Rick Link Invite opens 2018-19 campaign

Ready, wrestle.

Those two words will resonate around the high school wrestling circles this weekend as the 20th annual Rick Link Union Local Invitational kicks things off inside ‘The Hangar’ Saturday morning. The pool-style tournament starts at 9:30.

Sixteen teams are entered, including 2017 champion Indian Creek. Also competing are Barnesville, Beallsville, Bridgeport, Buckeye Local, Edison, Fort Frye, Geneva, Linsly, Meadowbrook, Paden City, Shenandoah, Weirton Madonna, Wirt County, Wheeling Central and the host Jets.

A pair of Ohio state placewinners — Bridgeport senior Tino Kusic (4th, 160) and Buckeye Local sophomore Brian Palmer (6th, 120) — are slated to wrestle. Kusic is ranked No. 3 at 170, according to OVAeC, while Palmer is 4th at 132.

There will also be a trio of state placers from West Virginia competing. Weirton Madonna will have a pair of the senior Cook brothers — Alec and Garret –while Wirt County sophomore Logan Powell (5th, 106).

Alec was a state champion at 138 last winter and was also named the Class A Most Outstanding Wrestler as the Blue Dons ran away with the Class A team title over Wirt County, 64.5 to 52.5. That place was also good enough for fifth overall. He is ranked atop the 145-pound weight class by OVAeC. Garret placed third at 182 and is ranked No. 1 at 195.

The thing I like about the tournament, despite it being pool-style, is that the awards are presented in the Union Local High School commons area while the event continues inside the gymnasium. It speeds things up a whole lot and that will be ideal since Ohio State plays Northwestern in the Big 10 championship game at 8 p.m.

While on the subject of high school wrestling, my favorite tournament is next weekend — the 49th annual Barnesville Doan Ford Invitational. Before everyone goes bonkers on that statement, let me explain why? It’s simple! It is the ONLY bracket tournament left in the Ohio Valley, with the exception of the prestigious Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Ron Mauck Tournament held annually on the third weekend in January.

More on this tournament in next week’s column.

There are nine new head coaches in the OVAC for 2018-19. They include Ernie VanDyne, Beallsville; Doug Sizemore, Brooke; Kollin Clark, Cambridge; Dakota Goff, Edison; Josh Seagraves, Fort Frye; Chad Ware, Martins Ferry; Russ Spence, Meadowbrook; Chase Kinemond, Shadyside; and David Doyle, Wheeling Central.

Moving on to the collegiate level, nationally ranked Wheeling Jesuit will welcome Ohio County rival West Liberty to the Alma Grace McDonough Center on Sunday for dual-meet action at 7 p.m.

The Cardinals defeated the Hilltoppers last season.