"Gilroy is again the heavy favorite," said Palo Alto coach Dave Duran. "The entire section has been chasing them for over a decade now."
Actually, it has been 10 years exactly. Gilroy last failed to win a team title in 2002.
Palo Alto and Gunn don't have any designs on the team crown, though. Their team goals aren't that lofty.
"We are expecting two good days of wrestling, and another run at a top-four finish," said Duran, whose team scored 103 points last year and did finish fourth behind Gilroy, Palma and St. Francis.
Added Gunn coach Chris Horpel: "We are ranked sixth going in, so I want to live up to that ranking and, if possible, exceed it. To do that, we will need everyone (nine qualifiers and two alternates) to win matches and place as high as they possibly can."
Palo Alto and Gunn will get at it beginning Friday at Independence High in San Jose. The gym opens at 9 a.m. Action continues Saturday, with finals scheduled that evening starting at 7 p.m. The top three finishers in each weight class will advance to the CIF State Championships the following weekend at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.
Based on the seedings, Gunn senior Eric Cramer has a good shot in the 126-pound division. He's seeded No. 2. Palo Alto senior Gerhard (Gary) Hohbach is the No. 3 seed at 152.
Both teams have two others seeds — Gunn junior Stephen Martin is No. 5 at 182 and Paly junior Andrew Frick is No. 6 at 195.
"However," said Horpel, "we have more who can upset the seeded wrestlers. Should be fun."
Duran, meanwhile, likes the chances of Hohbach and Frick.
"Both have been wrestling well the past few weeks," Duran said. "Both have high expectations for the weekend."
Palo Alto will bring eight athletes to the meet. The last to qualify was Jordan Smith (113), who won a hardship match last week to get in.
"That gives us eight wrestlers, all who will score points for us," Duran said. "There are a few wide-open weight classes where we have some quality wrestlers. We expect to have placers in these weight classes."
Palo Alto's qualifiers include James Giaccia (106), Jordan Smith (116), Eric Oshima (138), Gerhard Hohbach (152), Jordan Gans (160), Erik Anderson (170), Andrew Frick (195) and Alex Taussig (220).
Gunn's entrants include Daniel Papp (120), Eric Cramer (126), Ian Cramer (132), Blaze Lee (145), Dino Soto (160), Stephen Martin (182), Sean Lydster (195), Harsha Mokkarala (220) and Eric Calderon (285) plus alternates Michael Abramovitch (113) and Darrion Yang (152).
Menlo-Atherton also will be represented this weekend with five qualifiers and one alternate. Austin Wilson leads the way after winning the 126-pound title at the PAL Championships last weekend. He went 3-0 in the tournament and pinned all his opponents in the first round while improving to 21-6 on the season.
He'll be joined by Sam Stroud, James Smith, Josh Buttram, Donald LaHaye and alternate Hector Santana.
Menlo-Atherton's venture into the postseason came to a quick end following a 61-54 to visiting Wilcox on Tuesday night. The No. 9-seeded Bears finished 11-15.
Menlo-Atherton put up a furious rally in the fourth quarter by scoring 29 points, but it wasn't enough to make up for the 15-point deficit the Bears faced heading into the final period.
Menlo-Atherton actually held a 54-53 lead after a basket by Ryan Roberts with under a minute to play. The unseeded Chargers, however, went on an 8-0 run to close the game and end M-A's season.
Senior Jamar Gaddis scored 13 points for M-A, 10 coming in the wild fourth quarter. It was his final prep game, along with fellow seniors Alex Aguiar, Blake Olsen, Esteban Samra and Peter Roumeliotis.
After an up and down season in the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton began the postseason on an up note with a 53-25 romp over visiting Independence in a CCS Division I opener on Tuesday in Atherton.
The No. 9-seeded Bears (12-13) played at No. 8 Milpitas (10-13) on Thursday night.
The Trojans were in the stands Tuesday to scout their first opponent. They saw Erin LaPorte and Katherine Hayse hit 3-pointers on M-A's first two possessions, and the Bears never looked back. Emma Heath scored eight of her game-high 13 points in the first quarter as the Bears built a 20-6 lead before pulling away for a 23-point lead at the half. Heath added five rebounds while LaPorte had 10 points for M-A.
M-A forced 28 turnovers in the first three periods while grabbing a 44-17 lead. The victory was the first CCS triumph for M-A first-year coach Morgan Clyburn.
Menlo-Atherton opened its season with a 12-9 victory over host Cal High in San Ramon on Tuesday night. Nick Schlein led all scorers with five goals and one assists while Duncan McGinnis added three goals and three assists for the Bears.
Drew Uphoff finished with two assists and one goal, Kotaro Kihira had two goals and one assist, Michael Hansen scored once and Nicky Mullen had two assists. Griffin Waymire had 10 saves in goal while Mullen, PJ. Titterton and Jake Barry all had solid defensive games.
M-A will travel to San Jose on Friday to face Bellarmine at 3:30 p.m.