Step 1 has been completed for Franklin County's wrestlers, and 17 have passed the first test.
Those 17 now enter the rigorous challenge known as the District 3 Class AAA Championships, with the top wrestlers hoping for at least a state tournament berth and at best a district title.
Of those 17, four are returning place winners - including defending champions Garrett Kyner of Chambersburg and Chandler Olson of Shippensburg - and three others have district experience.
The tournament, at Hersheypark Arena, begins at 3:15 p.m. Friday with the preliminary round, followed by quarterfinals. The semifinals begin at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, with the championship round set to begin at 2:15. The top four place winners at each weight earn advancement to the PIAA Championships, which is March 10-12.
Chambersburg has eight wrestlers in the tournament, Waynesboro advanced six and Shippensburg has three. This year's group has a challenge - a year ago, five county wrestlers reached the finals, which was the most ever.
Kyner (30-5), a senior coming off his fourth consecutive sectional title, has moved up to 138 after winning at 132 last year. He appears to be on the easier side of the bracket, while the favorite on the top half, Owen Wherley of South Western (29-2) - who lost in the 126 final to Ship's Olson last year - could have some stiffer competition.
Olson will face a big challenge if he wants to defend his 126-pound crown. The Greyhound junior (31-1) could see a tough out in the semifinals in Aaron Wildonger of Twin Valley(30-3), and the other finalist is likely to be Central Dauphin's Tyshawn White (42-0), ranked No. 1 in the state. Olson is ranked No. 6 and Wildonger is 18th.
Chambersburg junior Drew Peck (30-4) took a silver medal last year at 170, falling 7-0 to graduated Jared Siegrist of Manheim Central in the final. He could see Cedar Cliff's Josh Colello (31-1) in the final this time and that would be a matchup fans would want to see - Colello is No. 3 in the state and Peck No. 5. Colello edged James Buchanan's Casey Glunt 7-6 in the final a year ago.
The other returning place winner from last year is the Trojans' Aaron Rump at 126 - he took fifth at 113 last year. But he got a rugged draw, to say the least. No. 12-ranked Rump (29-8) takes on James Harkness of Exeter Township (34-9) in his opener and the winner is likely to hit CD's White in the quarterfinals.
One other local with high expectations is Shippensburg 220-pounder Cameron Tinner, who has put together a 29-0 record as a junior. He was 0-2 at 170 last year at districts, but is now ranked No. 8 in the state and is the favorite in District 3. This could be a turbulent weight class, but Daniel Bone's Jesse Enck (31-2) appears to be a potential finalist, too.
Chambersburg's Colin Runshaw (21-15 at 152) and Cody Frey of Waynesboro (25-10 at 145) also have district experience - both were 1-2 last year.
Runshaw's younger brothers, freshmen Seth and Spencer, also qualified. Spencer (26-7) was a section champ at 113 and Seth (26-11) was third at 106.
District 3-AAA Wrestling
Where: Hersheypark Arena
When: Friday, 3:15 p.m. ... Saturday, 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
At stake: Top 4 wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the PIAA Tournament.
Cost: Friday - $8 adults, $6 students (for all day); Saturday - $10 adults, $8 for students.