Big Red’s Rice, Cook twins lead OVAC to ‘Clash of Champions’ win

COOKING UP A STORM — Madonna’s Alec Cook competes and wins his 145-pound during the ‘Clash of the Champions’ on Tuesday at West Allegheny High School. (Photo by Kim North)

IMPERIAL, Pa. — No athlete likes to lose, especially when it’s the last game or match of his or her senior season.

Wheeling Park’s Dylan Wood and Bridgeport’s Tino Kusic found themselves in that predicament following their respective state tournaments. Kusic, an Ohio Division III state-placer in 2018, didn’t reach the podium last weekend in Columbus, while Wood suffered a setback in the West Virginia state finals nearly three weeks ago in Huntington.

However, like good athletes do, both rebounded from those losses and were among 10 winners, as the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference continued its dominance over Western Pennsylvania’s Midwestern Athletic Conference, 43-14, in the 24th-annual Clash of Champions Tuesday night at West Allegheny High School.

The lopsided victory not only avenges a 40-22 reversal at Brooke a season ago, but it bumps the OVAC’s all-time margin in the series to a commanding 17-7.

“It felt really good to win that match because I was coming off a loss in the state finals,” Wood said after a 5-0 decision at 220. “It feels good to come back out here and finish with a win.”

Wood, who also excelled on the football field, will continue his athletic and academic careers at the University of Charleston, where he will continue on the gridiron.

“I wanted to leave it all out there and just try and do my best,” he said of his final match.

Kusic echoed those sentiments.

“It was nice. I didn’t want to end my (high school) career with a sour taste in my mouth,” said Kusic, the Bulldogs all-time winningest wrestler, following a 3-1 nod at 170. “(The) state (tournament) didn’t go well. I don’t know what happened, but I know all the guys on this team, so tonight was fun.”

The OVAC sandwiched a pair of pins by Oak Glen’s Shawn Moore (113) and Steubenville’s Peyton Blasko (126) around a decision from Meadowbrook’s Terry Gattrell to take a 15-0 lead it would never relinquish. Moore touched his opponent’s shoulders in 1:01, while it took Blasko nine seconds longer. Gattrell won 9-3.

Wins in three of the next four weight classes allowed the Keystone State squad to pull to within 19-11, but that would be as close at it would get. The OVAC reeled off triumphs in the final five bouts, including a pin from John Marshall’s Anthony Carman at 182 with two ticks left in his match.

“I felt coming in that we had a really nice team. I also knew the MAC had a couple of good kids in their lineup, but I thought our kids were a little more overpowering, and it showed,” OVAC head coach Jayson Stephen of Barnesville said. “As a coach, it was a pretty easy night.”

Other winners for the local squad included Madonna’s Cook twins in Alec (145) and Garrett (195), Steubenville’s Anthony Rice (152) and Parkersburg South’s Louden Haga (285).

Alec Cook earned bonus points with a 10-1 major decision. Garrett Cook completed a perfect 50-0 campaign with a 5-0 win. Rice posted a technical fall and was named the OVAC’s Most Outstanding Wrestler by the MAC coaching staff. Haga won 1-0.

“This is my senior year, and I’m glad I could finish it off with a win and the Most Outstanding Wrestler award,” said Rice, who has narrowed his college choices to Kent State and Rutgers.

Next year’s Silver Anniversary event will be held at an undetermined OVAC school.

OVAC All-Stars 43, MAC All-Stars 14

113 — Moore (O) p. Montgomery, 1:01; 120–Gattrell (O) d. Alberts, 9-3; 126 — Blasko (O) p. Ward, 1:10; 132 — Chambers (M) d. Simpson, 3-2; 138 — Ealy (M) d. Muldrew, 8-3; 145 — A. Cook (O) md. Pail, 10-1; 145 — Kazalas (M) tf. Helms, 19-3; 152 — Rice (O) md. Montalbano, 17-9; 160 — McGeary (M) d. Hinzman, 6-5; 170 — Kusic (O) d. Flati, 3-1; 182 — Carman (O) p. Miller, 5:58; 195 — G. Cook (O) d. Presutti, 5-0; 220 — Wood (O) d. Forrest, 5-0; 285 — Haga (O) d. Hoaglund, 1-0.

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