WHEELING, W.Va.-Those who are anxious for a taste of what postseason wrestling is like can get an appetizer this weekend at the 61st annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament.
From today until Saturday, more than 30 schools-several with proud wrestling traditions-will converge on WesBanco Arena for three days of grueling competition. The tournament is double-elimination with 32 wrestlers (eight seeded) in each bracket. The winner could wind up wrestling as many as eight matches over the course of the weekend.
"Our main goal every year is getting to state, but this event prepares our guys very well for the competition and atmosphere they will have in the postseason," Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said.
The Beavers had an OVAC champion last year in Daniel Lattanzio and will have plenty of chances at another with six seeded wrestlers, fourth most for any team. Leading the way are a pair of No. 2 seeds, sophomore Jason Keyes (17-6 record, 126 pounds) and junior Daniel Hasson (25-1, 138)-both state qualifiers last year.
"Jason was hurt at the beginning of last year and started his season with this tournament," Williams said. "He is fully ready to go this year and is ready to make a run. Daniel finished seventh the last two years but is in position to make a great run."
Senior Cody Martsolf (21-4) is seeded fourth for the Beavers in the 285-pound division, while junior Jack Dawson (20-5) also grabbed a fourth seed in the 113-pound division.
"Cody and Jack both have a great shot at making a run," Williams said. "They've both been on the big stage before and know what to expect."
East Liverpool coach Chad Hager will lead a Potter team with two high-seeded wrestlers. The headliner is senior John Miscuk (17-6), who was awarded the top seed in the 195-pound division. Miscuk placed second in the Potter Cassic earlier this year and finished fourth in each of the last two years at the OVAC Tournament.
"I've noticed that John is a lot more focused this year," Hager said. "He knows this is his last go-around and is determined to prove a point."
Next up is junior Alex Potts, the No. 2 seed in the 106-pound class, who comes in with a record of 27-1. Potts finished third last year and has spent this season going back and forth between the 113-pound and 106-pound divisions.
"Alex has really filled into his frame this year. he is a lot stronger," Hager said. "Last season he was giving up 15 pounds to the other kids but still fought his way into the consolation match where he dominated. The main thing he has on his mind this year is the OVAC title."
Oak Glen will feature a team with six seeded wrestlers, four of them juniors. Junior Danny Wyke (14-3) heads the pack with the third seed in the 113-pound class. Wyke finished sixth at the state tournament a year ago and boasts wins over the fourth and sixth seeded wrestlers in his weight class.
"Danny had a strong season last year and is really coming into his own now as a junior," Oak Glen coach Patrick McGillian said. "He wrestles very hard and I'm expecting big things out of him."
Senior Josh Cornell (36-10) is seeded fourth for the Bears in the 126-pound class but will be competing in his first match of the year after a football injury shelved him for the start of the season. Cornell finished fourth in the state tournament last year and will mainly be using this weekend to work himself back into shape.
"That number four seed was mostly out of respect for what he did last year." McGillian said. "Josh did everything he could to come back, but it will be insanely difficult for him this weekend. He will be competing against 31 other wrestlers who are in mid-season form."
Wellsville's lone representative is junior Seth Bloor (15-1), who is seeded third in the 220-pound division. Bloor finished third last year, losing a close match to Cullen Ebbert of John Marshall who is seeded directly above him.
"It would be a great match if they met up again," Wellsville coach Scott Heimstra said. "Seth has been a finalist in every tournament we've had this year and enters in great shape."
Parkersburg South is the defending champion and has the most seeded wrestlers with 12, followed by Steubenville with nine and Wheeling Park with seven.
"I would consider Parkersburg South the favorite, with Wheeling Park close behind," Hager said. "Parkersburg is always very tough. Their individual records may not be as good as other teams but they play a very tough schedule."
During the tournament, the 1989 OVAC champions will be recognized with a ceremony. Former Potters Mark Emmerling (119 pounds) and Bob Ankrom (160) will be among the honorees.
The opening ceremony is at 6 p.m. today. On Friday wrestling beings at noon and continues into the evening. Saturday's schedule starts with a youth wrestling clinic at 7:45 a.m. followed by a college wrestling match at 10 a.m. Saturday's high school wrestling starts at noon with the finals set for 6:30 p.m. Single session tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Final session tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.