By JAMIE BAKER
Time for area wrestlers to strap on the headgear real tight.
Most of the area’s teams will be competing in the biggest tournaments of the year this weekend as Findlay will head to Oregon Clay for the Maumee Bay Classic and the 36th annual Van Buren Invitational both kick off on Friday.
Findlay High School’s wrestling team will face its toughest test this season at Clay.
After struggling on the opening day of the tournament last season, coach Ben Kirian’s team rebounded nicely and had seven wrestlers earn top-eight finishes on its way to an eighth-place team showing in the 26-team tournament.
Marcus Molina is the team’s top returning place finisher as he was fourth at 220 pounds. Marcus Winklejohn, Justin Jolliff and Jimmy Staschiak are also returning tournament placers for the Trojans.
Clay has upgraded this year’s tournament, though, by adding 10 more teams to the event. There will be more than 35 returning state placers scheduled to compete.
Defending champion Oregon Clay is the favorite but the Eagles. Delta is the team most likely to challenge the host Eagles.
Action is set to begin at 11 a.m. Friday and will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with the finals set for 6 p.m.
Admission is $8 per session or $20 for an all-session pass.
A little closer to home, it will be the biggest field of teams ever when the Van Buren Invitational gets underway at 5 p.m. Friday.
There will be 26 teams in this year’s event with the addition of Eastwood and longtime participants Fostoria St. Wendelin and North Baltimore returning to the tournament.
Wayne Trace will be back to defend its VBI title after edging Carey for the team crown last season.
The Raiders will be one of the teams to beat once again with a pair of returning champs in George Clemens and Tyler Showalter. Look for strong team performances from Carey and Riverdale, second and third respectively at last year’s VBI, and Otsego.
Liberty-Benton Tyler Sarreshteh is the lone are returning champ. The other wrestler in the field trying to make it back-to-back crowns is Fremont St. Joseph’s Corey Durbin who has had an impressive season in the 285-pound weight class.
The first and second round championship matches will be conducted Friday at 5 p.m. along with the consolation round rattail matches.
Wrestling will resume Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with the first consolation round followed by the semifinals. The finals matches should get underway at approximately 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Van Buren Invitational
TEAMS COMPETING — Allen East, Arcadia, Bluffton, Carey, Columbus Grove, Cory-Rawson, Delphos Jefferson, Eastwood, Elmwood, Fostoria, Gibsonburg, Hopewell-Loudon, Lakota, Liberty-Benton, Lincolnview, McComb, North Baltimore, Otsego, Ottawa-Glandorf, Riverdale, Fremont St. Joseph, Fostoria St. Wendelin, Seneca East, Swanton, Van Buren, Wayne Trace.
Maumee Bay Classic
TEAMS COMPETING — Findlay, Oregon Clay, Anthony Wayne, Avon Lake, Lima Bath, Cardinal Stritch, Toledo Whitmer, Bowling Green, Lyndhurst Brush, Grove City Central Crossing, Tiffin Columbian, Defiance, Delta, Fremont Ross, Grove City, Indian Lake, Liberty Center, Lorain, Mansfield Madison, Maumee, Mount Vernon, Mayfield, Dayton Northridge, Northwood, Oak Harbor, Perry, Perrysburg, Sandusky, Lima Shawnee, Springfield, Amherst Steele, Sylvania Northview, Sylvania Southview, Versailles, Massillon Washington, Wauseon.