HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Bryce Humphreys knows that when he takes to the mat in virtually any tournament, he's resting in the middle of somebody's bull's-eye.
That's what happens when you win a state wrestling championship at an early age - in Humphrey's case, as a sophomore last year for Winfield.
So he doesn't expect anything less than a lot of scrutiny this weekend as he competes in the 32-team WSAZ Invitational at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, one of the state's biggest regular-season events.
Humphreys, wrestling in the 132-pound weight class, got off to a good start Friday evening, earning a 20-2 victory over Mike Jones of University in his only match, which advances him to today's quarterfinal round, which begins at 9:45 a.m. The finals matches are set for 8:15 p.m.
Humphreys has already singled himself out among the local wrestling fraternity as the lone returning defending state champ from the Kanawha Valley. He and George Washington's Jake Smith, who took a Class AAA title at 160 as a senior, were the only two such performers.
Humphreys won at 126 pounds in AAA last winter to cap a 46-2 season.
"It's different now,'' said Generals coach Mike Cochran, "because everybody has that respect for him now, for the most part. But he really hasn't changed his style. He doesn't do anything different. He still works hard.
"He's got his style of doing things and he's not altering it. He works very hard in practice, and [opponents] know what's coming after them because he's got some real natural ability. One minute, it looks like oh no, he's in trouble, and the next minute he's out of it. He's got a real good mat awareness and he stays out of trouble.''
Humphreys, who is unbeaten this season in close to 30 matches, realizes the expectations he faces every match.
"It's a lot of pressure, I guess,'' he said Friday. "I just have to keep working hard - do the same things you did last year, and hopefully come out on top again.
"So far, it's been pretty good - a lot better than last year. I haven't lost yet, but it's a big tournament here.''
Humphreys has not yet faced any of the other top wrestlers at 132 in the West Virginia Coaches Association rankings, but he may today. If he downs Wahama's Randall Robie in the quarters, he gets either No. 2 Chase Childers of Huntington or No. 3 John Raike of Point Pleasant in the semifinals.
If he makes it to the finals, he could run into one of best athletes in the Class AA-A ranks, Dustin Yoakum of Greenbrier West or Dalton George of Williamstown. Yoakum is ranked first by the WVCA and George second, but George is seeded second for this tournament and Yoakum third.
One of the nuances of the WSAZs is tossing the state's top AAA and AA-A wrestlers into the same bracket, which doesn't happen a lot during the regular season.