Clouse, Palmer Jr., Kuneff captain all T-L mat team

PICTURED IS the 2019 all Times Leader wrestling team. Front row, from left, are Caden Stout (St. Clairsville); Richard McFarland and Drake Dobson (Martins Ferry); Brian Palmer Jr. (Buckeye Local) and Koen Kish (St. Clairsville). Second row, from left, are Kameron Hughes (Martins Ferry); Cody Albaugh and Joseph Bonfini (Bellaire); Griffen Stephen (Barnesville); and Mason Kuneff (Bridgeport). Back row, from left, are Jayson Stephen (Barnesville); Justice McCamick (St. Clairsville); Brylan Clouse (Barnesville); and Tino Kusic (Bridgeport. T-L Photo/KIM NORTH

MARTINS FERRY — The baker’s dozen.

Thirteen individuals who capped outstanding seasons by qualifying for the Ohio state tournament have been named to the all-Times Leader team. Six schools are represented on the star-studded unit, with Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville leading the way with three honorees each. Barnesville, Bellaire and Bridgeport all have two, while Buckeye Local has one.

A trio of Division III third-place finishers serve as captains. They are Barnesville’s Brylan Clouse, Bridgeport’s Mason Kuneff and Buckeye Local’s Brian Palmer Jr.

The Shamrocks’ Jayson Stephen is the Coach of the Year.

A brief capsule about each honoree follows:

BRYLAN CLOUSE, Barnesville. This senior Shamrock was wrestling his best at the end of the season as his 182-pound bronze medal performance will attest.

“Brylan had a great year. He worked really hard this year and it showed,” Stephen said. “He’s a great young man and has a bright future ahead of him. I will greatly miss him being around and being in the room.”

His career mark was 122-34.

Clouse closed his career with a 4-1 run through the state tournament that gave him a superb 35-3 mark for the year. He recorded two pins, a technical fall and a major decision. His loss came in the semifinals, 3-1, to eventual state champion Deandre Nassar of Bluffton when he allowed a takedown in the waning seconds. One of his pins came in the third-place match.

Clouse also finished third at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament before capturing sectional and district titles.

BRIAN PALMER, JR., Buckeye Local. Jut a sophomore, Palmer Jr. has already etched his name atop several Panther records. He is already a two-time state placer, he finished sixth as a freshman.

“The sky is the limit for Brian. He has all the tools that it takes to be a top-flight wrestler,” Buckeye Local head coach Willie Saxton said of his 132-pounder. “For him to do what he has already in his career is outstanding.”

Palmer’s trip to Columbus was unforgettable for more reasons than his third-place finish. In the second period of his opening bout he and his opponent banged heads. Palmer received four stitches to the back of his head following the match, but never let them bother him.

“He really showed some guts there,” Saxton said. “We’re looking for bigger things from him over the next two years.”

Palmer Jr., who finished third in the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament, is already 89-17 in his career. He is a repeat honoree and placed

MASON KUNEFF, Bridgeport. A senior for the Bulldogs, he capped his career with four victories in five state matches at 160 pounds to earn his bronze medal.

“Mason was a 3-year captain who led by example,” Bridgeport head coach David Nelson said.

For his career, Kuneff finished with 155 wins, second to only Kusic. He placed fourth at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament before capturing sectional and district crowns. He was 47-6 during his senior season, with 38 of his triumphs coming by pin.

He, like, Clouse, made it to the semifinals, but had to work a little harder with a pair of narrow — 2-1 and 2-0 (sudden-victory) — wins. He dropped a tough, 2-1, nod in the semis before bouncing back with a pin and a 3-2 decision.

TINO KUSIC, Bridgeport. This senior leaves the school as its winningest wrestler with 172 victories, including 42-4 this past season when he became a 4-time state qualifier. Twenty-seven of those wins came via pins. He placed fourth in the state at 160 as a junior.

This season he went into the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament finals undefeated at 170 pounds, but came up short in finishing runnerup to Beaver Local’s Beau Smith. He was a sectional champion and district runnerup.

“Tino was also a 3-year captain for us that led by example,” Nelson said.

“These two have meant a lot to the program. They have worked hard with each other over the years, pushing each other to become better,” Nelson added.

DRAKE DOBSON, Martins Ferry. This Purple Rider senior got a taste of Columbus as a junior when he won a consolation bout. That experience helped him reach the fifth-step on the podium this season at 195 pounds.

“Drake had a really, really good season,” first-year Martins Ferry head coach Chad Ware praised. “Like I said, I was Drake’s coach in 7th grade and I would have never guessed that he would be a state-placer. That goes to show you what determination and dedication will do for you.”

Dobson finished 41-6 this season and was 108-53 for his career. He recorded 66 pins which set a school record, surpassing his uncle’s mark along the way. He became a 3-time OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament placer when he finished third this year. He also finished seventh and eighth

GRIFFEN STEPHEN, Barnesville. An accomplished junior high wrestler, the Shamrocks freshman made a smooth transition to varsity at the high school level at 106 pounds. He finished 36-10.

“Well I would say Griffen had a pretty good season for a freshman. He worked his butt off to have the season he had,” his coach and father said. “Going (36-10) third OVAC, sectional, district champ and state qualifier. I think he would say almost the same but just fell short of the state goal of placing.

“I’m very proud of him.”

JOSEPH BONFINI, Bellaire. A 120-pound senior for the Big Reds, Bonfini’s resume shows determination and dedication can take you a long way. His first two years weren’t the best of times, but he stuck with it and fulfilled a dream of making it to the state tournament.

“Joe was our senior captain who finished his final year with a record of 35-10, placing high in seven tournaments with three top honors, including a sectional championship where he reached his 100th career win,” Bellaire head coach Andrew LaMotte recalled. “Joe has always been dedicated to the sport. He began his wrestling career at Bellaire at the age of 6.

“He works hard not only in the wrestling room but his performance in the classroom is top-notch where he has a 3.5 PA and is on the National Honor Society,” LaMotte praised. “We hope the best for him in college, and will be truly missed at Bellaire next year.”

Bonfini placed eighth at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament. He was a sectional champ and district runnerup.

KOEN KISH, St. Clairsville. Only a sophomore, Kish punched his ticket to the Division II state tournament with a district runnerup finish at 120 pounds.

He was 45-7 this season and has 86 overall wins. He was runnerup at North Canton Holiday Classic; won the St. C. ABV title was he was named the Delande Brothers Most Outstanding Wrestler; and took third at OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament. He was also a Buckeye 8 champ, sectional runnerup, and 2018 NHSCA Freshman National runnerup.

“Koen followed up a great freshman season with and even more successful sophomore season,” St. Clairsville head coach Joel Sansone allowed. “He was very consistent for us this year.”

RICHARD McFARLAND, Martins Ferry. A two-time state qualifier as a junior, McFarland has won 74 matches in his three seasons as a Purple Rider. He was 30-18 this year competing at 182. He is a 3-time district qualifier and placed fifth at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament this past January.

“Richie had a good season. He battled all year and eventually was able to realize his goal of getting back to state,” Ware said. “Now, he has to work even harder next year so he can get back there and hopefully win a few matches.”

CODY ALBAUGH, Bellaire. Just a junior, this Big Red will be looking forward to his senior campaign

“Going 34-17 was a tremendous year, at a tough weight class, with a demanding schedule,” LaMotte said of Albaugh’s performance at 160 pounds this season. “One-hundred percent improvement this season. He is ‘getting it’ and is focused and gives everything on the mat.”

Albaugh’s podium appearances this year were a weekly occurrence as he placed in seven tournaments this year with a sectional title and a district runnerup.

“Cody is one of Bellaire’s 3-sport athletes — wrestling, baseball and football,” LaMotte noted. “I don’t think this young man has had a day off in 6 years but he is a gamer and loves to compete.”

He also performs well in the classroom with a GPA of 3.25.

“We are looking for Cody to do great things next year for Bellaire’s wrestling team and to step into a leadership position for us.”

CADEN STOUT, St. Clairsville. This Red Devils 132-pound frosh might have surprised a lot of people by being a state qualifier, but not his coaches and teammates.

“Caden had a phenomenal freshman season. Especially through the second half when he really turned it on,” Sansone said. “He might’ve surprised some people, but we knew what he could do.”

He finished 42-16 and was champion at the St. C. ABV Tournament and sixth at OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament. he placed third at sectionals and districts.

KAMERON HUGHES, Martins Ferry. Just a sophomore, Hughes missed most of his freshman season with an injury. However, he rebounded to have a magical season this year at 170.

He was a sectional runnerup before finishing fourth in the district. He finished 30-18 and is 38-29 in two years.

“Kameron came on strong at the end of the year,” Ware said. “He wrestles hard for six minutes every time he takes the mat.”

JUSTICE McCAMICK, St. Clairsville. One of the Red Devils few seniors, McCamick battled through a rugged weight class.

He was 43-15 this season and finished with 105 career wins. He was runnerup at St. C. ABV Tournament, fifth at OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament, third at sectionals and fourth at districts.

“Justice was very solid 220-pounder for us for the past 3 years and will be missed greatly,” Sansone said.

JAYSON STEPHEN, Barnesville. This veteran Shamrock head coach led his squad to several tournament championships, the biggest being the OVAC Ron Mauck Class 3A title where they finished 10th overall. The also won the Zanesville and Buckeye Local tournaments, as well as their own sectional.

They were district runnersup out of 49 teams and finished 25th in the state.

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