WHEELING - There's always at least one surprise during the first night of the annual Ron Mauck Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestling tournament.
Thursday night during the 61st edition of the extravaganza at downtown Wheeling's WesBanco Arena, the Bridgeport Bulldogs - all four of them - growled louder than any Bulldog team in recent memory.
With pins from Ian Hammer (132), Emilio Saldana (138), Brad Tomolonis (170) and Carlos Kusic (182), Bridgeport is sitting in second-place in the 1A/2A Division with 16 points, 3.5 behind frontrunning Caldwell. The Bulldogs' points are also good enough for a 14th-place tie overall.
"I have no idea," Nelson said when asked about the last time Bridgeport had four wrestlers win on the opening night. "It's been a lot of years, but the kids came out ready to wrestle. We looked strong and hopefully we can continue it until tomorrow."
Hammer had the quickest fall of the quartet as he pinned Magnolia's Skylar Yoho in 40 seconds. Saldana recorded his fall with just two seconds left in his match, while Tomolonis, the 4th seed and returning placewinner, needed 3:08 and Kusic 4:22.
Harrison Central has the most advancers of teams in The Times Leader coverage area with nine, with seven winning last night and two moving on with byes. The Huskies' Hunter Pizzino (132) seeded second won by pin, while third-seeded David Forrester (126) needed just 32 ticks to finish off his opponent. No. 8 Cole Howes (182) won a 12-11 decision over River's Dakota Dunn. Seventh-seeded heavyweight Brenton Stull also won by fall.
Bridgeport’s Ian Hammer battles Magnolia’s Skylar Yoho during their 132-pound match Thursday night. Hammer pinned Yoho in 40 seconds.
Union Local’s John Howell takes on Edison’s Robert Dailey in a 126-pound first-round match. Howell won, 2-1.
Shadyside’s Billy Johnson gains control of River’s Loren Thomas during their 132-pound match Thursday night. Johnson won, 14-5.
Union Local has eight individuals alive for titles, including seeded wrestlers Bobby Stewart (3rd-132), Zac Sowers (8th-145) and Matt McFarland (8th-170).
St. Clairsville also has eight grapplers left in the championship bracket, but half of them didn't see action last night due to byes. Fourth-seeded Michael Furbee (220) won by fall.
Buckeye Local and Martins Ferry each advanced half-a-dozen wrestlers, with the Panthers' second seed Tristan Jones (182) and third-seeded Josh Sokolowski (170) leading the way.
The Purple Riders have seeded wrestlers Thomas Campbell (4th-106), Bryce Coleman (5th-152) and Jonathan Bodkin (3rd-285). Also making noise was unseeded Jerald Jarman (220).
"We got six guys through until the second round," Martins Ferry first-year head coach Chaz Yoder said. "Jerald was a real surprise at 220."
Barnesville, River and Shadyside each have five matmen alive, with the Tigers' 106-pound Greg Quinn staying unbeaten at 23-0 with a 20-second pin.
Beallsville has four individuals remaining in the championship bracket, while Bellaire and Monroe Central have three each.
Following a 30-minute delay due to internet malfunctions in the WesBanco Arena box office that wouldn't allow tickets to be purchased, the wrestlers took matters into their hands and recorded 118 pins in the 166 matches contested.
When it was all said and done after one round, heavyweights Parkersburg South, Oak Glen and defending champion Steubenville were locked in a three-way battle for the top overall spot.
The Patriots, who won the event in 2010-12, piled up 44 points, just 2.5 better than the second-place Golden Bears, who claimed titles in 1991, 2002, 2004-05 and 2007. Eight-time titlist Big Red came in with 41.
Beaver Local and Wheeling Park rounded out the top 5 with 33 and 32 points, respectively, while Cambridge (27.5), University (26), Union Local (25.5), Morgantown (25) and Harrison Central (24) rounded out the top 10.
Parkersburg South and Oak Glen advanced all but one of their 14 grapplers, respectively, while Steubenville has a dozen in the second round.
Wheeling Park has nine individuals alive for championships, including top seeds Dallas Baciak (120), Dylan Taylor (145), Jonny Davis (152), Eric Banks (160) and Geremy Paige (220).
All 14 top seeds moved on without any trouble, with 12 of them winning by falls. Edison's Mitchell Wells (182) and East Liverpool's John Miscuk (195) won by technical falls.
Paige recorded the fastest pin of the evening when he flattened Shenandoah's Owen Moore in 10 ticks. There were two other falls before the 20-second mark, those coming by Parkersburg South's Austin Harris (126) in 13 seconds and Wellsville's Seth Bloor (220) in 17 seconds.
Only two upsets occurred during the opening night, those coming at 113 pounds where No. 3 seeded Jack Dawson was knocked off 3-2 by Wheeling Park's James Parsons, and at 195 where No. 8 Preston Bier, of Beallsville, was sent to the consolation bracket with a 6-5 setback to Brooke's Casey Munger.
In addition to leading the overall team standings, Parkersburg South leads the 5A, while Oak Glen tops 4A, Steubenville Central 3A and Caldwell 1A/2A.
In pre-tournament festivities, Shane Kildow, of Bethesda, was named the Larry Deaton Official of the Year, while Indian Creek's Ray Starkey was named the OVAC Jr. High Coach of the Year and Morgantown's Kevin Swisher was the OVAC Jr. Varsity Coach of the Year.
There were 166 matches contested, with 118 of them ending in pins. Another 28 went to decisions, while 11 were major decisions. There were eight technical falls and one injury default.
Nine former Mr. Mats were on hand.