JAMIE BAKER / The Courier
VAN BUREN WRESTLERS work out Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s 2 p.m. in-school dual against visiting Liberty-Benton. The Black Knights and Eagles will wrestle in front of Van Buren’s entire high school and middle school in a battle between the Blanchard Valley Conference’s top returning teams.



Some of the best ideas are borrowed.

And Van Buren wrestling coach Justin Slauterbeck and Liberty-Benton coach Chad Marzec know it.

The two are borrowing a page from the playbook of the wrestling programs at Columbus Grove and Riverdale on Wednesday as the Black Knights will host the Eagles in an in-school dual match beginning at 2 p.m.

Admission to the match for area fans is free.

The two-year Grove-Riverdale series got Slauterbeck thinking. He and Marzec have known one another since high school and a matchup between the two rival BVC schools, who finished 1-2 in the Blanchard Valley Conference last year, was a natural.

“Everyone is excited about it. It’s going to be a great match. Everyone is concerned about missed instructional time these days so I’m glad our administration is giving us the opportunity to showcase our program in front of the entire school,” Slauterbeck said.

The crowd may be a bit smaller than the one Columbus Grove and Riverdale wrestled in front of. Those matches were held in front of the entire school — kindergarten through seniors. Wednesday’s matchup will be held with Van Buren’s high school and middle school students in attendance.

It will also be the season opener for the Black Knights, who have won three straight BVC crowns. Returning seniors Dom Donaldson and Reece Young are stoked for the match.

“We’ve all put in a lot of work over the summer and we’re ready to prove that we’re even better than last year,” Young said. “It’s going to be awesome, having Liberty-Benton, our rival here to wrestle it out in front of the whole school. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Young said.

Marzec, who is in his first year as head coach while previously serving as an assistant, will bring a young, but experienced team to Van Buren on Wednesday. The Eagles have 12 returning letterwinners on its 31-man roster, but among the returning veterans, Justin Hartford is the lone senior.

“Van Buren has a solid program and it’s something we’d like to emulate,” Marzec said. “We’re going to get after it on Wednesday and hopefully we can give them a good match.”

Marzec’s Eagles are only their fourth year as a full-fledged varsity program, as the sport was dropped at L-B in the late 1980s. They’ve already had a successful start to this season, sweeping past five opponents to win Saturday’s Cory-Rawson Duals.

“The kids winning last week is just a testament to all of the work that they’ve put in. We’re trying to work on wrestling fundamentals and the basics to give all of the kids in our program a good, solid base,” Marzec said. “We’re really trying to focus on building a team culture at Liberty-Benton for wrestling. It’s about more than winning, we’re focusing in discipline and all of those little things they can take from wrestling that will make them more successful in life.”

But on Wednesday Marzec’s Eagles will get a chance to face the adversity that comes with wrestling in a noisy gym against a partisan Van Buren student section that enjoys a win against rival Liberty-Benton in anything.

“It’s going to be super exciting, especially with how close the BVC was last season. It’s going to be really cool to show people that we’re here to four-peat this year,” Donaldson said.

“We have to be ready because you know they are going to come after us.”

Baker, 419-427-8409

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