All that stands between Harrison Central and St. Clairsville from a trip to the second annual Ohio High School Athletic Association Team Wrestling Tournament is two wins.
The Huskies and Red Devils will go after those this evening when they make the trek to Massillon's Tuslaw High School for the Division III, Region 20 tournament. Action is scheduled to get under way at 6 p.m.
The Huskies will have an acid test in the semifinals. Coach Bill Bryant's team will meet host Tuslaw. Tuslaw is the defending state runnerup in the team tournament.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Alex Timko is shown during a match earlier this year. Timko and his Red Devil teammates, along with harrison Central, will be involved in the OHSAA?Team Wrestling Tournament at Massillon Tuslaw High School.
"We're going to have to wrestle our butts off," Bryant said. "My main concern is Tuslaw. We've looked at bumping some people around in our lineup, but we don't know a whole lot about (Tuslaw), so it's tough."
Harrison Central is the third seed in the region. It hosted the first two rounds last week in Cadiz. There, it dispatched Steubenville Central, 49-27 and Sandy Valley, 40-33.
"I am very pleased with our effort last week," Bryant said. "We've had a decent week of practice, but we've got some kids battling some illness and skin issues, so we're not the greatest healthwise. I am proud of the way our kids performed in the OVAC and last week. We're just hoping that success keeps rolling for us."
According to Bryant, the key will once again be bonus points. The Huskies will need to avoid being pinned, but post victories by pin.
"We've heard Tuslaw is solid from top to bottom and we give up two forfeits, so we have to get bonus points," Bryant continued. "If we lose a match, it needs to be by a decision."
In the bottom half of the bracket, St. Clairsville is the Cinderella story.
The Red Devils are the eighth seed, but went to Belpre and took down the second-seeded Eagles last week.
"We went down there with the mindset that if won the first-round match, anything could happen," said St. C. head coach Joel Sansone. "I told the guys it was too long of a trip for just one match."
On top of ousting Belpre, the Red Devils routed Albany Alexander, 53-15 and then took down River, 51-27.
"Our guys really brought their 'A' games to Belpre," Sansone continued. "Not only did our guys come to win, but they came to pin."
Sansone singled out pins by senior Alex Timko and freshman Dylan Alwine as what ignited the Devils against Belpre.
"That got us some momentum and we carried it on by only losing one match the remainder of the dual," Sansone said. "Against River, we wrestled really solid and took care of business.
All told, the Red Devils had six wrestlers finish 3-0 for the evening.
Next up for the Red Devils is a date with Caldwell, which eliminated Shadyside last week to get to this point, 43-36.
"We feel like we match up very well against Caldwell," Sansone said. "I told the kids if we go out and wrestle like we did at Belpre, the sky is the limit. The Caldwell match is the only one that matters to us."
The winners of the semifinals will clash 20 minutes following the conclusion of the semifinals.
The OHSAA State Team Tournament is slated for Feb. 8 at St. John Arena in Columbus.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org