Altoona's T.J. Brandt has rolled into the Northwest Regional Class AAA Tournament the past two years and come up just short when he advanced to the finals, losing both times.
Brandt is coming off winning his third District 6 title, and while it's easy to look back into history and point at his two runners-up performances, there doesn't appear to be anybody at 126 pounds who could beat him in the finals.
McDowell's Nick Gibson (21-1) seems to be his most likely finals opponent, and he'll give Brandt a good test as he prepares for the PIAA Championships. Brandt, however, is wrestling dominantly right now, so I'm picking him to win in my regional predictions.
Brandt will be the only area champion.
Philipsburg-Osceola's Logan Walstrom (145) and Hollidaysburg's Laret Miller (182) should make the finals, but fall once they get there.
Walstrom will get a rematch with Bellefonte's Leo Wortman in the finals, but it won't be easy for both of them. Walstrom will have to get through DuBois' Tom Sleigh in the semis, but I'm giving the edge to the Mountie senior.
Walstrom beat Wortman in the ultimate tiebreaker earlier in the season, but he couldn't get anything going against him in the district finals. Walstrom could avenge that loss, but I'm going with Wortman.
Miller showed how much he's improved when he beat Central Mountain's Blaze Buckwalter in the semifinals. Miller had never beaten Buckwalter, and he gets a chance to do it again in the first round. Miller will have to pass a bigger test against McDowell's Khilique Harris in the semifinals, and he will.
Westmont Hilltop's Ryan Burnheimer beat Miller, 5-1, in the district finals, and the two will battle again in the finals, and Burnheimer will come out on top again.
Other area wrestlers have shots at making the finals. Altoona's freshman star D.J. Hollingshead is in a talent-laden 120-pound weight class, and Brashear's Godwin Nyama appears to be the best at the weight. A Nyama-Hollingshead bout should be very intense and interesting.
Central Mountain and McDowell will battle for the team title, with Bellefonte and DuBois having an outside shot, but I think the Wildcats will win.
This is when the picks get crazy hard, and here's the rest of them:
106 POUNDS: Finalists: Jake Gromacki, Cathedral Prep vs. Joe Wheeling, General McLane. Champion: Gromacki. Comment: Gromacki and Wheeling finished second and third in last year's tournament.
113 POUNDS: Finalists: Trevor Corl, Bellefonte vs. Anthony Vizza, DuBois. Champion: Vizza. Comment: Vizza beat Corl, 3-2, during the season.
120 POUNDS: Finalists: Tom Traxler, Bellefonte vs. Godwin Nyama, Brashear. Champion: Nyama. Comment: This is one heck of a final in this rugged weight.
126 POUNDS: Finalists: T.J. Brandt, Altoona vs. Nick Gibson, McDowell. Champion: Brandt. Comment: DuBois' Garrett Brown could stop Gibson in semifinals.
132 POUNDS: Finalists: Malcolm Harris, Johnstown vs. Levi Catalfu, Corry. Champion: Harris. Comment: Westmont's Walsh could make it through Catalfu's bracket.
138 POUNDS: Finalists: Tim Wheeling, General McLane vs. Steve Spearman, McDowell. Champion: Spearman. Comment: Spearman won a state title two years ago, but he didn't make weight for the District 10 Tournament last year.
145 POUNDS: Finalists: Leo Wortman, Bellefonte vs. Logan Walstrom, Philipsburg-Osceola. Champion: Wortman. Comment: Clearfield's Barger and DuBois' Sleigh could make it a District 9 matchup.
152 POUNDS: Finalists: Seth Spack, Punxsutawney vs. D.J. Myers, General McLane. Champion: Spack. Comment: Central Mountain's Gavlock will test the returning champ Spack in semis.
160 POUNDS: Finalists: Brian Brill, Central Mountain vs. Cody Brunst, Titusville. Champion: Brill. Comment: A bunch of guys capable of making out of bottom bracket, including P-O's Thompson and Altoona's Knode.
170 POUNDS: Finalists: Jacob Taylor, Bald Eagle Area vs. Geno Morelli, DuBois. Champion: Taylor. Comment: Morelli has a big semifinal bout against Meadville's unbeaten Towers.
182 POUNDS: Finalists: Ryan Burnheimer, Westmont Hilltop vs. Laret Miller, Hollidaysburg. Champion: Burnheimer. Comment: Miller will need to beat McDowell's Harris in semifinals.
195 POUNDS: Finalists: Nick Shawley, Bellefonte vs. Landon Hanna, DuBois. Champion: Hanna. Comment: Hanna has been a pinning machine the second half of the year.
220 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyson Searer, Mifflin County vs. Andrew Welton, Central Tech. Champion: Searer. Comment: BEA's Sharkey could bite Welton before he gets to finals.
285 POUNDS: Finalists: Josh Duplin, Westmont Hilltop vs. Garrett Poorman, Bellefonte. Champion: Duplin. Comment: Hollidaysburg's Barton will get another shot at Poorman in semis.
TEAM CHAMPION: Central Mountain. Comment: McDowell will push the Wildcats, and Bellefonte and DuBois have a shot.
PREDICTION RECORD: 37 out of 60 situations overall, 18 out of 30 situations in District 6 Class AAA last week.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter @ToddIrwin1.