Hoover, Bodkin reach OVAC final

WHEELING — Then there were two.

Saturday afternoon’s semifinal round of the 65th annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Ron Mauck Wrestling Tournament was not a good one for local grapplers. Only two of nine prevailed and advanced to the finals which were held Saturday night after The Times Leader went to press. For complete details, see Monday’s edition.

Martins Ferry’s senior duo of Dalton Hoover (195) and Hunter Bodkin (285) were the lone survivors.

They both made the finals a year ago and are 4-time tournament placewinners.

The top-seeded Hoover, a Northern Illinois University recruit, is seeking his third consecutive championship after pinning Madonna’s No. 4 seed Donavan Kirby in their 195-pound semifinal. He is now 14-0 and ranked as the No. 1 Division III wrestler at 195 in the Buckeye State.

“I’ve been on this big stage twice, so there’s no pressure on me at all,” Hoover admitted. “I’m just going to go out relaxed and do my thing.”

That “thing” is take-em down and let-em go repeatedly until they succumb to his power.

Hoover, who finished fourth as a freshman and is a two-time Ohio state placer, was paired with third-seeded Landon Talbert of Crestview, who upset No. 2 Austin Loew of Wheeling Park in the other semi. Talbert carried a spotless 18-0 mark into the finals. He is ranked seventh in D-III.

Bodkin, now 16-1, was a runnerup at 220 last year when he lost to Brooke’s Alex Edgell in sudden-victory, but he’s not using that as a motivating factor.

The No. 3 seed won by the same decision over No. 2 seed and nationally ranked (7th) Louden Haga of Parkersburg South in advancing to the finals.

“I’ve put that behind me,” he said of last year’s result. “My family said if I win it this year, just erase the last three. My older brother, Jonathan, took my phone from me last week for less distractions. He said he’ll see me Saturday night after I win it (the championship), so that motivated me. It made me know I can get it done because it has made me more focused on winning.”

Trailing 1-0, Bodkin earned an escape to force overtime. Then, he escaped from Haga in the third OT and held off a late charge.

“I’ve been saying it all along that those two can wrestle with anyone,” Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder said. “Those two guys battle each other every day in practice and make it each other that much better. They are both looking really good.”

Not as successful were Barnesville’s Brayden Reynolds (113), St. Clairsville’s Koen Kish (113), Bellaire’s Clayton Moore (126), Bridgeport’s Mason Kuneff (132), Barnesville’s Brylan Clouse (160), Bridgeport’s Tino Kusic (170) and Shadyside’s Josh Robinson (285). All seven dropped into the consolation bracket, but were assured a spot in the top 8 on the podium.