Five local wrestlers emerged victorious Friday night after two days of grueling action in the 19th annual America's Best Value Inn Invitational on John Jenkins Court inside St. Clairsville High School.
Martins Ferry and the host Red Devils had two each, while Barnesville rounded out the champions with one.
Dover took the team title with 291 points, which was 30 ahead of second-place St. Clairsville. Morgan was third with 243, followed by Oak Glen (240) and Tallmadge (237) to round out the top 5. Martins Ferry finished seven with 217, while Harrison Central (156) and Union Local (152) were eighth and ninth. Barnesville finished 10th at 143. Bridgeport (40) was 12th.
BARNESVILLE’S HOBIE Howiler (in red) controls Williamstown’s Brett MacIver during their 120-pound championship match during the 19th annual America’s Best Value Inn Invitational Friday.
Claiming titles for the Red Devils were Seth Benge (170) and Cory Ernest (285). However, both took opposite routes to capture their coveted hardware.
Benge dispatched Dover's Troy Arbogast in 1:50 of their championship bout. The St. Clairsville matman recorded an early takedown and never looked back.
"It feels awesome," he said while having a minor injury attended to. "It's the first high school tournament I've won, and to do it here is the best."
Benge improved to 10-2 on the season.
"Seth was kind of a surprise," St. C.'s Joel Sansone allowed. "He came in as the second seed and never had a match go the distance. He's really stepped up over the last couple of weeks."
Ernest, meanwhile, went into overtime in the semifinals before needing double overtime to oust Williamstown's Alex Rauch, 4-1, to wrap up the action. It was his second consecutive trip to the podium's top step.
"It would be a lot better to get the job done in the first three periods than go into double overtime, but I'll take it," he said while still attempting to catch his breath. "A 'W' is a 'W'."
The senior standout is now a sterling 13-1.
"Cory wrestled a great tournament," Sansone said. "It's a war of attrition for him early in the season. He's got to get into shape."
Purple Riders ruling their respective weight classes were Damon Outward (132) and Zac Coole (220).
Outward breezed to a 12-3 decision over Oak Glen's Alex Shuman, who entered the tournament as an unattached wrestler. The Martins Ferry standout recorded five takedowns en route to the lop-sided victory.
"I had never heard of him or knew anything about him. I went into the match thinking I was going to win, and after I got the first takedown, I pretty much knew it was my match to win."
Outward is now an impressive 12-1.
"Damon wrestled really well," Ferry's Scott Roth said. "He's actually wrestling really well right now. He's moving on his feet, but he's still getting pins for us."
Coole was locked up in the only bout pitting two local grapplers against each other, and scored a decisive, 12-2, nod over St. Clairsville's Michael Furbee. The Purple Riders' senior led 8-1 after two periods.
"I wrestled him at Barnesville earlier this year, so I knew what to expect," Coole said. "But I still knew it would be a battle."
"Zac is starting to pick it up in practice and it's starting to show on the mat," Roth added. "I think he's peaking at the right time with the OVACs right around the corner."
Barnesville's Hobie Howiler is quickly making a name for himself on the high school scene. The Shamrock freshman won the 120-pound weight class with a convincing, 9-1, verdict over Williamstown's Brett MacIver.
The championship was the first for Howiler in his short high school career, but probably won't be his last.
"It feels good," he allowed. "I didn't even know who my opponent was going to be. It was kind of a learn-on-the-fly thing, but my coaches gave me great advice to get through the match."
He is now a sparkling 13-3.
When asked if he was surprised Howiler not only won the event, but even made the finals, Barnesville head coach Jayson Stephen said, "Yes, and no. I knew he was capable of doing it. It was just a matter of where he was in the bracket. He's still learning and picking things up."
In addition the Furbee, another trio of locals fell short of the quest as they finished second. They included Barnesville's Colin Wilson (113) and the St. Clairsville duo of Justin Callarik (138) and Dalton Nolte (160).
Wilson dropped a 5-0 decision to Cameron's Dalton Wood, while Callarik was decisioned 10-5 by Dover's Isaac Hammonds. Nolte was on the short end of a 5-3 nod to Dover's Nick Weininger, who remained perfect at 8-0 and repeated his title of 2011.
Other champions were Dover's Cory Marshall (106); Williamstown's Dalton George (126); Cameron's Dillon Blake (145); Williamstown's Jake Tracewell (152); Morgan's Rhys Ramirez (182); and Tallmadge's Jake Weigand (195).
George was voted the winner of the prestigious Delande Award.
St. Clairsville led the locals with half-a-dozen place-winners, while Martins Ferry had five.
"We had five kids in the finals and came out with two champions," Sansone assessed. "I think overall we had a good tournament."
"Some of our younger guys wrestled alright for us, and we had a couple of guys that don't normally place that did. So, it was a good weekend."
Bridgeport and Union Local had one place-winner each.
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