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Small schools make for major action Most ranked wrestlers will battle at AA meet

Lockport's Phil Yoder has been doing the scorekeeping for wrestling tournaments in Western New York for more than 12 years. He spends the season going to most of biggest events of each weekend, wherever they may be.

This weekend, Section VI divides itself into four class tournaments, but there's no question where he'll be: Fredonia for the Class AA tournament.

"It's the toughest one of the four," Yoder said. "There's a lot more competition, a lot more excitement."

It's easy to see why.

While AA is the second-smallest class, it has the most wrestlers in this week's rankings, which are painstakingly produced by the Wrestling Review of Western New York. Among the 90 ranked wrestlers, there are 29 from Class AA schools -- one wrestler short of claiming a third of the total.

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't great wrestling action all over Western New York this weekend, specifically at Clarence (the largest class, AAAA), Starpoint (AAA) and Frewsburg (A).

*Class AAAA could be called the Lancaster/Niagara-Wheatfield Showcase. Wheatfield, coming off its large school championship win Saturday, has five wrestlers ranked and is ranked first in Western New York. No. 2 Lancaster has six ranked wrestlers.

The little guys aren't so little: Class A has 20 ranked wrestlers, including three from Ripley, the smallest athletic program in Western New York.

*Class AAA might have the fewest wrestlers ranked with 16, but five of them are No. 1 -- tying AA for the most top-ranked wrestlers. Since AAA has the fewest schools with 13 (AA has 18, A 17 and AAAA 14), they can boast the highest percentage of No. 1s.

But this week isn't so much about the top-ranked No. 1s, as it is about the depth in each class. The four semifinalists from this weekend's tournaments will move on to the Section VI championships on Feb. 20-21.

It's certainly possible that some wrestlers will move up in weight class for this weekend. There could be additional shuffling this year, which is the first in which teams can have multiple entrants in the same weight class. Teammates could earn additional points for their teams in the team-scoring portion of the event, but they could also run into each other at some points.

Here's a quick look at some of the deepest brackets this weekend at all four sites:

*AA -- 112: The favorite is certainly Kyle McGregor of Tonawanda, but making the semifinals here will be a tough task with Dave Ciaramella (Newfane), Tom Conti (Fredonia) and Matt McCauley (Roy-Hart) as well as Zach Marra (Olean).

*AA -- 135: Another deep class includes No. 2 Alex Lacen of Fredonia, honorable mentions Phil Czapla (East Aurora), Zach Nelson (Southwestern), Derek Geiger (Medina) and possibly Ryan Baer (Depew).

*AAA -- 125: Arguably the deepest bracket of this tournament has No. 1 Jared Messina (Cheektowaga), No. 3 Matt Callari (Williamsville East) and Joe Kalinka (Iroquois).

*AAAA -- 189: The rankings were unsettled last week when former No. 1 and now-No. 3 Ken Hamilton of Niagara Falls was upset at the large school championships but perhaps he'll get another shot at Chris Wiseman of Niagara-Wheatfield. Dana Kapuscinski (Jamestown) and Keith Stoerr (Lancaster) should also make an impact.

*AAAA -- 215: There are several more big boys ranked here, although it remains to be seen if any top 215-pounders go up to heavyweight. The rankings have Matt Johnson of Niagara Falls a clear favorite among the AAAA bracket, with Dan Kubiak of Lancaster, James Skura of Clarence at honorable mention and Ed Coyle of Niagara-Wheatfield coming off a title at the large school meet.

*AA -- 96: Here's evidence that the talent is spread throughout Western New York. The only potential Nos. 1-vs.-2 matchup would result in a highly anticipated matchup of defending Section VI champion and Fredonia senior Carlene Sluberski against Eden freshman Tom Page -- the two haven't yet met this season.

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Catholic states

Wrestling fans' big weekend doesn't end with the class tournaments.

St. Francis hosts some of the best wrestlers in the state in the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championships on Sunday and Monday (President's Day). The event, which starts at 10 a.m. both days, will determine the NYSCHSAA's representatives in the state championships Feb. 27-28 in Albany.

On the Web

So which classification is best? Which teams will prevail this weekend? Who is ready to start a Cinderella story to sectionals? Pick top or bottom at the Prep Talk blog (buffalonews.com/highschools).

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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