The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference is committed to crowning champions on the field, court, track or, now, the mats.
During last Monday's OVAC Wrestling mandatory meeting and press conference, the conference formally announced the addition of the OVAC Dual Championship, which will be held on back-to-back Wednesdays in February.
In years' past, the OVAC wrestling champions were crowned through a standings system, meaning it was a paper champion.
"I think this is going to be another great event for wrestling in the Ohio Valley," said event director Jim Rocchi. "It's another chance to showcase our wrestlers, our schools and our individuals. I am looking forward to it."
A committee of coaches was formed to set up the criteria and logistics for the tournament.
"We had some what ifs, but I think we got it narrowed down to a pretty good format," Rocchi said. "I think it's a work-in-progress, and if we have to make tweaks to it ... we will."
On top of crowning champions, this will be a good test run for the Ohio schools because the OHSAA is adding a dual-meet state tournament in 2013.
The OVAC dual tournament will begin with semifinal round on Feb. 1. Classes 1A and 2A will be combined and wrestle their preliminary round at Shadyside High School. The 4A class will hold its opening round at Harrison Central High School.
The 3A and 5A classes had only four schools commit to the tournament, so those will advance automatically to the championship rounds at WesBanco Arena on Feb. 8.
On both days, wrestling begins at 5:30 p.m. There will be three mats down in the opening round and eight mats will be utilized during the championship event.
"During the finals, it will be a four-team bracket with the semifinals and then the winners will wrestle for the championship and the losers will wrestle for third," said Rocchi. "I think this is going to be a great event and fans of wrestling will want to come out and see all of the champions crowned."
Some schools opted not to compete because they're only allowed so many matches and tournaments, through a point system, prior to their respective state tournaments.
Competing in the 1A/2A class are: Beallsville, Bishop Donahue, Caldwell, Cameron, Conotton Valley, River, St. John Central, Shadyside, Steubenville Central, Toronto and Wheeling Central.
In 3A are: Barnesville, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central and Shenandoah.
The 4A field consists of: Buckeye Local, Edison, Harrison Central, Meadowbrook, Oak Glen, St. Clairsville, Steubenville and Union Local.
In 5A are: Brooke, John Marshall, University and Wheeling Park.
"When I coached (at Buckeye Local), I know there were years where we were nosed out (for the dual title) by someone we didn't even wrestle, so this gives you a chance to crown a real champion on the mat," said Ron Mauck Tournament Director Dan Doyle.
To compete in the OVAC Dual Tournament, the school must declare it on its schedule by March 31 in the preceding year, must wrestle at least three OVAC dual matches prior to OVAC Tournament in January and must have a minimum of six wrestlers compete in the tournament.
The standings will still be compiled by wrestling affianced Sean Smith and used to determine the seeds for the opening round matches.
By wrestling adding the tournament, it now makes football as the only sport the OVAC sponsors that's crowned simply through the standings.
It's always been slightly confusing to some that the OVAC hosts the nation's largest prep, conference wrestling tournament in January with the Ron Mauck Tournament, but those class champions aren't the teams who receive the pennants at the OVAC Banquet of Champions held in the spring.
To me, that would be the best way to go about crowning champions since most schools are battling numbers' issues and filling an entire lineup for a dual match is tough.
Plus, when you've got to battle through five sessions of action at WesBanco Arena, that's the way you see who has the best team. In a dual, you receive six points for a forfeit, meaning a team could conceivably have four or five individual champions at the conference tournament, but not be able to fill the other weight classes, meaning you're giving up 42 points right off the top.
But, it is what it is.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org