Red Devils could surprise some people this weekend


Times Leader Sports Editor

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — As it pertains to this weekend’s 64th annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament, St. Clairsville is a team that many of the pundits aren’t expecting much from as it pertains to the team race.

Head coach Joel Sansone, who is in his seventh season at the helm of his alma mater, is OK with that, too.

“We’re not ranked very highly, but we have some guys who many people have never heard of that have a chance to make a name for themselves and I know they’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Sansone said.

The Red Devils actually have nary a competitor this weekend who has stood on the OVAC podium or took part in last season’s Division II district tournament.

“We’re a very, very young team with five freshmen and three sophomores in our lineup,” Sansone said. “I actually think we’ve overachieved to this point.”

The Red Devils are currently 3-1 in duals and only took part in an invitational at Atwater Waterloo and their own America’s Best Value Inn Tournament during the Christmas break prior to last weekend’s Buckeye 8 Tournament.

“Since we have such a young team, we decided not to schedule anything between our tournament and the Buckeye 8,” Sansone said. “We wanted to reassess and break down some things in terms of what we need to improve on. We’ve been working hard in the (practice) room since our tournament to get better.”

The Red Devils finished ninth out of 23 teams at Waterloo with five individual placers and then finished fourth in their own event with nine grapplers earning a place in the top six.

“Honestly, I like where we’re at right now,” Sansone said. “Each time we’ve competed, we’ve exceeded expectations. Our kids are young and hungry to win. They give everything they have each day and when they put the ankle band on and the whistle blows, they’re ready to go.”

The Buckeye 8 tournament — and this weekend’s OVAC event, which opens Thursday at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling — started quite the finishing stretch for the Devils.

“Everything we’ve done up until the Buckeye 8 was basically like the pre-season to get ready for what’s ahead,” Sansone said. “We still have the OHSAA Duals and the OVAC Duals and then the sectional, so we have a lot of big events left. This is the point in the season where we want to start getting better.”

Leading to what Sansone called “a rebuilding year” was the graduartion of three OVAC placers, including reigning 285-pound champion Michael Furbee, who is now grappling at Cleveland State University. Also gone from last season are Cole Skaggs, who was fifth, and Logan DeLong, who was seventh.

St. Clairsville has 11 wrestlers on the team and will fill 11 weight classes this weekend. It’s only vacancies are at 113, 120 and 132.

Though they’re young and somewhat inexperienced, the Red Devils have eight of their entrants who own a .500 or better record.

“We noticed early in the season that when it’s time to go live, this group goes live,” Sansone said. “They battle every day. The results have definitely been a pleasant surprise.”

Leading the way for the Devils this weekend is senior captain Dante Vincenzo at 138 pounds. He’s currently 14-4 and boasts a bronze medal from Waterloo and a silver at St. C.

“Dante has been in the round of 12 at the OVAC, so he knows what it’s like to be a match away from placing and he’s hungry to make the podium,” Sansone explained. “He has a great work ethic and really leads by example.”

Freshman Derek Witsberger has been impressive at 195 pounds. He’s currently 15-4 with a third-place finish at Waterloo and a fifth-place award at St. C. on his resume.

“Derek’s a talented kid who was a two-time junior high state qualifier,” Sansone said. “He’s had good showings and scored a lot of points for us.”

Junior Michael Vannest is the entrant at 145 pounds. With a 12-5 record, Vannest also sports a runner-up finish at St. C. on his resume. He went 7-1 during the course of the event.

“I think Michael has a good, outside chance to place,” Sansone said. “His biggest attribute is he doesn’t care about who he’s wrestling. He just goes after it.”

At 106 pounds, freshman Ethan Bethel will be entered. He comes in with a 14-4 mark as well as a runner-up finish at Waterloo.

“We’ve seen a lot of good things from Ethan,” Sansone said. “He’s very wirey and scrambles well. If he does what he’s been doing, there’s no reason he can’t make the podium. He has to wrestle a complete tournament.”

Freshman Quintin Elerick will enter at 126 pounds with a 6-4 record. He’s spent most of the season either 132 or 138, but dropped down for the first time this season last week.

“Quintin has a motor that doesn’t stop,” Sansone said. “He comes to practice every day wanting to get better.”

Sophomore Justice McCamick enters at 220 pounds. He’s currently 12-4 and was third at St. C.

“Justice was Michael Furbee’s practice partner last year, so he learned a lot from him,” Sansone said. “He’s a lot bigger and stronger this season and actually looks like a 220 pounder. He might surprise some people.”

Sophomore Andrew Elerick is on the bracket at 182 pounds with a 4-4 record despite being a first-year wrestler and battling injuries.

Sophomore Trey Delguzzo (285), freshman Corey Naylor (152) and freshman James Dobbs (170) round out the lineup for the Red Devils.

Sansone is being assisted by Bobby Richmond.


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