ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Every coach, no matter the sport, wants his team to peak at the right time.
For St. Clairsville head wrestling coach Joel Sansone, that time is coming this weekend when the 61st annual Ron Mauck Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tournament unfolds at downtown Wheeling's WesBanco Arena on Thursday night. Olympic-style opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. The event runs through Saturday night's championship finals at 6:30.
"Our team is very young this year, but at times you wouldn't know that as these guys have really improved their work ethic and will to win on the mat," Sansone said. "They are competing very hard against each other in the practice room and expect it to transfer into competing at the OVACs. Every day our coaching staff discusses how the team is doing, and lately we just keep saying they are getting better every day. They are buying into what the coaching staff is teaching them.
"We are coming off our best week of practice yet, which appears to be great timing," he continued. "I was pleased to see that when we sent in our individual entries for the (OVAC) tournament, that nine of our 12 wrestlers will be bringing in winning records, which is very good considering we have only one senior and two juniors in the lineup.
"As far as the team finish, we will just have to wait and see how the kids embrace the demands of a three-day tournament," he added. "But, as most coaches know, anything can happen, and usually does, at the OVACs. Many dreams will be shattered, while others will become reality."
Sophomore Michael Furbee is the Red Devils' lone returning place-winner, as he finished sixth at 220 pounds last year. He will compete at the same weight this weekend.
"Michael is one of the harder working wrestlers, both in the practice room and, as well as outside of practice," Sansone noted. "He has set some big goals for his sophomore campaign, and is right on pace to achieve them."
Furbee, a co-captain, is a sparkling 19-1 so far this season after compiling a 39-11 mark last year when he qualified for the Division IV district tournament, where he won a pair of matches before being eliminated. He has won the Tyler Consolidated Tournament and America's Best Value Inn Tournament on his home mats, while finishing second at Nelsonville-York.
Alex Timko, the Red Devils only senior and captain of the squad, is currently 19-3 on the season at 113 pounds. He was finished first at the Tyler Tournament and third at both Nelsonville-York and the America's Best Value Inn event.
"Alex was one win away from placing at last years OVAC Tournament, losing that match in three overtimes," Sansone recalled. "He is bound and determined to make the podium in his final chance."
Timko was second in the Division III sectional a year ago, and sixth at the district.
The remainder of the team is comprised of four freshmen, four sophomores and a pair of juniors.
Freshman Jamey Creer will take the mat at 106. He placed second at the Tyler Consolidated Tournament.
At 120 will be classmate Donte Vincenzo, who is 9-8 thus far. He has placed third at Tyler Consolidated and sixth at Nelsonville-York.
Freshman Shamus Thompson is penciled in at 126, with sophomore Colton Stevens listed at 132. Stevens is 10-8 and won the 138-pound weight class at Tyler Consolidated before moving down a division.
Junior Charlie Hall will wrestle at 138. He is 8-1 and was runnerup at Tyler Consolidated at 145 for his lone setback.
"Charlie has been in and out of the lineup this season, but he seems to have found a home at 138," Sansone added.
Logan Thompson, a sophomore, will compete at 145. He is 9-8 so far this year.
"Logan hit his stride here last year when he won three matches at the OVAC," Sansone reflected back. "He carried that momentum through the second half of the season and we're hoping for the same this year."
Freshman Dylan Alwine is no stranger to winning at OVACs as he was a Jr. High runnerup last season. He is 5-3 in limited action thus far as a frosh.
"Dylan recently earned his varsity spot just in time for this weekend," Sansone said. "He is very tough on the mat and we knew he could do some damage, but we were just waiting for him to make the transition from junior high to varsity. As of how, it appears he has done that."
Cole Skaggs, the Red Devils' 160-pound sophomore, is a fine 16-1 with a championship at Tyler Consolidated.
He was also third at the America's Best Value Inn Tournament.
"Cole is wrestling very strong and is determined to make the podium at OVACs for the first time," Sansone added.
Junior Matt Carnes will fill the 170 pound weight class where he is 9-8 so far this season. He finished sixth in a very tough weight class at Nelsonville-York, but won three matches via pin.
"Matt has brought a very hard work ethic into this season and looks to accomplish big things," Sansone allowed.
Rounding out the Red Devils' roster is 10th-grader Carson Ernest, who will be making his varsity debut this weekend.
"What better way to make a statement," Sansone said.
"Carson is a very athletic big guy and has already proven himself on the football field. Now he plans to make a name for himself on the mat."
He is the younger brother of Corey Ernest, who was an OVAC champion and Division III district qualifier at 285 pounds last year.
St. Clairsville finished a distant second to Steubenville - which was the overall champion - in the Class 4A division.