The Washington Metropolitan Athletic Conference has provided some of the top area wrestling confrontations in recent years, and this winter, balance is the theme again among Metro teams.
Much may not change in the Interstate Athletic Conference either, but that league's wrestling story has been one of domination by Bullis, which again features some of the top area talent including 182-pound national champion Charles Lee.
"The wrestling in the (Metro) conference has come a long way over the last five years," said O'Connell Coach Bill Carpenter.
"The championship is going to be won by a match win or a single pin," said Gonzaga Coach Ken Laureys of the WMAC.
A closer look at the WMAC:
DeMatha's top returnees are twins Kirk and Karl Tamai, at 105 and 112 pounds, respectively.
Last season, Kirk was the national prep champion at 95 pounds and Karl placed third at 102 at the National Prep tournament at Lehigh University, where more than 90 private schools participated.
"I think the league will be wide open . . . ," said DeMatha Coach Dick Messiur. "There isn't a real powerhouse team in the conference, but Good Counsel and O'Connell will probably have a little edge."
Other returnees include Billy Smith (167), who was third in the WMAC tournament, Damon Boyle (145), Greg Domagauer (119) and Dave Slomkowski (126).
At Carroll, there is a new coach in Rich Lane and an inexperienced squad.
"This will be a rebuilding year for us . . . . I am virtually starting the program over," said Lane.
Carroll's top wrestlers are Marty Gooden (128), Matt Alexander (98), Mike Knaly (185) and Shaun Gunther (heavyweight).
Alexander and Gunther won individual titles Saturday as Carroll finished third at the St. Anselms tournament.
"Overall we are missing a couple of spots, but we should perform well in the tournaments. We probably won't do too well in our dual meets," Lane said.
At Gongaza, Laureys is looking for a payoff this season with a veteran team returning. Gonzaga finished second to Model in the St. Anselms tournament despite producing four individual champions.
"This is the fourth year of our program most of the kids who began as freshmen are now seniors. We have accomplished a lot over the past four years and this year we want to win the conference championship," he said.
Senior tri-captains Robert Piacesi (105), third in WMAC and sixth in the St. Alban's tournament, John Swope (138) and David Caulfield (155) lead the team which was 9-5 overall and 3-3 in the league. All three won titles this weekend, as did Mike DeLorenzo at 167.
Two others expected to do well this season are James Olivero (132), third in WMAC and sixth in St. Albans tournament, and Kevin Douglas (185).
"Our big matches will be against O'Connell, DeMatha and Carroll," said Laureys. "If we can do well in these matches, then we can win the conference."
McNamara will rely on hard work and steady improvement to defend the conference championship it won last year.
Coach Geary FitzPatrick agrees. "We lost a lot of good wrestlers last year, and this year's team is young," he said. "But we are working very hard in practice and we want to steadily improve with each match."
The Mustangs will be led by heavyweight Joe Hall, second in the national tournament.
"Joe is a good athlete, who knows a lot of moves. He is going to have some tough matches this season. He is one of the finest heavyweights I've seen," said FitzPatrick.
Top returning seniors are 145-pound David Hammett, who was second in WMAC and fifth at the St. Alban's tournament, and Tom Gleason (138). McNamara will sorely miss senior Brendon Cross at 132. Cross will be out most of the season with a broken ankle. Junior Mike Kaufman (119) is another top returning prospect.
O'Connell, last season's second-place team, will attempt to regain the conference championship it won in 1982-83 with a good nucleus of wrestlers coming back.
Among those returns are Dennis O'Brien (167), the WMAC champion at 155 pounds; Bill Garvie (119), third at the St. Albans tournament; and Drew Garvie (112).
Unfortunately, the team will initially be without last year's WMAC champion, Chris Andres (132), who has a broken leg and may be out until January. "We will miss Chris, but we are hoping he can be back around tournament time," said Coach Bill Carpenter.
"We lost to McNamara last year by one point, which eliminated our chances of winning the conference . . . I feel we'll be very competitive," he said.
Good Counsel will attempt to contend with its depth.
"I think we have a legitimate shot at the title this year, with 10 lettermen back from last year's sqaud," said Coach Pat Bates.
Returning will be senior tri-captains Mark Bruno (132), George Gomez (112) and Mike Reyes (155), with junior Billy Burns (126) adding to the team's chance of winning the conference championship.
St. John's has suspended wrestling for lack of interest.
"We lost several wrestlers who transferred to other schools, and others graduated," said Coach Mike DeSarno.
"It would be difficult to wrestle with the remaining members on the team, mostly freshmen, therefore, it was decided to abandon this year's team. We hope to reinstate the team next season," he said.
In the IAC, the premier team the last few years has been Bullis, which has captured four consecutive league championship along with three consecutive titles in the St. Albans tournament.
Bullis will have six returning champions, including Lee, who won a national title and the St. Albans tournament championship as he compiled a 38-1 record.
Other returning champions are: Jim Chang (105), Ricky Glasby (155), Brian Burkett (119), John Hollard (126) and Ricky Grapes (167).
Episcopal has eight returning lettermen with first-year Coach Charles Skipper.
Team members include Chris Jordan (119), Steve Cook (98), Ken Kam (126), Alec Bocock (132) and Anthony Palmer(155).
Last year, Georgetown Prep often did not have enough wrestlers for a complete team.
This season, first-year Coach Jeff Trees had more than 40 wrestlers try out.
Prep's top hopes will be Bill Borot (138), Lauren Chen and Brenden Wells at 145, and Pat Maher and Mike McCaughey at 155. Newcomers include Tom Gerth (98) and George Gancayco (119).
Landon Coach Todd Andsley begins this season with three primary goals for his freshman oriented team -- to place wrestlers in the IAC finals, the St. Albans tournament and finish third or higher in the league.
Top returning wrestlers are Rob Bedell (112), Stuart Hough (145), Tony Fuller (167) and heavyweight Gordon Ginnings.
Fuller, who last year finished third at the IAC and sixth at St. Albans at 167, will be at 155 this year.
Sidwell Friends' first-year coach, Lou Heberer, will rely on seniors John Click (126), Chris DeLong (145) and David Andrews (155).
DeLong and Andrews finished third last year at the IAC tournament.
St. Albans Coach Bob Andreoi will attempt to shuffle his lineup to take advantage of what he feels is a low point in the league.
Available to shuffle are Andrew Snowden (105) and Adam Pincus (138), second- and fifth-place finishers at the nationals.
Other key wrestlers are Charlie Martin (145), Alan Karas (155) and heavyweight Bill Keys.
St. Stephen's, which last year finished as Virginia state prep champion with a 16-4 record, will be rebuilding after losing seven top wrestlers to graduation.
Returning from last year's IAC second-place team are junior co-captain Mel Sadelski (112), the Virginia state champion with a 27-9 record.
Also back are Thompson Ball (119), who was sixth in the nationals, Andy Bucholz (132), David McKean (138), and Mundy Carter (176).