Shadyside had an OVAC Tournament to remember in 2013.
Not only did the Tigers win the Class 1A/2A team title, they produced three individual champions, which was the second most of any school in the conference.
However, Ian Baker (145), Alex Quinn (152) and Chase Kinemond (160) all graduated last spring. Along with them, head coach Scott Kinemond stepped down after a highly successful stint.
Despite those losses, new head coach Sean Grinch doesn't think his youthful squad is one to be counted out come Saturday night when the points are being calculated at the 61st annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament, which opens Thursday at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling.
"We've had some ups and downs against tough competition and I think, from top to bottom, we've improved," Grinch said. "The OVAC Tournament is such a grind. And the 2A division is very competitive again."
The Tigers' aforementioned trio all went on to earn all-Ohio status, including Quinn completing the undefeated season with a Division III state championship.
"Obviously, it would be really nice to have those guys back," Grinch offered. "They were huge assets to the team. I think they scored enough points by themselves to win the 2A title last year."
With a relatively young squad, featuring only one senior in the starting lineup, Grinch knows the battle for this year's team crown will require scoring from his entire lineup, which will only fill 11 of the 14 weight classes.
"Bonus points will be key and when guys get in the consolation bracket, we'll need to battle and wrestle tough because those wins are very important," Grinch confessed. "We have to continue to get better each week because we're so young. Our guys have wrestled tough."
Grinch couldn't put a number on how many placers he expects because some of the weight classes are so wide open.
"Some of these weight classes are going to come down to what kid gets hot that week," Grinch said. "We could have someone go 0-2 or that same kid could make the top four. It's going to be really interesting to see how it plays out. Placement on the bracket will be important and whether or not kids wrestle true to seeds. We're excited and looking forward to the challenge."
Shadyside has prepared for the OVAC Tournament by taking part in the Barnesville Invitational, the Wheeling Park Duals and it won its own 'Last Man Standing' Tournament earlier this month.
At the Park Duals, Shadyside, which was one of the smallest schools taking part, finished 4-4 and faced the likes of Massillon, Cincinnati St. Xavier and Steubenville.
"The competition was tough there and we took some beatings along the way," Grinch said. "We grew up some, though, and that was good to see from our kids."
Currently, the Tigers own an 8-5 dual record and will take part in the OHSAA Duals, a tournament at Dublin Jerome, the OVAC Duals and battle Wheeling Park in a dual at Wheeling Jesuit after the conference tournament.
The Tigers, who won't have an entrant at 170, 182 and 195 pounds, have 18 on their roster.
"We just have a logjam of kids in our low or middle weights," Grinch said. "We really didn't have anyone to go there."
One of the top Tigers' entrants is freshman Gregory Quinn at 106 pounds. Quinn, who is Alex's brother, is 22-0 on the season and owns titles at both Barnesville and Shadyside. He was the most outstanding wrestler at Shadyside and won an award for most pins at Barnesville. He's also not had a match go into the third period this season.
"Greg's been around the sport his entire life, travelled to find the best competition (in the offseason) and it's showing by the way he's wrestling now," Grinch said.
"I don't see why he can't be in the mix Saturday night. Obviously, it gets tougher from here on out, but I think he's ready for it."
Freshman Josh Kahl gets the call at 120 pounds. He was the champion at Barnesville and was named most outstanding wrestler after winning gold despite being unseeded. He's currently 18-3 on the season and was second at Shadyside after having to injury default in the title bout.
"Josh is a hard-nosed kid," Grinch said. "I think he surprised some people at Barnesville. He has a high motor, works hard in the (practice) room and he's very focused. He's in a very deep weight class."
Sophomore Brett Kahl is another to keep an eye on this weekend. He's currently 17-5 on the season and will enter at 145 pounds. He was the champion at Shadyside and third at Barnesville.
"Of his five losses, a few are heartbreakers to good kids," Grinch said. "I think Brett's really battle tested. He feels like he has something to prove and he's in a weight class where he could have a good weekend."
Jake Duvall is one of only two seniors on the team. He'll enter at 160 pounds with an 13-8 record. He was third at Shadyside.
"Jake started the season at 170 and has really done better since dropping down," Grinch said. "He went 4-1 at our tournament and wrestled well. He's a smart kid who could possibly sneak into a place."
Freshman Billy Johnson (10-7) has yet to break through for a tournament placing, but Grinch is high on him.
"One thing that's hurt Billy is he's ran into some upper classmen who are more mature and have some strength on him. He's another guy who, if he's wrestling well, could place."
Sophomore Collin Hunter is 9-5 and will be entered at 113 pounds. He was third at Shadyside.
"Collin's first matches were at Park and he's steadily improving," Grinch said. "He has losses to quality kids, so we hope he continues to wrestle well."
Grinch held wrestle-offs for the 126 pound and 138 pound spots.
Juniors Zach Vaughn (6-1) and Wyatt Skapik (9-8) have gone back-and-forth most of the season. Vaughn has battled back from early season injuries.
Skapik won a wrestle off late last week and will be in the field for the OVAC?Tournament.
At 138, freshman Cody Hawthorne (9-4) and senior Jake Haswell (6-8) locked horns for the spot on the bracket.
Sophomore Austin Allen holds down the fort at 152 pounds, but is giving up some weight to go to that class. He's currently 5-8.
Sophomore Dante DeFelice is 8-11 and making steady improvement at 220 pounds.
Freshman Donnie Meadows (2-5) holds down the 285-pound weight class for the Tigers.
The balance of the Tigers' squad includes: freshman Will Brown (106), Bailey Chaplin (132), sophomore Matt Shaw (132), sophomore Zane Merryman (138) and sophomore Eli Karkowski (285).
"We're really young with some scrappy kids," Grinch said. "A lot of our guys have been wrestling for a lot of years and have a good background in the sport. There will probably be some nerves this weekend, but that's natural and there's nothing wrong with that. We're focused on taking it one match at a time."
Grinch, who is a Shadyside High graduate, had served on the coaching staff at Indian Creek before landing the Tigers' post. His father, John, served a lengthy tenure as the Tigers head coach in the late 80s and early 90s.
"Being a head coach is everything I thought it would be," Grinch said. "It's a lot of hardwork, but I've got really good people around me in terms of the administration, the assistant coach and a good group of parents. They all really make things easier."
Grinch's coaching staff consists of Kurt Glasser, Jesse Irwin and Luke Burkhardt, all of whom were standouts in the Orange & Black. Baker is guiding the junior high program.