Mount Mat Madness VIII gets under way at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville Friday, while the Franklin Invitational also begins today at the Reisterstown school.
Both tournaments run into Saturday night with 45 teams in the mix.
At the Franklin Invitational, the Indians head coach, Mike Slaughter, said his team hopes to make its guests uncomfortable this year for the first time in a long while.
"The last time we actually won our tournament was somewhere around 2003 or 2006," said Slaughter. "This year, we have a very young team, with four freshmen starters, but they're all doing very well and I think we have a very strong chance of being in the Top 3. A better chance than in the last five years that I've been here."
To be among the Top 3, Franklin (4-2) will have to knock off some strong challengers - undefeated and No. 6 ranked Owings Mills, who returns as the defending champion, Hereford, who placed second last year, and North Carroll, who was third and is off to a strong, 9-4, start this season.
Also in the field are City College, Perry Hall, Overlea, North Harford, Eastern Tech, Northwestern, Mount Airy Christian Academy, Western Tech, Glen Burnie, Towson, Northeast, Randallstown, Joppatowne.
The two-day tournament begins Friday with championship preliminaries at 4 p.m. on four mats, continues with championship quarterfinals at 7 p.m. and a consolation elimination round at 8:30.
Saturday the event gets going with consolation preliminaries at 9:30 a.m., followed by the championship semis and consolation quarters at 11 a.m., the consolation semis at 1:30 p.m., place matches for third and fifth at 2:30 p.m. and the championship finals at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, at MMM VIII the big boy on the local stage, has 29 teams from five states and the District of Columbia competing on six mats and will feature four Maryland wrestlers with national Top 20 rankings in their weight classes by Intermat: Centennial's Nathan Kraisser at 125; Southern Garrett's Lex Ozias at 145 and Bubba Scheffel at 171; and Good Counsel's Kyle Snyder at 215.
There are 10 teams ranked in the Top 25 in the state McDonogh (2), Georgetown Prep (3), Mount St. Joe (9), Archbishop Curley (10), Good Counsel (11), Southern-Garrett (13), John Carroll (15), Bel Air (16), Leonardtown (21) and Harford Tech (23). Five of them are also ranked in the Top 15 locally, and another Loyola is No. 11 in The Sun poll.
Eight wrestlers are returning weight-class champions, including Sussex Central's Codey Combs going for an amazing fourth straight title, while three new teams – Leonardtown, Good Counsel and David Brearley (N.J.) – bring all new challengers into the mix.
Two-time defending champion Wyoming Seminary returns, strong as always, but will feel the heat brought by always competitive St. Mark's and Maryland's Southern Garrett and McDonogh.
"The field is so deep, anything can happen," said McDonogh coach Pete Welch. "But absolutely we can win it."
Welch said the Eagles are stronger than they've been since they last won the tournament in 2008, and noted his freshman, Jack Clark is seeded No. 1 in his 130 weight class. But he also noted Clark's weight class is one of the toughest in the event.
"We've seen a lot of these teams in other tournaments and we know each class is deep," said Welch. "If some of these other teams knock off each other, who knows who will win."
Host Mount St. Joe, who finished fifth a year ago, describes itself as being in a major rebuilding year, but it still has MIAA and MIS finalist Kevin Johnson at 130, Brady Massaro, the state champion at 145, and state finalist Tyler Rill at 171.
The first session is at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday's wrestling begins at 8:30 a.m. with the championship quarterfinals and concludes at 7 p.m. with the championship finals.
Tournament chairman Neil Adleberg said organizers would appreciate fans being in their seats by 6:30 p.m., as the Marine Corps Marching Band will perform a half hour concert. Adleberg also said Raven's fans who fear missing the NFL playoff game against Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, can relax, "We do have a big screen TV," he said. "The Ravens will be on."