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OVAC WRESTLING: Linsly wrestling on the rise in its second year

January 15, 2014
By RICK THORP - Times Leader Sports Writer ( , Times Leader

Like anything in its infancy, there will be growing pains.

Such has been the case with the wrestling program at Linsly.

But as the latest incarnation of the Cadets heads in to the Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament on Thursday night, head coach Brian Valentine says he's leading a squad that's wise beyond it's years.

In other words, don't let the fact that Linsly's program is only in its second year fool you. There's talent on this team and they're eager to show it.

"We have a lot of kids that work hard, and that's all I could ever ask of them," Valentine said.

Valentine graduated from Linsly in 2002 and wrestled for the Cadets. He returned to his alma mater three years to serve as a physical education teacher.

"Some of the kids had heard I wrestled and wanted to know if I could get a program going," Valentine said.

One thing led to another an, with a tremendous amount of support from Linsly's administration, wrestling returned as a varsity sport to the Woodsdale campus.

"We went from 15 kids last year to 24 this year," Valentine beamed. "It's just been a great experience for me to come back and do something I like so much.

"To me, it's the toughest sport there is."

And, perhaps, the most rewarding.

"We're doing really well so far this season," Valentine said. "Our dual meet record is 4-2 and every tournament we've been in we've placed well.

"Our enthusiasm has been great. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Linsly's lineup is strongest at the top and bottom of its lineup.

At 106 pounds, freshman Tommy Curtin has been a pleasant surprise, sporting a 13-1 mark behind victories in tournaments at Barnesville and Cameron.

"He's a really tough kid," Valentine said. "He should be one of the top seeds. He placed in Ohio in middle school."

Football standouts Chimechi Oparanozie and Chuckwudi Chukwu secure the backend of Linsly's lineup at 220 and 285 pounds, respectively. Oparanzie is 12-1 and won the Barnesville Invitational and finished second at Cameron.

Chukwu, meanwhile, at 13-1, won at Cameron and placed third at Barnesville.

Valentine sees the prospects for placing at OVACs high for Curtin, Oparanzoie and Chukwu.

"We have a couple of kids that maybe have a shot at winning,'' Valentine said. "But we really don't make goals per se as to where we want to finish individually. We'd like to finish in the top 3 in our class. That would be a big deal for us."

At 113, Linsly has sophomore Thomas Mossman (5-6), while sophomore Brady Nanners has won the job at 126 pounds. Both are first-year wrestlers.

Brady Bower, a junior, competes at 132 and is in his second year on the mats.

"He's a quick learner and loves to compete,'' Valentine said.

Sophomore Jay Mascara (4-3) is another first-year competitors who Valentine describes as "very explosive." He wrestles at 138.

At 145 is the first of the Giovengos, Johnny. He competes at 145 and sports a 4-5 mark thus far. Gage Giovengo wrestles at 160 and he's 9-5. Both are sons of former Linsly coach Bob Giovengo.

"I respect him a lot," Valentine said. "It's been great having him around."

Benton Nanners competes at 152. He's a senior and is 3-5.

Another promising sophomore is Von Wooding. The 170-pounder is 9-5 and finished third at Cameron.

Rounding out the Cadets' lineup at junior Will McClure (5-8) at 195 and sophomore Ify Chima at 182. Chima is 1-1 and is coming off a injury.

"My goals were to get more kids interested and get enthusiasm up, and that's happened," Valentine said. "Hopefully, we can place in the top 3. We have a lot of young kids wrestling hard. That would be a good finish for us."



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