WHEELING – A tussle for Steubenville city bragging rights was held in Wheeling Saturday night.
Steubenville Catholic Central’s Leo Hermann and Big Red’s Branden Jones were pitted against each other in the 170-pound championship of the 61st annual OVAC wrestling tournament at WesBanco Arena.
“It’s a big rivalry,” Hermann said, “not as much in wrestling because we never really see each other on the mat and I’ve never wrestled Brandon before. It’s good for the schools and the community, I’m sure.”
Even better for the Crusaders grapplers.
Hermann’s technical fall win over Jones came in 2:28 and helped further secure Central’s first 3A tournament championship in school history. Hermann, the No. 2 seed, also became the first Crusader to win an OVAC individual title since Chinedu Achebe, who later played football at Iowa State, did 18 years ago.
“It’s one match at a time and I got to the last one,” Hermann said. “I didn’t care who I was going up against, I just wanted to win because it’s my senior year.
“Brandon is pretty big compared to me and he’s probably stronger compared to me. I don’t usually tie up with guys and I try to stay away from that and stay low. I found my spot and worked it to the end to get the pin.
It was a natural reaction that I’ve worked on for a long time. I had his leg there and sometime you put pressure on their shoulders and they turn into you. I locked it up and took advantage of it.”
The Crusaders finished with 102 points in the team standings, 33 ahead of second place Linsly.
“We’re going to embrace the moment,” said Central coach Aaron Henry. “These plaques are going up in our locker room with pride.”
Intriguing as it was, the city rivalry was a talking point for both coaches.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” Henry said. “It ended up being a great wrestling match.”
Added Steubenville coach Mike Blackburn, “For as hard as Branden works, my heart goes out to him. He works his tail off and he’ll go back to work on Monday to focus on sectionals.”
Big Red still fared well for the tournament, repeating as 4A champions. It totaled 200 points and finished third overall behind Parkersburg South (264.5) and Wheeling Park (209.5).
“For us, being as young as we are, this is a great accomplishment,” Blackburn said. “These guys really stepped up after we lost a lot of guys to graduation. I thought we wrestled really well.”
Sophomore Tariq Wilson captured his second-consecutive OVAC championship with a technical fall win over Oak Glen’s Danny Wyke in 2:15.
“They both were the same,” WIlson said of the 2013 title, compared to 2014. “I had to work hard this season to make sure that I even could make it this far and achieve the championship again.
“Coach always told me to be aggressive and take advantage of my chances. I kept taking him down and eventually got the pin.”
Wilson, who placed at last year’s Ohio state meet, began wrestling in the shadows of his uncle, Anthony Rice. He won an elementary state tournament and has even bigger expectations for this year and beyond.
“I didn’t know what it meant back then and it’s kind of taken me until now to realize what it really means,” Wilson said of placing first in a major event. ” I’m going to train a little harder, work a little harder than hopefully eventually become a state champ.”
Edison’s Mitchell Wells suffered a broken hand in Saturday’s first round against Magnolia’s Caleb Nice. FIghting through the pain, he won a 4-2 decision.
Though suggested not to wrestle in the 182-pound championship against Parkersburg South’s Justin Allman, the junior had other ideas.
“I thought, ‘What the heck?’ I have no other reason not to give it a try,” he said.
He ended up falling in a 6-2 decision.
The Oak Glen team placed second in 4A with 139 points, it was also good for fourth overall.