WHEELING - Since rejoining the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference before the 2009-10 campaign, Parkersburg South has made WesBanco Arena its home away from home in winning the last three conference wrestling tournaments at the downtown facility.
And while first-year Head Coach Donna Dixon will bring her Patriots back to the arena in mid-January to go for a fourth consecutive team title, this weekend South returned to WesBanco for a little different business, and again left with a first place trophy.
Saturday night the Patriots capped off a dominating 9-0 performance with a much easier-than-expected 49-24 victory over Harrison, Ohio to capture the championship of the 22nd annual Wheeling Park Duals.
WINNER — Steubenville 106-pound wrestler Tariq Wilson grapples with an opponent from Woodward Academy during the Wheeling Park?Duals Saturday. Wilson won the match.
That win came on the heels of a 42-33 victory over Steubenville, which finished third in the this weekend's event, and came down to the heavyweight match, with a Parkersburg South pin fall enough to hold off Big Red.
The loss was the only one of the two-day event for Coach Mike Blackburn's squad, which defeated Woodward, Ga., for third. Host Wheeling Park won 6 of 9 matches for an eighth place showing.
Dixon's squad wasted very little time getting going against Harrison, which finished 7-2 in the duals, racing to a 49-0 lead before allowing a pair of forfeits and late pins for the final margin.
"No question, we are very, very happy with the way things turned out here," a smiling Dixon admitted. "The boys really wrestled their hearts out this weekend and this is their reward. And the fact that it happened here, where we hope to return and defending our conference championship, is even a little more special.
"We gave us some points having to forfeit two weight classes all weekend long, but those two boys are out with an injury and an illness and will be ready to wrestle when we come back (Wheeling).
"Repeating as OVAC champions is always a good thing, but the main goal is ultimately winning our fifth state championship and I believe right now we are heading in the right direction for that."
Steubenville, meanwhile, battled back from its loss to the Patriots to beat Woodward Academy by a 41-32 margin, using a victory at heavyweight to secure that decision.
Blackburn's squad has a similar goal next month as South, winning the OVAC. And while recent history says that the Patriots will again be tough to overtake, Big Red has been on a steady progression towards the top. Steubenville fourth in the team standings in 2010, third in 2011 and runner-up last year.
"I thought we really battled Parkersburg South (Saturday)," Blackburn commented. "Both teams have a couple of injuries and I think it could be interesting when the conference tournament rolls around. They are still the top dog right now, but we hope to get that title.
"This meet is great competition and really helps, but we have been in some nice tournaments on our schedule and the kids are really getting to wrestle a lot, and some top-notch competition. I think the end result shows how these kinds of tournaments help, and it also lets you know what you need to work on."