By JAMIE BAKER
The prep wrestling season isn’t even a week old and Elmwood coach Dave Lee has already added to his legacy.
Lee’s Royals opened the dual meet portion of their schedule with wins over Rossford and Fostoria in a Northern Buckeye Conference super triangular Tuesday night.
The wins improved his career dual match record to 509-219. His 509 career dual meet victories are No. 1 all-time among Ohio high school wrestling coaches.
Maple Heights coach Jamie Milkovich is second on the all-time wins list with a record of 453-120-1.
Look for Lee and Elmwood to add to that win total this season.
The Royals may be the area’s top team this season with both numbers (30 wrestlers in the high school program) and talent with 10 returning letterwinners, that includes a returning state qualifier in 160-pounder Noah Baker.
The Royals were picked to finish second in a competitive Northern Buckeye Conference this year in a preseason vote of the league’s coaches behind Genoa.
They’ll find out where they stand in the conference Tuesday when the Royals host Genoa and Otsego in a 5:30 p.m. NBC triangular.
Here are some other things to know as the new area wrestling season heats up:
TOP-NOTCH TOURNEYS: Several area teams will try and prepare their wrestlers for the post season by competing in top-level tournaments throughout the course of the season.
Elmwood will be one of 43 teams competing at the 42nd Medina Invitational Tournament on Dec. 27-28.
With the demise of the Tiffin Columbian Tournament, which was scuttled after more than 30 years on the region’s holiday tournament schedule, Upper Sandusky needed a new event and will join Northern 10 Conference rival Mohawk at the 64-team Greater Miami Valley Coaches Association Tournament on Dec. 27-28 at Wright State’s Ervin J. Nutter Center.
Findlay and Patrick Henry will compete in the toughest Northwest Ohio tournament on Jan. 13-14 when they head to Oregon Clay for the 47-team Maumee Bay Classic.
This year’s tourney is expected to feature 50 state qualifiers. That total includes four state champs and 22 state placers.
WELCOME TO THE VBI: One of the biggest local tournaments on the schedule has gotten even bigger.
The 39th Van Buren Invitational has added a school this year, bringing it to 30 teams. Galion is the tournament’s newest addition.
Ottawa-Glandorf, St. Wendelin, Hopewell-Loudon, Columbus Grove, Mohawk, Bluffton, Liberty-Benton, Carey, Fostoria, Arcadia, Elmwood, Riverdale, Cory-Rawson, McComb, Ada and North Baltimore will be the area teams competing at Van Buren this season.
The VBI will take place Jan. 20-21.
TOUGH START: It was a difficult start to the season for new Arcadia coach Jerry Stone.
With a young roster at one of the smallest wrestling schools in the state, Stone’s Redskins had the unenviable task of opening the season in a pool at last weekend’s Findlay duals with Medina, Sandusky and Wapakoneta.
The Redskins went 0-5 at Findlay but Arcadia wrestlers John Marczak (106) and John Hill (285) had success as both posted winning records.
The playing field will be a bit more equal for the Redskins on their home mats Saturday when they host the 21st Arcadia Invitational beginning at 10 a.m.
The Redskins will be joined in the 15-team field by Tiffin Calvert, Columbus Grove, Cory-Rawson, Elmwood, Findlay B, Lakota, Liberty-Benton, Montpelier, North Baltimore, Patrick Henry, Plymouth, Toledo Christian, Van Buren and Wayne Trace.
FAMILIAR FACES: In addition to Stone, two other assistants have taken on head coaching duties at their respective schools.
Travis Ricker takes over as the new head coach at Van Buren. He previously had head coaching experience at Arcadia.
Randy Ebbeskotte is the new head coach at Ottawa-Glandorf. He was an assistant at O-G under Nick Davis, who took a job at Elmwood, his alma mater, and is an assistant coach at the school this season.
O-FOR: Last year, Patrick Henry senior Brandon Bennett and Mohawk’s Cole Draper both reached Division III state championship matches at 285 and 170 pounds respectively. Both fell in the finals.
Their defeats were the 10th and 11th straight losses in state title matches for wrestlers from The Courier’s coverage area. The streak dates back to Nick Goebel’s win for Elmwood at 103 pounds to open the 2009 state finals.
TITLE TIMES: Area conference championships will be split over three weekends this season.
The Western Buckeye League (at Lima Shawnee), Three Rivers Athletic Conference (at Oregon Clay) and Northwest Conference (at Spencerville) will be contested on Feb. 4.
Fostoria will host the NBC tournament on Feb. 11.
Cory-Rawson will host the Blanchard Valley Conference meet, the Sandusky Bay Conference tournament will be at Lakota, the Northern 10 Conference will be at Bucyrus and the Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships will be at Patrick Henry on Feb. 18.
DATES TO REMEMBER: The OHSAA state team tournament finals are scheduled for Feb. 12 at Ohio State’s St. John Arena.
The OHSAA individual state tournament will be March 9-11 at Value City Arena.
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