OVAC welcomes seven new wrestling coaches
WHEELING — If it’s playoff mode for football teams in Ohio and West Virginia, it can only mean high school wrestling season is just around the corner for the bi-state conference.
Monday night inside WesBanco Arena, Ohio Valley Athletic Conference officials hosted the annual preseason OVAC wrestling press conference, with nearly all of the schools being represented.
Last year the conference introduced two new schools in Crestview and Warren Local. However, tournament director Dan Doyle said the Warriors won’t be competing in this year’s 65th OVAC Ron Mauck three-day event, which is scheduled for Jan. 18-20 inside WesBanco Arena.
The total number of schools will remain at 41 as Paden City will field a team for the first time. Paden City first opened its doors in 1951 and joined the OVAC six years later.
“They seem to be pretty excited about it down there,” Doyle said. “I think in their first year they’re hoping to have eight or 10 wrestlers. That’s got to be fantastic for them for the size school they are. Their addition will also balance out the Class A field a little more.”
Michael Owens will be the architect for the Wildcats’ initial foray into the wrestling business. He is a 2005 River High grad and is employed as a police officer in New Martinsville.
“About five years ago I began bugging the principal (Jay Salva) that we needed to start a wrestling program,” Owens said. “I’ve continued to bug him, and this year things changed administratively and we were able to get it going. I can’t thank Mr. Salva and (athletic director) Mr. (David) Riggle enough. They put together a whole wrestling season together for us in two weeks.
“Magnolia High School has donated a mat for us to use through former head coach Vince Monseau and current coach Mike McKeever. River High School has offered to let us come up and practice with them to get up to speed because the season is only two weeks away. We’ve had a lot of help and a lot of good luck so far.”
Owens said he has heard as many as 14 kids are interested, but that came from the student body.
“I don’t care if we have one or we have 14; we’re going to put out the best team we can,” he said. “We’re going to work hard and see what comes of it.”
The OVAC welcomed seven new head coaches to the “family” during a press conference. They are, in addition to Owens, Jimmy Malone (Southern Local), Scott Hiemstra (East Liverpool), Jimmy Benson (Edison), Jamie Lesho (Madonna), Derrick Hesson (Caldwell) and Vic Nery (Crestview).
¯ Seven former Mr. Mats were in attendance Monday night.
¯ Four OVAC senior wrestlers are ranked nationally by Wrestling USA magazine. They are Caleb Rea (Weir, 132), Jashon Hubbard (Steubenville, 152) and the Parkersburg South duo of Luke Martin (132) and Josh Humphreys (152).
¯ The 25-year returning OVAC champions are: Jason Taylor (Wheeling Park, 103); Chad Burge (Cameron, 112); Kelly Shields (Edison South, 119); Dwayne Patterson (Oak Glen, 125); Jeff Smith (Martins Ferry, 130); Cliff Ward (John Marshall, 135); Jerry Otto (River, 140); Dustin Harris (Beaver Local, 145); Jeremy Wilkinson (Cambridge, 150); Brian Jefferis (Barnesville, 160); Chris Snider (Steubenville, 171); Ty Roseberry (Steubenville, 189) and Matt Nardone (John Marshall, HWT).
¯ The OVAC Bill Hinegardner Dual Team Tournament dates were announced by director Jim Rocchi.
“Due to the W.Va. Regionals being moved up a week, we had to adjust our schedule,” he said.
The Class 1A-2A and 4A Tournaments will be held on Feb. 1 at Brooke High School and the Class 3A and 5A at the Moundsville Junior High Fieldhouse on Feb. 2.
¯ Steubenville head coach Mike Blackburn also announced the date for the OVAC-MAC Clash of Champions. It is set for 7 p.m. March 13. However, he is in need of an OVAC school to host the event. The OVAC has won the last three matches.
¯ Also on hand were West Liberty University head coach Mitch Smith and first-year Wheeling Jesuit University head coach Danny Irwin. Each gave a short talk about the upcoming season, which gets started Thursday. The Cardinals host the University of Indianapolis while the Hilltoppers travel to Pitt-Johnstown. Both matches have 7 p.m. starts.
¯ Wheeling resident Pete Cuffaro was recognized for recently being inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame — West Virginia Chapter. He received the Medal of Courage Award.