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OVAC Bill Hinegardner Dual Championships open Wednesday with Class 5A at JM

Three defending champions are among the field for the seventh annual OVAC Bill Hinegardner Dual Meet championships this week. Wheeling Park (Class 5A), St. Clairsville (4A), Shenandoah (3A) and Bridgeport (Class 1A/2A) all won titles last winter when Mother Nature forced postponement of the event with a huge snow storm.

However, the number of divisions has been pared this year from four to three due to an inordinate number of teams not being eligible because they don’t wrestle enough OVAC teams.

Champions will be declared in Class 5A, Class 3A/4A and Class 1A/2A. The Class 3A field was combined with the Class 4A schools due to a lack of eligible teams.

“It’s disappointing that we have five classes and are only going to present three banners this season,” meet director Jim Rocchi said at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament press conference earlier this month. “It’s a shame that more teams don’t compete.”

The Class 5A championships will be held Wednesday at the John Marshall Fieldhouse in Moundsville. Weigh-ins take place at 5 p.m., with semifinal action beginning at 6.

Wheeling Park earned the top seed with a fine 15-2 mark. The Patriots also finished as runnersup in the recent OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament. They will meet fourth-seeded Weir (5-2), which edged out John Marshall and Morgantown for the final spot.

In the other semifinal, a pair of Jefferson County squads — No. 2 Indian Creek (5-1) and No. 3 Steubenville (12-4) — will do battle.

The two semifinal winners will meet in the championship approximately 20 minutes after the last semifinal ends.

“It was nice to win last year but it was disappointing that we couldn’t do it on the mat,” second-year Wheeling Park head coach Brian Leggett said. “Our kids are excited to be able to defend that title. We try and wrestle all the OVAC teams we can before the cut-off so that we get good competition.”

The Patriots defeated Steubenville earlier this season in dual-meet action.

“It was a good dual,” Leggett recalled. “All three of the other teams are quality teams.”

On Thursday, the Class 1A/2A and Class 3A/Class 4A tournaments will be held at Brooke High School in Wellsburg. Like Wednesday night, weigh-ins are set for 5, with wrestling at 6.

Shenandoah has dropped down a division this year, but veteran head coach Jesse Wells likes his team’s chances.

“I think we have a good shot at repeating,” he said. “There are some good wrestlers and good teams in our division, but I think we’ve shown throughout the season that we are wrestling at a high level.”

The Zeps (6-1), who won the Class 1A/2A/ title at the OVAC Ron Mauck Tournament, will meet No. 4 Bridgeport (2-5) in one semifinal, while second-seeded Southern Local (6-7) and No. 3 Shadyside (3-5) meet in the other.

The two semifinal winners will meet in the championship approximately 20 minutes after the last semifinal ends.

In Class 3A/4A, St. Clairsville (10-0) is the top seed. Prior to winning the Class 4A title last year, the Red Devils were runnersup the previous two years.

St. Clairsville faces No. 4 Oak Glen (8-5) in the semifinals.

“We’ve seen them at the OVACs and last week at the Brooke Classic,” head coach Joel Sansone said of the Golden Bears. “Both teams had nice showings at the OVACs. I think bonus points will be huge. This is a tough first-round match, but you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”

The other semi has second-seeded Barnesville (6-0) and No. 3 Linsly (7-1) battling for a berth in the finals. Both have been Class 3A powers in the past.

“Barnesville is a really good Class 3A team,” Sansone said. “They are solid.”

The two winners will meet in the championship approximately 20 minutes after the last semifinal ends.

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