Normally, the WPIAL Section Wrestling Tournaments have all the drama of an infomercial.
The top five wrestlers in each weight class, which can reach as high as 12 but are typically seven or eight, advance out of Saturday’s one-day events to the WPIAL Class AAA Championship.
But dig a little and it’s possible to find some matchups that are as important for their seeding criteria as they are for extending a rivalry.
The expected 106-pound final of Trinity senior Tristan Buxton and McGuffey sophomore Gage Nicolella in the Section 4 Tournament is one of them.
Buxton is the top seed at 106 with a 23-10 record, and Nicolella is the No. 2 seed with an 18-6 record. If the two meet in the finals at Moon, which begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, it will be their fifth bout in the past two seasons. Nicolella holds a 3-1 edge.
“We’re friends, but there is a rivalry between us,” said Nicolella, who was a section runner-up last season and went 1-2 in the WPIALs. “I expect to see him in the finals.”
Buxton arguably has the easier route. He wrestles the winner of the pigtail bout between Justin Celento, a freshman from Canon-McMillan with a 2-4 record; and Dave Yurchak, a freshman from Chartiers Valley with a 5-9 mark.
Nicolella opens with a bout against Anthony Rosato, a freshman from Hopewell who is 14-11.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Buxton. “I didn’t like the way it ended the last time, and I’m sure he didn’t like the way it ended the first time (we wrestled this year).”
Nicolella pinned Buxton in 3:09 in the finals of the Tri-CADA Tournament last month, gaining revenge from Buxton pinning him in 5:57 in a December dual meet. Last year, Nicolella swept Buxton with a 4-1 decision at the Tri-CADA Tournament and a pin in 3:54 in a regular season dual meet.
“I’ve been to camps with him and know him pretty well,” Buxton said. “We’re friends, but you have to put that all behind you on the mat and wrestle your match.”
Nicolella said he is tring to be more aggressive this season.
“I’m figuring out how to control my match,” he said. “I think I’ve imporved a lot from my freshman season. I’ve gotten better on my feet and from the bottom.”
Buxton and teammate Mike Kolosky had been flip-flopping between 106 and 113 all year but the two never wrestled off for the weight because Kolosky had his season ended by illness.
Canon-McMillan had six top seeds in Brendan Price at 113, Matt Oblock at 120, Dalton Macri at 126, Josiah Hritsko at 132, Malachi Krenzelak at 138, and defending state champion Solomon Chishko at 145. Krenzelak’s drop to 138 was a surprise, considering he has not wrestled at the weight all season.
The other sites for the tournaments are Gateway for Section 1, Baldwin for Section 2 and Fox Chapel for Section 3.
The WPIAL Class AAA Championships begin next Thursday at Canon-McMillan.