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The state wrestling coaches feel strongly that the dual meet format is the best way to crown a state champion.

How strongly? When the MIAA shifted back to the original individual tournament format with team scoring in advance of the 2012-13 season, the coaches created their own duals, scheduled one week before the divisional meets.

On Saturday, the State Coaches Duals will be contested at three sites: Division 1 at Westford Academy (12 schools), Division 2 at North Andover (15 schools), and Division 3 at Ashland (12 schools).

“We’ve always liked it. We think it’s important,” said first-year North Andover coach Larry Coughlin . “We have dual meets all year long and to have this not count seems kind of dumb.”

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His predecessor, Carl Cincotta, was a big proponent of getting the duals started seven years ago. A number of programs wrestle more dual meets than individual tournaments on Saturdays during the regular season, so the feeling is that it is the best way to determine a champion in a head-to-head atmosphere.

In the individual format, a team can win a state title with only four or five wrestlers racking up team points. The dual meet tournament is a true test of a team’s depth.

“We used to think of [the individual tournament] as a football team winning their state title at a combine,” Coughlin said. “They only bring their best guys.”

The participating teams in Division 1 have wrestled an average of 21 dual meets this season; all will get at least two more in the tournament’s double-elimination format.

Top-seeded St. John’s Prep, the only undefeated team left in Massachusetts, is 31-0-1. The Eagles, who have advanced to the finals six times, lost to Springfield Central in last year’s final. A title would cap the Eagles’ second undefeated campaign in the last six seasons.

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“This is important to us,” Prep coach Manny Costa said. “This is a team award and in D1, clearly all those top six teams have a good shot at winning it.”

There are no qualifiers for the dual meet tournaments. Teams simply pay an entry fee if they want to participate and are seeded based on an order of criteria: overall record, head-to-head record, record against common opponents, and a point system for records against what are considered to be “quality and non-quality opponents.”

Quality opponents are considered teams in the Top 25 rankings at masswrestling.com and teams get 2 points for a win over a quality opponent, none for a loss against them, and lose 1 point for a loss against a non-quality opponent. If the seeds can’t be decided from these criteria, there will be a coin flip, which will happen Saturday morning in Division 3 between Taconic and Tri-County, and Ashland and Foxborough, to determine the 7-10 seeds.

Sixteen of the current MassWrestling Top 25 teams are participating. Central Catholic will be looking to repeat as Division 2 champion and Wayland is back to defend its Division 3 crown. Some teams, however, are using the duals to get more experience wrestling premier programs and to get their best performers matches against other elite wrestlers one week before the postseason begins.

“We’re alright this year, so we thought we’d give hosting a shot,” said Westford coach Bruce Rich Jr., whose Grey Ghosts squad is 13-8 and the No. 7 seed in Division 1.

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Woburn coach Mike Parziale , whose Tanners are the No. 14 seed in Division 2, believes his team can compete with its full lineup, but he’s also hoping his top two wrestlers — senior 126-pounder John Lafferty and senior 182-pounder David Langlois — can face other elite wrestlers in the tournament. Both have previously faced two Danvers stars who will also be in North Andover on Saturday — Max Leete (126) and Russell Canova (182) — but have yet to beat them.

“Lafferty, Langlois they can do damage in the postseason,” Parziale said.

Division 1 at Westford Academy

(9:30 a.m. start, finals begin at approximately 2:45 p.m.)

No. 1 St. John’s Prep: bye

No. 2 Franklin: bye

No. 3 West Springfield: bye

No. 4 Springfield Central: bye

No. 12 Needham vs. No. 5 Shawsheen

No. 11 Putnam vs. No. 6 Chelmsford

No. 10 BC High vs. No. 7 Westford

No. 9 Mansfield vs. No. 8 Framingham

Division 2 at North Andover

(8:30 a.m. start, finals begin at approximately 5:30 p.m.)

No. 1 Central Catholic: bye

No. 15 Dracut vs. No. 2 Plymouth South

No. 14 Woburn vs. No. 3 Beverly

No. 13 Algonquin vs. No. 4 Arlington

No. 12 Nashoba vs. No. 5 North Andover

No. 11 Greater Lawrence vs. No. 6 North Attleborough

No. 10 Oliver Ames vs. No. 7 Danvers

No. 9 Winchester vs. No. 8 Milford

Division 3 at Ashland

( 9:30 a.m. start, finals begin between 2-3 p.m.)

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No. 1 Wakefield: bye

No. 2 Melrose: bye

No. 3 Holliston: bye

No. 4 Norton: bye

No. 12 Keefe Tech vs. No. 5 Wayland

No. 11 Saugus-Peabody vs. No. 6 Triton

No. 10 Ashland or Foxborough vs. No. 7 Taconic or Tri-County

No. 9 Ashland or Foxborough vs. No. 8 Taconic or Tri-County

Near falls

■  Last Saturday, Haverhill senior 145-pounder Jake Nicolosi set the program’s career win record (151) with a 12-second pin against Pinkerton Academy (N.H.) in his first match of a quad meet. Nicolosi (25-0 this season; 156 career wins) broke the mark of Dave Leonardo, which has stood since 1992. Leonardo went on to wrestle at BU under legendary coach Carl Adams, a two-time NCAA champion for Iowa State. It was also Nicolosi’s first match after being sidelined almost all of January with a partially torn left medial collateral ligament suffered at the Wilmington Sons of Italy Tournament on Dec. 21.

“He rehabbed it, and about after a month, he said ‘Let’s go for it,’ “ Haverhill coach Tim Lawlor said.

■  Parziale said Woburn junior Sophia Matthews , the Tanners’ No. 1 120-pounder and defending girls’ state champion in that weight class, will wrestle in the girls’ state tournament again this year to defend her title. The girls’ state tournament will coincide with the second day of the All-State tournament on Feb. 29 at Methuen High. Girls have the option of either competing in the standard sectional tournaments to advance through the postseason or participate in the girls’ state tournament. Matthews also beat Noah Caffertey, 6-4, in Woburn’s 45-27 loss to Winchester.

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■  Sharon wrapped up the Hockomock Davenport title Wednesday night with a 51-18 win over Stoughton.

Matches to watch

Tuesday, Newton North at Brookline, 6:30 p.m. Aside from having league title implications (Brookline needs a win to clinch at least a share of the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division), watch the 132-pound match. Newton North’s Nate Chandler will face Brookline’s Luke Albanese in what could be a preview of next Saturday’s Division 1 Central final.

Lawrence at Andover, Wednesday, 7 p.m. — Andover (17-2) is not competing in the Division 1 Duals, opting for Haverhill’s dual meet tournament instead. But the Golden Warriors are ending their regular season with tough competition (Haverhill and another Merrimack Valley Conference foe).

Framingham at Natick, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. — Framingham is out of league title contention, but Natick can clinch a share of the Bay State Conference Carey title with a win.


Brandon Chase can be reached at brandon.chase@globe.com.