By JAMIE BAKER
Van Buren is looking to do what no Black Knight wrestling team has ever done before — win a league championship.
That’s the goal for Bryan Whitticar’s Van Buren team on Saturday when the Ohio Wrestling League tournament takes place beginning at 10 a.m. at Toledo Christian.
Before the season started, Van Buren was tabbed as the league favorite in a vote of the conference’s head coaches.
While Whitticar is optimistic about his team’s chances, he knows defending OWL champion Gibsonburg isn’t about to roll over.
“Gibsonburg placed ahead of us at the Van Buren Invitational, and they are going to be tough to beat this weekend, but I think we have a team that can win the OWL,” Whitticar said.
“We’ve had some really tough practices and I think we’re ready. The kids know what’s at stake this weekend and what it means. We need everyone out there to give everything they’ve got for six minutes out there on the mat.”
The Black Knights will be able to fill between 12-14 weight classes, which will certainly give them an edge with a number of schools in the league only filling a fraction of the weight classes.
Juniors Chance Sonnenberg, who will compete at 170 pounds this week, and heavyweight Isaac Sexton are both returning OWL champs. Both have 22-2 records heading into the tournament.
Sophomore Payten Whitticar is 21-5 at 195 pounds and junior Santos Miranda has a 16-8 record at 220 pounds.
Miranda’s performance will be particularly important to the Black Knights’ success Saturday.
“Santos is a junior and has won quite a few matches for us,” Whitticar said. “He’s placed in some tournaments but it’s time for him to step up for us and wrestle for a championship. We need him to help us this weekend.”
Arcadia’s Trevor and Jarrod Bowman are also returning area OWL champs along with Cory-Rawson’s Austin Brown and Dylen Hartman.
Other teams set to compete include McComb, Northwood, Danbury and Toledo Christian.
It could be the final year for the OWL with its current set of teams.
Beginning next year, with the addition of Hopewell-Loudon, Riverdale and North Baltimore to the Blanchard Valley Conference, and a new wrestling program at Liberty-Benton, there will be eight BVC schools with programs which would be enough to sponsor a league championship in the sport for the first time since the early 1980s.
Also, with the breakup of the Midland Athletic League, there may be a chance to add those schools (Tiffin Calvert, Fostoria St. Wendelin, Fremont St. Joseph, Lakota) and Sandusky St. Mary’s to the BVC schools to make it a 17-team league.
Another idea might be having a concurrent tournament featuring the TAAC and old MAL schools in one tourney and tournament for BVC schools run at the same site with the winners meeting for an overall OWL championship.
“We talked about it before the season started and some weren’t sure having just a BVC tournament would be the best thing for everyone or not,” Whitticar said.
“I think we could make the OWL stronger with the new BVC schools.”
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