WHEELING - The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference has long paid tribute to its most dedicated supporters, coaches and volunteers.
Saturday evening, prior to the start of the placement bouts at the 60th annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament, the OVAC honored long-time John Marshall coach Bill Hinegardner, who fits into all of the above categories.
The OVAC announced that it was formally adding Hinegardner's name to its dual meet tournament, which will be contested next month at WesBanco Arena.
The second annual event will now, forever, be known as the OVAC Bill Hinegardner Wrestling Dual Meet Championship.
"When you talk in the wrestling circles, Bill is probably the most respected coach and wrestling person in Ohio and West Virginia locally," said OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak. "Bill is a super person and there couldn't be a better person to name this tournament after."
The OVAC Bill Hinegardner Wrestling Dual Meet Championship will be held on Feb. 6 and the top four teams in the OVAC standings of each class will converge on downtown Wheeling for the tournament, which determines the pennants that are awarded at the Banquet of Champions in May.
"Bill was a big advocate of dual meets when they were first starting," Rataiczak said. "Plus, with this being the 70th anniversary of the OVAC, we felt this would be a good time to honor him. There are few people in the conference who've put as much time into a sport as Bill has."
Hinegardner had no idea and was totally stunned when the public address announcer began reading the release.
Hinegardner led the Monarchs to four West Virginia Class AAA state titles and five runner-up finishes. They won five OVAC 4-A titles and a like number of dual tournament titles, including winning 41 dual matches in a row. All told, he had a dual record of 133-29-1.
OF the 28 wrestlers in the championship final bouts, 22 were seniors and only one was a freshman.
Shadyside's Ian Baker, Wheeling Park's Cody Amos, Steubenville's Greg Moray and Anthony Craig were the only four wrestlers in the tournament field to have placed in the event in all four years of their high school career.
During Saturday's afternoon session, the presentation of special awards continued. River's entire team was recognized with the Project Best Sadler Sportsmanship Award for their examplary work done throughout the season.
Both of the Star Spangled Banners sang during Saturday's two sessions were simply outstanding. The afternoon session was sung by Harrison Central's David Forrester, who wrestled in the 120-pound weight class. The evening session was sung by Victoria Haswell, a student at Shadyside.
Both did tremendous jobs in honoring our nation.
The past champions of the 1988 season were honored with their 25-year reunion prior to the start of wrestling Saturday night. Included were local graduates Reed Case and Aric Gibson (Cadiz), Dean Burke and Rick Burlenski (Bridgeport) and Terry Holcomb (St. Clairsville).