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OVAC Ron Mauck Wrestling Championships Return Thursday

Photo by Kim North Wheeling Park coaches, from left, assistant Danny Doyle, head coach Brian Leggett and assistant Todd Shelek look over the brackets for the upcoming 68th annual OVAC Ron Mauck Wrestling Championships.

WHEELING — It’s back and promises to be as exciting as ever.

After its first cancellation in nearly 70 years, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Ron Mauck Wrestling Championships return to downtown Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena for the 68th edition of the event. One of the conference’s ‘crown jewels’ was halted last year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Its good to be back,” Tournament Director Dr. Dan Doyle said during Monday night’s press conference inside the arena. “It was a shame we had to cancel it last year, but we are back this year.”

Doyle said he hasn’t heard anything from officials from the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, the Ohio High School Athletic Association or any of the local health departments that would deter this year’s tournament.

The tournament begins at Thursday at 6 p.m. with the annual Olympic-style opening ceremonies. Wrestling starts 30 minutes later.

Two years ago the conference went to a seeding committee. That panel was back at it again Sunday during the seeding meeting for the upcoming event which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday’s championship finals. As for the results of the recent meeting, most area coaches were pleased with what transpired.

“Any time you get a kid seeded here it’s a good thing,” St. Clairsville’s Joel Sansone said of his nine seeds, which include top-seeded Caden Stout at 152. “We got a lot of younger kids seeded and all of our seniors are seeded.”

He said Stout is focused.

“He told me a couple of weeks ago he was going to win OVACs his senior year, so he dropped to 152,” Sansone noted. “He looked good last weekend at Cameron and put up a lot of points.”

Martins Ferry’s Chad Ware was pleased, as well.

“After winning the team title at Shadyside last weekend, some kids wrestled well and it probably helped them out as far as the seeding goes,” he said of his six seeded wrestlers.

“Absolutely. We had seven seeds, which is half of the weight classes, and I think all seven of them can reach the podium,” Indian Creek’s Brandon Pendleton said. The Redskins have a No. 1 seed in Austin Starr at 195.

“The seeds are important, but we don’t really focus on them because you still have to go out there and wrestle,” Wheeling Park’s Brian Leggett noted. “We want to peak twice during the year so we build our schedule around the OVAC and the state tournaments so that they are wrestling at their best at these times.”

The Patriots return a champion from 2020 in Cody Taggart. He won at 113 and is seeded No. 2 at 145. Receiving top seeds for Wheeling Park were Adam Carman (113), Nate Shelek (132) and Erick Brothers Jr. (220).

“I’m pleased overall, but the kids have worked hard all season to get themselves seeded where they should be,” John Marshall’s Ryan Asbury said. “We had a great weekend last weekend at Cameron but I think it really started two weeks ago at the Wheeling Park Duals in the same building.”

“For my kids, honestly, I thought that it where those kids would fall in,” Barnesville’s Jayson Stephen said. “We had some other kids fall into some good spots, so we’ll see what happens come this weekend.”

The Shamrocks’ Reese Stephen (120) and Dakota King (126) were top seeds.

“I’m very excited. I think we are really prepared for this tournament,” first-year Steubenville head coach Lucas Huffman said. “I’ve been around this tournament for awhile and I know there are ups and downs. I’ve told the kids to just take each match one at a time and go out and compete.”

Big Red had 11 seeds, but no No. 1s.

One of the big differences this year is variation of weight classes from Ohio to West Virginia.

“I was concerned at first because I thought it might create some issues, but I don’t think it has,” Doyle said. “I think some of the teams have been travelling back and forth across the Ohio River and they’ve gotten used to it.

“This year’s event is going to be great,” Doyle said of the team race. “University has all 14 of its wrestlers seeded in the top 12 of their weight classes, but it doesn’t have a lot in the first two seeds. Then, you’ve got Wheeling Park with 12 seeded and a couple in those top two spots. Barnesville has two top seeds and a couple others up there, but you can never count Parkersburg South and Beaver Local out of the mix.

“I think it’s going to be real exciting as far as the team races go.”

Other top seeds revealed Monday night included Oak Glen’s Logan Davis (106); Beaver Local’s duo of Mark Emmerling Jr. (138) and Logan Ours (160); University’s Luca Felix (145); Parkersburg South’s Gage Wright (170); Cameron’s Ian Bush (182); and River’s Marshall Bier (285).

Emmerling, Ours and Bush are also returning titlists.

Parkersburg South won the 2020 overall and Class 5A events with 251 points, which was 15 better than Wheeling Park. Beaver Local (4A), Barnesville (3A) and Shenandoah (1A/2A) were the class champions.

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