CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the latest wvmat.com Class AAA prep wrestling rankings released on Wednesday, Winfield made its debut in the poll, entering into a three-way tie for eighth with Ripley and Buckhannon-Upshur.But for the teams that will be appearing at the 44th Pat Vance Invitational today and Saturday at Nitro High School, the Generals were already wearing a bull's-eye.That's because Winfield bested a field of 14 teams last year to win the event with seven Generals making appearances in championship matches."It's kind of a unique situation, coming in as the defending champs," Winfield coach Mike Cochran said. "It will be good competition against a lot of local teams. We haven't wrestled any of the teams in this tournament except for St. Albans."
It will be the fourth meet for the Generals after appearing at Hurricane's Mike Ellis Invitational as well as at matches at John Marshall and Musselman.But for most of the teams in the 17-squad field this weekend, it will provide by far the best opportunity to match up against teams from around the area.Joining Winfield, the host Wildcats, and the Red Dragons from the Kanawha Valley will be Buffalo, Capital, Herbert Hoover, Hurricane, Poca, Riverside, Sissonville and South Charleston. Clay County, Johnson Central (Ky.), Liberty Harrison, Morgantown, Roanoke Catholic (Va.), and Wahama will complete the field.Wrestling will begin at 5:30 p.m. today and will pick back up again at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with championship matches tentatively scheduled for between 4:30-6 p.m.Nitro coach David Skeens, who identified Winfield as the favorite this year as well, said fans can expect tough competition across the board."This is going to be really tough," Skeens said. "There's a lot of tough weight classes coming in and a good core of every weight class is solid wrestling."[Winfield] has great numbers and Johnson Central seems to be loaded with some good kids out of Kentucky. Morgantown could also be a top contender." The Wildcats will boast the No. 1-seeded grappler at 220 pounds in Hunter Skeens, although he could face a tough test in Herbert Hoover's No. 2-seeded Zane Weese, who finished as the state runner-up last year and is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AA-A according to wvmat.com. The two are a combined 35-0 on the season.If those two wind up meeting in the finals it would make for quite a showdown, but they're far from the only headliners in the field.The Generals' Bryce Humphreys (19-0), who won a state championship in the 126-pound division last year, is ranked No. 1 in the state at 132 pounds, joining Weese as the only top-ranked West Virginia wrestlers in the field.Cochran said the junior is improving as the season wears on in his quest for another state championship.
"Bryce is doing a great job," Cochran said. "He went to the Musselman wrestling tournament and saw some tough competition up there. He beat a kid that was the state champion in Virginia, but he's got a tough weight class, even at this tournament."That's what it's about. It's nice this tournament is so close to home and is bringing some tough teams into it. Wrestling tough competition - you just get better."Herbert Hoover came in at No. 9 in the Class AA-A team poll on Wednesday, marking its second-straight appearance in the rankings.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.