After two long, grueling days of action in the Best Value Wrestling Tournament, only two local grapplers stood high atop the podium when it was all said and done Thursday night.
Barnesville's Clay Crosier ruled the 126-pound weight division, while St. Clairsville's Cory Ernest captured the 285-pound class.
Liberty High School, from Raleigh County, W.Va., ran away with the team title as the Raiders amassed a whopping 327 points, which was 73 better than runnerup Oak Glen's 254. Dover finished third with 241, East Liverpool was fourth with 214 and St. Clairsville rounded out the top 5 with 207.
Other local entrants included Harrison Central (9th-154); Barnesville (10th-143); and Union Local (12th-86).
Crosier, who improved to a sparkling 17-1 on the season, earned a 7-3 decision over Dover's Isaac Hammond in his championship match.
The Shamrocks' senior led 2-1 after one period and 5-2 after two. Hammonds cut the deficit to 5-3 with a third-period escape, but Crosier was able to record a late takedown to seal the deal.
BARNESVILLE’S CLAY Crosier (top) controls Dover’s Isaac Hammonds during their 126-pound championship bout Thursday night at the Best Value Inn Tournament in St. Clairsville. Crosier won the title by decision. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
ST. CLAIRSVILLE heavyweight Cory Ernest (top) works for a takedown against Liberty’s Vance Donavan during Thursday’s action in St. Clairsville. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"Missing qualifying for the state's by one match last season has really given me incentive to work harder this year," Crosier said of his early-season success. "I've got some good workout partners that really push me."
Barnesville head coach Jayson Stephen was pleased with Crosier's effort.
"Clay has really been work hard this season and he is getting a lot stronger," his coach allowed. "I think coming up just short last season has really made him a more dedicated wrestler. He wants a trip to states."
The second-seeded Ernest, who is now 16-2), was locked in a struggle with Liberty's top-seeded Donavan Vance until he rolled the nearly 300-pounder over on his back for the pin at the 4:50 mark.
"The coaches keep getting on me all the time," the 255-pound Ernest said of his success so far. "They keep criticizing me on every little thing so that it pushes me to work harder. I've got some good coaches and a couple of guys coming down from West Liberty that push me."
St. Clairsville head coach Joel Sansone wasn't surprised at Ernest's title.
"He's coming on strong this year," Sansone said of his senior heavyweight. "We keep stressing to keep the pressure on his opponents and wear them down to keep it a tight match. Then, in the third period he's in better shape.
"We keep telling him every day in the wrestling room to not give up," Sansone continued. "We tell him that he's stronger than his opponent and break his will. That's what he did tonight."
The Red Devils led the local contingent with eight placewinners in the top 6 of their respective weight classes, while Harrison Central placed half-a-dozen, one more than Barnesville. Union Local had a pair.
"We expected eight guys placing. That was our goal," St. Clairsville head coach Joel Sansone said. "You'd always like to have more, but we'll take it."
The Huskies had a pair of second-place medalists in Doug Eddy (160) and Matt Shurina (220). Eddy dropped a tough 9-7 decision to Dover's Brogan Endress, while Shurina finished second in his weight class, which included just seven entrants.
"That's the second time we've wrestled that kid," Harrison Central head coach Bill Bryant said. "We lost by one point in the first week of the season, but we made some bad mistakes, and he caught us in one of them."
In addition to Crosier, Barnesville's Mason Plumley advanced to the 145 pound finals, but was pinned in 5:06 by Liberty's Matthew Bailey, who improved to 22-2.
Stephen said the middle of the pack finish was about what he thought was possible.
"I thought we could get five kids (into the medal rounds)," Stephen said. "I would've liked to get a couple more in for first and second, but those kids that wrestled for third-and-fourth did a good job."
Bryant was pleased with his team's top 10 finish.
"I'm really proud of the kids," Bryant noted. "We've got a couple of kids back that were injured early on. Almost half of our kids placed, so we're making improvement each week."
Besides Bailey's title, other Raiders claiming top honors included Nick Barker (23-3 at 132) who nipped East Liverpool's Frankie Williams 3-1 in overtime; Daniel Carpenter (10-0) who decisioned Oak Glen's Kole Koper 9-5 at 138; Charles Ayers (19-0 at 170) who pinned Tallmadge's Troy Stricker in 1:04; and Trey Fitzwater (23-0 at 182) who pinned East Liverpool's John Miscuk in 2:29.
Oak Glen, a perennial W.Va. Class powerhouse, had four champions, including the first three weight classes. Josh Cornell (16-0) pinned East Liverpool's Alex Potts in 3:11 at 106 pounds, while the Brown twins - Zac and Tyler - earned decisions over Williamstown's Dalton George 8-0 at 113 and John Glenn's AJ Pennell (12-2) at 120. Dylan Davis prevailed in the 220-pound pool event.
Dover had a pair of titlists in unseeded Nick Weininger and the aforementioned Endress. Weininger, who knocked off second-seeded and undefeated Zack Zide, of Williamstown, in a 4-2 overtime thriller before upsetting No. 1 seed RJ Elam, of Liberty, in the finals, 4-2. Zide and Elam were a combined 38-0 when he beat them.
For his efforts, he was voted the event's Most Outstanding Wrestler by the tournament's coaches.
Complete consolation and championship results can be found on Page B4.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org