The Doc Buchanan Invitational -- a tournament that annually serves as a virtual preview to the CIF State Wrestling Championships -- appears to have turned its already stiff level of competition up another notch.
The 35th annual event at Clovis High is set to draw 40 nationally ranked wrestlers, more than 250 Top 40 competitors from California and 22 state-ranked wrestlers from Nevada, Oregon and Colorado.
Oh, and the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary Preparatory School, also will be in the 100-team, 465-wrestler field when action begins at 9 a.m. today and continues Saturday in Clovis' two gyms. The finals -- where cowboy hats are presented as trophies to the champions -- start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Wyoming Seminary is the first powerhouse program from the East Coast to participate in the Doc Buchanan, and the Blue Knights pose a major threat to three-time defending tournament champion and nationally No. 9-ranked Clovis.
"It's really hard to get those Midwest and Eastern schools from Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania," Clovis assistant Adam Tirapelle said. "That's probably the best area in the country for wrestling. They have so much great competition right around them that they don't need to come out here. If we run a good tournament and the competition is good, hopefully they go back and tell other people about us."
The Doc Buchanan -- named after Clovis Unified's first superintendent, Floyd "Doc" Buchanan -- has developed into a best-of-the-best tournament over the past couple of seasons.
On average, about three nationally ranked and 18 of California's Top 40 wrestlers are in each of the 14 weight divisions 32-man brackets.
Nationally top-ranked Zahid Valencia (113 pounds, St. John Bosco-Bellflower), Aaron Pico (132, St. John Bosco) and Eric Morris (192, Wyoming Seminary) are the marquee attractions.
There will be a California top-2-ranked wrestler in every weight class, including No. 1's in Live Oak-Morgan Hill's Isaiah Locsin (120), Clovis' Jonas Gaytan (126), St. John Bosco's Anthony Valencia (138), Bella Vista-Fair Oaks' Shayne Tucker (152), Lemoore's Isaiah Martinez (160), Bakersfield's Kyle Pope (182), Wasco's Sean Medley (220) and Clovis' Nick Nevills (285).
There are also top-ranked wrestlers from Nevada (Palo Verde 138-pounder Kyle Leet, Las Vegas 152-pounder Alex Aniciete and Reed 220-pounder Spencer Empey), Colorado (Ponderosa 170-pounder Dylan Gabel) and Oregon (Roseburg 152-pounder Reed Van Anrooy) in the field.
Zahid Valencia (106), Locsin (113), Gaytan (120), Anthony Valencia (126), Kingsburg's Javier Gasca (132), Martinez (152), Empey (220) and Nevills (285) are all returning Doc B champions.
"A lot of these kids only have one, two, maybe three losses on the whole year and now they are all meeting up at one tournament," Tirapelle said. "So now you don't wait all day to see a kid with that kind of record, you see him in round one.
"Our first round ends up being better than the first round at the state tournament, and that was our goal. We want kids to get tested in their first match. If you're not ready to go, you get beat. That's what you will experience later in the year; now you have a chance to prepare for it."
MEET THE ELITE: DOC BUCHANAN INVITATIONAL
This weekend: 9 a.m. today; 9 a.m. Saturday, with finals at 5:30 p.m.
Site: Clovis High
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com
, (559) 441-6103 or @NickG_FB on Twitter.