WHEELING - It wasn't the finish to the 58th annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament that most locals had envisioned here Saturday evening at WesBanco Arena.
Entering the evening finals, eight wrestlers from the immediate area still had the coveted OVAC championship within their sights.
After nearly four hours of wrestling and 14 matches, only two, St. Clairsville's Dominic Prezzia (see related story) and Shadyside's Aaron Silverio made their way back to the Buckeye State with the top prize.
That left a lot of empty feelings for the remainder, who spent basically all day Friday and Saturday battling for the opportunity to be under the bright lights.
Shadyside, which finished second in Class 2-A to Caldwell, had three wrestlers in the championship finals and one came home a champion.
Silverio, who finished fifth in the OVAC a year ago, came back on a mission.
It was mission accomplished at the 3:59 mark of the 285 championship match when he pinned defending champion John Eckroth of Steubenville and emotionally saluted the Tiger fans.
"Throughout my whole high school career, (winning the OVAC) was my goal," Silverio said. "And I just achieved it."
After battling through a scoreless first period, Eckroth won the flip and chose to go on the bottom. It worked well for SIlverio, who continued to battle and eventually flipped the former champion, who prevailed for Harrison Central last year, and held the shoulder just before the second period expired.
"Having to go through (Eckroth) to win it makes this 10 times sweeter," Silverio said. "To know that I can hang with the top dogs and come out on top is something else."
Silverio hadn't got much opportunity to watch many - if any - of Eckroth's matches through the tournament, so it just came down to desire.
"I knew I wanted it really bad," Silverio said. "I've learned that if you want something bad enough, you have to go out and get it. I have a ton of respect for (Eckroth) and he's one tough guy. I knew it was going to be battle
Silverio, who is now 20-0 on the season, will definitely enjoy this title, but the all-Ohio football player knows there is plenty of season still to go.
"I am just going to keep doing the things I've been doing and keep working hard," Silverio said.
Sophomore Chase Kinemond advanced to his first OVAC Tournament final in impressive fashion. However, in the 130-pound final, Kinemond, a returning all-Ohioan, ran into a buzzsaw by the name of Kyle Bauer from Wheeling Park. Bauer earned his second consecutive conference championship in impressive fashion, posting a 15-1 major decision.
Kinemond into the final with an aggressive approach and went for an early shot on Bauer. The Kent State recruit avoided it and proceeded to score a quick takedown.
After Kinemond scored a neutral, Bauer got another takedown and turned it into three quick near-fall points and seemingly never looked back.
He'd add three more near-fall points for a 10-1 reading after one period.
Kinemond is now 19-1 on the season. Bauer, who was voted the winner of the prestigious Bierkorette Award, is 16-0.
Junior Mason Gulash has just two losses on the season.
Cameron's David Schlieper is responisble for both in a week's time. In the championship match of the second consecutive tournament, Gulash saw his quest for gold denied by the Dragons' senior.
After being tech falled by Schlieper in the championship round at the Beallsville Invitational, the two ended up on different halves of the bracket and were on a collision course all tournament.
Schlieper wasted no time in jumping on the unheralded Tiger's junior when he scored a takedown in the match's first 20 seconds. Despite battling multiple battles with a bloody nose during the match, Schlieper held a 4-0 lead after one period.
He scored another take down midway through second before going on for a 8-0 victory. The aforementioned nose bleeds almost cost him. He was running short on the blood time he's allowed.
MARTINS FERRY also had a pair of wrestlers in the title match. Coach Scott Roth's Riders, who always seem to rise to the occassion at WesBanco Arena, didn't disappoint this season.
However, the Riders' performances in the finals were disappointing to the droves of Purple-clad fans who took over an entire section of the arena to cheer on their beloved Riders.
Junior Jeffrey Oberdick, wrestling in his second consecutive 171-pound final, settled for silver for the second time.
Battling against Parkersburg South's Chris Smith, who was the top seed, Oberdick owned a 3-2 lead after getting an escape. However, Smith got a takedown before Oberdick could scamper out of bounds.
Once action resumed, Oberdick, despite a valiant effort, was unable to escape to knot the match as Smith hung on for dear life to Oberdick's leg.
Senior Mike Rose, who upset Bishop Donahue's Bobby Richmond, the top seed, in the semifinals, advanced to his first conference final.
The results are by no means what he had envisioned. Against Wheeling Park's Cody Amos, who was the second seed and making his debut in the title match, got a takedown and then rolled Rose to his back and secured a victory by pin at the 90 second mark of the match.
RIVER senior Josh Bartrug saw his attempt to become the first Pilot in history to repeat fall short here.
After battling his way to the 112-pound final in impressive fashion, Bartrug got off to good start with an early 2-0 lead against Oak Glen's Zach Brown.
However, in the early portion of the second, Brown scored a takedown to knot the score. Bartrug nearly escaped for a neutral point, but was ruled off the mat.
The match eventually went into overtime where Brown recorded a takedown early in the sudden-death for his first OVAC title.
Cambridge's Caleb Gunn, who was unseeded entering the tournament, captured the 215-pound championship in exciting fashion, posting a 3-2 overtime victory against Oak Glen's Dylan Davis.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org