event.

“For our very young team, they cannot focus on seeds, names, etc..” said Maney.  “They have to believe they can compete with anyone on any day. If they wrestle with confidence, I think they can surprise some people. For some of our older guys, like Brock Port and Chase Gardner, they have placed here before. They need to know people will be trying to knock them off so they will need to be focused and ready to go each match. We want our guys to compete and fight every match and wrestle aggressively. If we can do this throughout the tournament, we should have a successful tournament.”

Tournament Time Table

Friday, December 16

2:00-5:15: Preliminary Championship Round I and Consolation Round I.

5:30-8:45: Preliminary Championship Round II and Consolation Round II.

9:00-10:00: Consolation Round III

Saturday, December 17

10:00-11:30: Championship Quarterfinals.

11:45-1:00: Consolation Round IV.

1:30-3:00: Championship Semifinals and Consolation Round V.

3:15-4:15: Consolation Round VI

4:30 p.m.: Parade of Champions

4:45-7:45: Place Matches for first, third, fifth and seventh place.