Pickerington High School North wrestling coach Brad Harris seemed to welcome the idea that the Panthers should be considered favorites to win Saturday's OCC-Ohio Division Tournament.

Pickerington High School North wrestling coach Brad Harris seemed to welcome the idea that the Panthers should be considered favorites to win Saturday's OCC-Ohio Division Tournament.

The Panthers have been the highest-ranked OCC-Ohio team in the Division I area coaches poll for most of the season, and they have held their own against some of the area's best teams. They won the Wapakoneta Invitational on Jan. 17, scoring 267 points to finish ahead of runner-up Central Crossing (251), which has been tabbed by a few OCC-Central coaches as a favorite to win that league tournament.

"If you're looking at the way our league is looking on paper, then we are the favorites," said Harris, whose team is second in the area poll behind Teays Valley. "I do feel like it will be pretty interesting to see who battles it out in the other half of the pool."

Harris thinks Central, Grove City and Reynoldsburg are North's main obstacles to an OCC title. Although teams will not be seeded until after weigh-ins on Saturday morning, Harris said he expected North to get the top seed.

Central assistant coach Ryan Daugherty agreed. He thinks North and Reynoldsburg are the teams to beat.

"After those top two, I feel the other teams are pretty even," Daugherty said.

The teams seeded first and second will be placed on opposite sides of the two four-team pools on Saturday. Seeds three through seven will choose, in the order in which they are seeded, which pool they will enter.

After a round-robin of duals, the top two teams from group A will face the top from group B. The team or teams with the overall best record will win the league championship.

Reynoldsburg will enter with two state placers in a lineup that returned eight district qualifiers. The Raiders won a district title for the third consecutive time last season. But they will forfeit at 215 pounds.

Both Central and North expect to have full lineups, but North could be without Alec Marsico, a junior who was a state qualifier last year and is nursing injury. In the coaches poll, Marsico would have been the highest-ranked competitor at 125 pounds in the OCC-Ohio tournament.

North has two other wrestlers who will be the highest-ranked competitors in their weight classes in Austin Marsico (103 pounds) and Sean Bui (145).

Reynoldsburg has three wrestlers who are the head of their class in the tournament. They are Isaiah Allen (130), Tommy Sasfy (140) and Jeremy Cook (189).

Groveport has Seth Nelson (215), who is ranked in the top three in the area in his weight class.

"There's going to be a lot of good teams there," said Central senior Mac Smith, who was a district qualifier last season at 130. "We're somewhere in the middle, but we should be able to beat some teams."

One thing which could potentially give Central an advantage is the experience the Tigers possess in their lineup. Smith said Central could have as few as two underclassmen in the lineup. The Tigers also have some confidence after winning the Grandview Invitational on Jan. 16-17, scoring 266 points to finish ahead of runner-up Logan Elm (205.5).

"I think (Grandview) showed the young guys that we're better than we thought," said Cory Cosby, a senior at 215 . "I think that we all perform well under pressure and that's why we do well."

Also competing Saturday will be Gahanna, Groveport, Lancaster and Newark. It is the first time since 1996 that the OCC will conduct a tournament to decide league titles.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North wrestling teams:

CENTRAL

Jan. 22 -- Defeated Dublin Coffman 33-27; def. Thomas Worthington 65-12

Today -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby

Saturday -- At OCC-Ohio tournament at Gahanna

NORTH

Jan. 21 -- Lost to Olentangy 36-25

Jan. 22 -- Lost to Darby 31-29

Today -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Saturday -- At OCC-Ohio tournament at Gahanna