By KIM NORTH
Times Leader Sports Writer
After a second-place finish in the 2013 Ron Mauck Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 3A wrestling tournament, Barnesville head coach Jayson Stephen thinks the Shamrocks have the ability to challenge for the title again in 2014.
The 61st annual event gets under way Thursday at 6 p.m. with Olympic-style opening ceremonies inside downtown Wheeling's WesBanco Arena.
The tournament runs through Saturday night's championship finals, which begin at 6:30.
"As a team, I think we can compete in the 3A division," Stephen said. "But our top wrestlers will have to step up and compete at the level in which I know they can.
"I expect my returning place-winners to place again, and the ones that fell short (a year ago) to place this year," Stephen added. "We have a young team - with only two seniors - and in time only get better."
Those returning place-winners include junior Austin Singleton and sophomore Hobie Howiler, who will wrestle at 126 and 138, respectively this weekend.
Singleton, who is currently 16-3, was seventh at 113 a year ago at the OVAC Tournament. He was one spot away from qualifying for the Ohio Division III District Tournament with a fifth-place showing at the sectional. He finished 35-11 and has 100-plus victories.
This season Singleton has won the Rick Link Union Local Tournament; was third at the America's Best Value Inn Tournament in St. Clairsville; and fourth at the Doan Ford Barnesville Invitational.
"Austin has a chance to increase his finish of a year ago, but he is going to have to wrestle his best," Stephen noted.
Howiler, who surprised many with his third-place finish at last season's OVAC tourney at 120, is currently 9-3, but has been wrestling at 145 for most of the early season. He was second at Barnesville and fourth at St. Clairsville this season.
Howiler was 41-7 as a freshman, winning a sectional crown and going to the district.
"Hobie had a strong freshman season," Stephen said. "He needs to follow that up with a strong sophomore year."
Other possible Shamrocks to step on the podium Saturday night are junior Collin Wilson (120) and freshmen Butch Holskey (152) and Caide Bunfill (195).
Wilson, who qualified for the district after a second-place in the sectional and a 30-9 finish, has a third-place medal from Union Local and a pair of fourths from Barnesville and St. Clairsville this season. He is 12-7.
Holskey (4-5) was fourth at Union Local, while Bunfill (10-7) placed fourth at St, Clairsville.
Rounding out the roster are freshmen Kohl Campbell (113), Eric McMillen (132); sophomore Cade Leasure (182); juniors Jordan Starr (145) and Ronnie Perdue (220); and senior Josh Schnegg (170).
Barnesville has only wrestled two OVAC dual meets, winning one and losing the other. Thus, they sit in fourth place entering the tournament.
The Shamrocks won't field individuals in three weight classes, those being 106, 160 and 285.
Barnesville claimed the prestigious team crown back in 1985 under the direction of Darrell Davis. The Shamrocks finished 24th overall last year, but were second to River in Class 3-A.
Three former Shamrocks have claimed the Dave Bierkortte Award, which is presented to the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler. They are Dan Claugus (1973), Brian Miller (1983) and Tim Moxley (1985). Additionally, Dave Kovalick was named the 1988 Mr. Mat.