Prep wrestling season inching closer

The 2018-19 wrestling season — both collegiately and scholastically — promises to be an exciting one as a pair of huge post-season tournaments — one on each level — will be staged in the Ohio Valley.

On the local level, for the first time in quite a while, Division III high school wrestlers from Ohio’s Eastern District will qualify for the Ohio state tournament from a venue in the Ohio Valley.

Buckeye Local High school was awarded the two-day event. The district tournament is set for Mar. 2-3. The top 4 wrestlers in each weight class move on to the state tournament at The Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University from Mar. 7-9.

The former St. John Arena in Steubenville was also the site of past D-II and D-III district tournaments.

On the national level, West Liberty University has been selected as the host site for the 2019 NCAA Division II Region One wrestling championships. The tournament will be held Feb. 23 at the ASRC.

The top three wrestlers in each of the 10 weight classes will advance to the 2019 NCAA Division II National Championships, set for March 8-9 at the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State University.

This marks the third time West Liberty has been selected to host an NCAA Division II regional wrestling event, having hosted previous regional mat tournaments in 2002 and 2015. The Hilltoppers also served as host school for the 2003 NCAA Division II National Championships at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

The 2018-19 season has already started on the collegiate level as Wheeling Jesuit and West Liberty have been in action for about one month. Both squads possess a lot of talent.

Head coach Danny Irwin’s Cardinals return NCAA Division II national champion Terrance Fanning at 285 pounds. They also have national placer Dustin Warner at 133.

Warner won the Findlay Open with a victory over teammate Jaylen Hill in the finals.

Fanning scored a notable victory in the championship quarterfinals when he decisioned Ohio State’s Kevin Snyder, the younger brother of Olympic Gold medalist Kyle Snyder, 9-3. Fanning finished third.

Former Martins Ferry three-time all-Ohioan Dalton Hoover has found the going a little tough thus far. The freshman has competed at 197 pounds. He finish sixth in the recent Baldwin-Wallace Invite.

A pair of teammates with local ties — Tommy Curtin and Dylan Taylor — also reached the podium. Curtin, a Bridgeport resident who wrestled at Linsly, was third at 133, while Taylor, a former Wheeling Park state champion, finished fifth at 157.

The Cardinals have three other grapplers with OVAC ties. They are red-shirt juniors Tyler Jenkins (Meadowbrook, 149) and Seth Bloor (Wellsville, 285); and sophomore Caleb Nice (Magnolia, 197).

West Liberty had two matmen place at the Findlay Open. They were Logan Kemp (197-4th) and Ronnie D’Amico (285-5th). Another impressed at the recent Ohio Intercollegiate Open as freshman Austin Loew was fourth at 197 in the White Division.

The Hilltoppers roster includes several former OVAC grapplers. They are junior Bryce Coleman (Martins Ferry, 149/157); senior Josh Cornell (Oak Glen, 149); freshman Daniel Hague (Indian Creek, 141); sophomore Miles Mazik (Indian Creek, 149); freshman Parker Mazik (Indian Creek, 133); sophomore Isaiah Myers (Wheeling Park, 197); freshman John Nash (Wheeling Park, 157/165) and freshman Kaleb Simpkins (Wheeling Park, 174).

HIGH SCHOOL wrestlers begin competition on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Rick Link Invitational at Union Local High School. It will be followed the next weekend by the lone bracket tournament left in the Ohio Valley — the Doan Ford-Barnesville Invitational on Dec. 7-8.

It should prove to be an interesting winter on the mats as 16 of the 28 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Ron Mauck Tournament finalists return, including seven champions.

There are also 10 OVAC wrestlers returning that earned a spot on the podium in Ohio last season, while 29 reached the podium in West Virginia.