There are points to be won and championships to be achieved at this weekend's Ron Mauck/OVAC Tournament at WesBanco Arena.
St. Clairsville's Joel Sansone would like to think his Red Devils will up for the challenge when the three-day event opens Thursday evening.
"We don't have a lot in the way of numbers but we do have some hard-working kids looking forward to the tournament," Sansone stated. "We've been in the (training room) trying to teach some techniques. Hopefully, that translates into some success on the mats."
Photo Courtesy/DESIGN & IMAGE STUDIOS
PICTURED IS the 2011-12 St. Clairsville Red Devils Wrestling Team. Front row, from left, are Alex Timko, Angelo Curcione and John Pyles. Middle row, from left, are Chase Holcumb, Matt Carnes, Seth Benge and Justin Callarik. Back row, from left, are head coach Joel Sansone, assistant coach Casey Callarik, Fabio Cracolici, Nick McEndree, Travis Smith, Corey Ernest, Dalton Nolte assistant coaches Mike Barreca and Gene Monteleone. Absent is Charlie Hall.
Sansone's initial season saw the former Red Devil mat standout working with one of the school's all-time great competitors in 152-pound Dominick Prezzia. "Dom was a special young man blessed with great individual talent," Sansone said. "Dom also helped make some of our other kids better wrestlers."
Prezzia took is talents to the Division I level and is competing with the varsity squad this winter at West Virginia University. In addition to Prezzia, 125-pound ace Michael Yockey has departed along with 215-pounder Jordan Carter.
St. C.'s 2011-12 roster includes a quartet of seniors - 120-pound Angelo Curcione; 152-pound Fabio Cracolici;182-pound Nick McEndree; and 195-pounder Travis Smith.
Cracolici is a three-year letterman and co-captain off to a sterling start this winter with 20 wins entering this weekend's tournament.
"Fabio competed at 171 last year and spent the off-season trimming down to 152 which is quire remarkable," Sansone indicated. "He told me he intended to lose weight then went out and did just that. It really says something for his dedication and work ethic."
The Red Devils' coach noted Cracolici's rare setbacks this season has come against high-caliber opposition. "We feel Fabio has an excellent opportunity to score very well (this weekend)," Sansone reported. "We really expect to see him (up there) on the podium."
Curcione is another rugged Red Devil who brings a 17-9 ledger into this weekend's event. "A great competitor who could be in the hunt this weekend," Sansone indicated. "Angelo suffered an injury at the Barnesville tournament but came back to place second in the Nelsonville-York event where he lost to a Division I opponent."
McEndree is experiencing an up and down campaign and is 13-11 entering this weekend's action. "Nick knocked off the number two and three seeds (at Barnesville) which says he's capable in any given match," Sansone related.
A first-year wrestler, Smith has managed nine victories, including a fifth place showing at the St. Clairsville event in late December.
"Travis is certainly still gaining experience, though he's won some matches unexpectedly," Sansone pointed out.
St. Clairsville's junior class features a foursome of high achievers in heavyweight Corey Earnest; 170-pounder Seth Benge; 160-pound Dalton Nolte; and 126-pound Justin Callarik.
Earnest enters weekend warfare with a splendid 23-3 mark. The returning district qualifier compiled some 38 victories as a sophomore and has obviously picked up where he left off.
"At 255, Corey has more muscle. He's just a really tough kid to deal with on the mat," Sansone described. "He's probably the football team's top lineman and he possesses a great competitive nature."
Earnest was champion at St. Clairsville (winning all matches via pin) and placed third at both Barnesville and Nelsonville-York. "Corey's looking forward to a successful weekend," Sansone disclosed.
Benge brings a 19-7 record to WesBanco and could also be an impact player this weekend. "Seth likes to control his matches and is especially good at capitalizing on opponent's mistakes," Sansone related. Benge placed third at both St. Clairsville and Barnesville.
Nolte is up to 160 this season following a highly successful sophomore campaign at 145. The Saints' talented 11th grader enters OVAC action a sterling 23-3.
"Dalton is a well-rounded athlete who works as hard as anyone I've been around," Sansone stated. "He already owns 80 career wins and that number will continue to increase."
Nolte who benefited from closely working with Prezzia last season, finished one match from a state placement and has hit sights on bettering that mark this season.
Nolte was champion at Barnesville and Nelsonville-York and placed third in the St. Clairsville event. Dalton's older brother, Dillon, is an ex-Red Devil standout who's currently on the mat roster at West Liberty University.
Callarik has come on to compile a 15-9 mark entering this weekend's event. He has placed in all three St. C. tournament appearances to date.
"Sometimes, Justin seems to wrestle with a chip on his shoulder. He's very competitive on the mat," Sansone described. "He's a two-time district qualifier looking to make it three. I think Justin's also capable of wrestling well this weekend." Callarik vied a year ago at 112.
Lone sophomore on the varsity roster is 106-pound Alex Timko who has a 14-11 record entering weekend action.
"Alex was our most improved wrestler at 103 last season," Sansone pointed out. "He was a district alternate and would like to take the next step this season." Timko was a fourth place finisher in the 18-team event at Nelsonville-York.
Sansone is working with three freshman candidates on the varsity roster, including 138-pounder Matt Carnes; 132-pounder Charlie Hall; and 113-pounder John Pyles.
A state qualifier at the junior high level, Carnes has logged nine wins this season enroute to making the transition to varsity. The same can be said for Hall, out for the first year. Hall captured two wins at St. C.'s multi-team event.
Pyles is an inspiring story. He is competing despite a major handicap. "John is deaf but he's handled that adversity like a champion," Sansone stated. "He's won a couple matches for us. That says something for his desire and determination."
Sansone has a simple message for his squad entering this weekend's event. "Yes, I'm just telling them to take things one match at a time. Don't try and look ahead," he stressed. "We have an opportunity to score some points if things work out in our favor."
Veteran Gene Monteleone returns as Sansone's top assistant. Another ex-St. C. mat ace Casey Callarik, is also on the staff.