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."