WHEELING - The Ohio Valley now knows who the best of the best are in OVAC wrestling for the 2013 season.
The 60th annual Ron Mauck OVAC Tournament came to a thrilling end late Saturday night before a large crowd at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling as 14 wrestlers survived the rugged, three-day, five-match march to the crowns.
And three of the best call Shadyside home, while another resides in St. Clairsville.
The Shadyside Tigers came into the tournament with three of the best senior individuals in the OVAC.
Ian Baker, Alex Quinn and Chase Kinemond all earned top seeds at 145, 152 and 160 pounds, respectively as they competed in their first OVAC Tournament as a trio for the first time since 2010.
All three delivered and left the WesBanco Arena as a champion, which propelled the Tigers to the Class 1A/2A team title with 122.5 points.
Shadyside’s Alex Quinn has a hold of Cambridge’s Sawyer Leppla during their 152-pound championship match Saturday night.
"It might take a little bit of time for this to set in," beamed Shadyside head coach Scott Kinemond. "This is just a great feeling and one of the best accomplishments of my coaching career. This is certainly right up there. To have three seniors and three champs in a row is very humbling."
Kinemond actually found himself taking a little bit of time to reflect on the trio as he remembered them from the time they were growing up together as wrestling junkies.
"Seeing what these kids have accomplished over the years is amazing," Kinemond said. "I know these kids won't be satisfied, either. That's the great thing about these kids. This is just one of the steps. An important step, but just a step. These kids just did a great job for themselves, representing the school and community in a first-class way."
The third time was officially the charm for Baker, who got things rolling for the Tigers at 145 pounds.
After reaching the OVAC finals as a frosh and junior, Baker made his final trip to the OVAC mat one he won't soon forget, posting a 9-5 decision against Wheeling Park's Jonny Davis to win the 145-pound title.
"I was thinking to myself when I came to the mat that I just had to get it done and start the Shadyside lineup off the right way and get some momentum," Baker said. "I really wanted this (title). Having finished second twice and third once, it was driving me crazy wanting this so badly."
Baker - the top seed in the weight class - took control of the match early with a takedown before Davis eventually knotted it at 2. However, a takedown and three near-fall points later, Baker was in total command.
"I wasn't very offensive on my feet, but I did what I needed to do," Baker said. "I rode hard when I was on top, which was big for me."
The Tigers' all-Ohioan from a season ago took care of Madonna's Garrett Hypes in the semifinals Saturday afternoon to get to this match.
Baker becomes a four-time placer in the tournament. He's got two silvers, a bronze and now the gold.
Quinn made it a repeat at 152 pounds when he posted a 5-1 decision against previously once-beaten Sawyer Leppla of Cambridge.
"Sawyer and I are great friends," Quinn said. "He finished fifth in Division II state tournament last year, so I know how great of a wrestler he is. I've wreslted him since we were 10 or 11 years old, too."
The Tiger, who finished third in Ohio last season, led 2-0 much of the match on a quick takedown in the first period. He gave up a point on a technical violation in the third, but got a neutral and then as Leppla was in desperation mode, he fell onto his own back and Quinn iced the verdict with two insurance points.
"Once you get to the finals, your mentality kind of changes," Quinn continued. "I kind got into safe mode where I was just looking for the points I needed to win."
While the repeat was nice for Quinn, that wasn't the most important part for him.
"The fact that all three got it done means the most to me," Quinn said. "The repeat is great, but the fact that Ian, Chase and I have all worked together since we were small and now we all get to reap the rewards. This is the Super Bowl of Ohio Valley wrestling because if you win this, you're remembered. They'll definitely remember us three winning consecutive titles."
With two titles on the board, Kinemond came to the mats for his first OVAC final since 2011 with a little more pressure on him after watching Baker and Quinn get their arms raised.
Kinemond certainly didn't have an easy time of it, either, as St. Clairsville senior Dalton Nolte proved to be a worthy opponent and second seed.
"It was definitely a tough one," Kinemond said. "I knew Dalton was a good one. I'd been watching him all weekend and could tell he was a good one. He's a really balanced kid, who's good on top, bottom and neutral."
The Tigers' 160 pounder, who is the son of the Shadyside head coach, accomplished something his dad was never able to do when he won, 2-1, against Nolte in sudden win overtime after securing a neutral for the victory.
Kinemond opted for the bottom position and maintained the same approach that he'd had in the first overtime sessions.
"It might not have looked like it at times, but I felt there was a weakness in there I could exploit and get out," Kinemond said. "That's all I needed was the escape. Being on top would have been tough because Nolte was definitely tough to hold down."
The sudden victory format evened up for the Red Devils in the 285-pound final for St. Clairsville senior Corey Ernest who got an escape in the second overtime against Morgantown top seed Taylor Ortiz for a hard-earned 3-2 victory.
Ernest, a key cog in the Red Devils' football success this past season, has been getting himself into wrestling shape and is now reaping the rewards.
"This is an amazing feeling," Ernest said. "After the football season, I wanted to carry that into wrestling season and it's working out for me so far. We're only about halfway through our schedule, though. We have some big tournaments left."
Ernest led the match much of the way, 1-0, but Ortiz got a late escape to knot the match at 1 and then got another escape in the first OT, which forced the win all session.
"I felt good going into the sudden victory," Ernest said. "I just had to keep wrestling my match and I felt like I could get it done."
Martins Ferry senior Damon Outward's first trip to the OVAC final didn't go the way the 132 pounder had envisioned after beating second-seeded Kyle Mack in the semifinals.
Outward was dealt a tough 9-3 decision by four-time OVAC placer Anthony Craig of Steubenville. During the match, Craig jumped out early with a takedown and basically never looked back.
The only scoring Outward produced were three escapes.
Outward is now 25-2 on the season, while Craig is 22-1.
Steubenville Big Red, which had 267.5 points, was finally the bride after being the bridesmaid to Parkersburg South in the overall team standings. Thanks to four tournament champions and a host of other placers, Coach Mike Blackburn's team took home the overall team banner to the Crimson Center. In the process, they won the 4A class title in a run away over St. Clairsville.
South, which finished second in the overall team standings with 257, had one champion and claimed the 5A overall title, pulling away from Wheeling Park, which had two champions in the tournament, including Cody Amos, who won the Hercules Award for pinning his way through the tournament.
River, competing in 3A for the first time, and maybe the last, as it will return to 2A next season, claimed the 3A title with only two placers and 65.5 points. It's only placers were Brett Rosen and J.D. Dotson. Barnesville was second in the class with 46 points.
The other champions crowned included: Steubenville's Tariq Wilson (106), Parkersburg South's Lance Hill (113), Meadowbrook's Jerad Patterson (120), University's Scott Lopez (132), Wheeling Park's Dylan Taylor (138), who is the grandson of tournament director Dan Doyle; Beaver Local's Daniel Lattanzio (170); Steubenville's Charlie Keenan (195) and Steubenville's Greg Moray (220).
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org