There's nothing quite like the Jefferson City-Helias wrestling dual.
Phil Cagle, in his first year as Jefferson City's head coach, remembers his first exposure to the event as a Jays assistant coach 12 years ago.
"When I first got here, I'd never seen anything quite like it," Cagle said. "And that hasn't changed."
The latest chapter of the crosstown showdown is tonight at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"It's for the kids and for the town, it's a big night, the biggest we wrestle outside of the state tournament," Helias head coach Travis Reinsch said.
And while both coaches know it's a fun night, they agree on at least two other things. One, the final result will be close. Two, they think the other team enters as the favorite.
"We're going to have to pull some upsets to win," Cagle said. "That's all there is to it because we've got some illness and some injuries."
The Jays will be without senior Payne Stark at 160 pounds, who has an injured ankle. Adrian Walton, another senior, will drop from 171. That spot will be filled by junior Thomas Ryan, making his varsity debut this season.
"I think the Jays have to be favorite," Reinsch said. "With (Jared) Johnson and (Cole) Baumgartner, those are two state runners-up. And J.J. Johnson and (Hunter) Neighbors are having great seasons."
Those four enter the dual a combined 34-0 this season.
The Crusaders have two undefeated wrestlers in seniors Blake Wenzel (10-0) at 130 and Ty Loethen (14-0), who will wrestle at either 152 or 160 tonight.
"On paper, you can figure who should win," Cagle said. "But that's not always how it turns out."
On paper, the matchups from 189 to 285 could be among the best of the dual.
"Those are going to be key matches," Reinsch said.
Jared Johnson is scheduled to take on Clayton Roark at 189, while Laree Hutchinson and Josh Scheuler slated to meet at 215. At 285, J.J. Johnson and Charlie Oberkrom are paired up.
"I'm sure they think they're going to win them and I'm pretty sure we're going to win them," Cagle said with a laugh.
A key tonight for both teams will be getting - and avoiding - bonus points for wins by fall or technical fall.
"They have guys that are very capable of pinning us and we have guys that are very capable of getting pins," Cagle said. "I'm sure it's being discussed in both wrestling rooms, working hard not to get pinned."
It figures to be the best atmosphere either team will see until the state tournament.
"For one night a year, we're highly competitive," Cagle said. "The rest of the year, we're rooting for each other. We just told our kids that it is just another dual, another step in our season. But it is going to be fun."
Helias snapped a seven-year losing streak to Jefferson City last year, winning 37-31 at Rackers Fieldhouse. The Crusaders got the victory when Oberkrom won by fall at 285.
The junior varsity dual and C team matches will start at 6 p.m., with the varsity dual to follow around 7:30 p.m.