Wheeling Park captures Rick Link UL?Invitational

While some things change, others don’t.

The Doan Ford Invitational became the Rick Link Union Local Invitational this year, but Wheeling Park continued its stronghold on the event, no matter what it’s called, by winning for the third straight season.

The Patriots, under first-year head coach Jack Doyle, racked up an eye-popping 427 points in the 16-team pool tournament. They easily outdistanced second-place University High of Morgantown, which accumulated 356 during the day-long affair. Watkins Memorial was third with 303, while Buckeye Local (239) and Union Local (198) round out the top five.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Doyle, who took over for his cousin Sean, allowed. “The kids came in here expecting to win. They had won here the past two seasons, but I told them whomever the coach is, that is the expectation. They came out and wrestled well.”

The Patriots had half-a-dozen champions, including Most Outstanding Wrestler Cody Amos, who ruled the 182-pound weight division. He defeated University’s Nate Constante 10-2 in their title bout.

“It feels good to win on the first weekend of the season,” Amos admitted. “I’m not really in the best of shape right now, but this feels good.”

Other Wheeling Park kingpins included Tyson Lira (106), Dylan Taylor (138), Jonny Davis (145), Danny Colby (160) and Geremy Paige (195). Taylor was the MOW last year.

Locally, Eastern Ohio had a pair of titlists, with both coming from Buckeye Local. Sam Ronevich (113) and Josh Sokolowski (152) collected championships for the Panthers.

Ronevich, who repeated as a titlist, won by default over Wheeling Park’s Dallas Baciak, who was unable to compete in the finals.

Sokolowski, a promising sophomore for head coach Guy Nestor, posted a workmanlike 17-1 technical fall over Wheeling Park’s Aaron Holman.

The matched was stopped at the 4:30 mark.

“Five-and-0 isn’t that bad, but I’ve got to get ready for next weekend,” Sokolowski said. “I’m also looking forward to the OVACs.”

When asked if it surprised him to win the tournament, he replied, “No. Hard work really pays off.”

The fourth-place finish was alright with Nestor.

“Sam and Josh both wrestled well today,” Nestor noted. “Josh wasn’t taken down all day, so that it pretty good wrestling.”

Three other Belmont County matmen reached the finals, only to finish with the silver trophy. They were Barnesville’s Austin Singleton (113), Union Local’s Zac Sowers (132) and Bellaire’s James Dunfee (195).

Singleton was decisioned 10-3 by Watkins Memorial’s Andrew Lieb; Sowers was technical falled by Scott Lopez of University, 15-0; and Dunfee was pinned in 43 seconds by Wheeling Park’s Paige.

Union Local’s fifth-place showing as a team had head coach James Lewis all smiles.

“Overall, we proud. We’re a young team. Fundamentally, I thought we wrestled really well.”

Bellaire head coach Shane Shaffer was surprised with Dunfee’s performance.

“He was a big surprise and I’m very happy with the day he had,” Shaffer said. “After finishing with five wrestlers last year, we’ve got all of our weight classes filled this year.”

Other champions included Bloom Carroll’s Chandler Minnard (126), who is a two-time champ, and Zach Gibson (170); Wellsville’s Seth Bloor (220); and Watkins Memorial’s Damian George (285).

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com