High school wrestling practice officially begins today in Pennsylvania.
Here are five topics generating a preseason buzz in Centre County and beyond:
1. New weights
Make flash cards. Stare at them. The National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations approved weight classification changes last spring.
Here are numbers that might lead to some early-season confusion: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, 285.
2. Lack of big bodies
The NFHS’s move might make immediate life difficult for some Centre County teams.
The county produced just three state qualifiers above 160 pounds during 2010-11 and two graduated last summer. Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola and State College might boast one or two quality wrestlers from 182-285. But finding four proven upperweights might be a challenge for the quartet.
BEA, on the other hand, has a strong stable of upperweights, with state qualifier Jake Taylor and regional qualifiers Nate Sharkey and Aaron Varner returning.
3. Seeking his fourth
Tom Traxler has a chance to become Bellefonte’s first four-time state placewinner.
Traxler placed sixth in ‘09, fifth in ‘10 and sixth in ‘11. He wrestled at 112 as a freshman and sophomore and 119 last year. Expect him to compete anywhere from 120-132.
Juniors Cody Wiercioch and Zain Retherford, a pair of 2010 PIAA Class AA champions, participated in PIAA hearings regarding transfers Wednesday.
The PIAA reversed a District 7 decision, meaning Wiercioch, who started his career at Charleroi, can wrestle for Canon-McMillan this season. The decision turns Canon-McMillan into a heavy Class AAA favorite.
The PIAA flipped Retherford’s case back to District 4. The District 4 committee ruled Retherford ineligible earlier this fall. Retherford transferred from Line Mountain to Benton, where he’s allowed to practice as he waits his 2011-12 fate.
Centre County has seen its share of high-profile transfers. But nobody of Wiercioch and Retherford’s ability has moved into the county this season.
5. Influx of talent
BEA, Bellefonte and Philipsburg-Osceola are expected to receive instant help from strong junior high teams.
The Red Raiders already strong stable of lightweights might be boosted by freshmen Luke Leathers, Trevor Corl and Nathan Rosenberger, a trio of Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state qualifiers.