WHEELING - The area prep wrestling season got its ''unofficial'' start Monday night as OVAC mat coaches gathered for their annual preseason presser and dinner at WesBanco Arena.
Dr. Dan Doyle, the evening's MC and director of the conference's wrestling tournament, reported during his remarks a 25-percent turnover in coaches this season within the conference.
One of those new faces will be at Wheeling Park, where Jack Doyle has been selected to replace his cousin, Sean Doyle, as the Patriots' mat boss.
Jack Doyle really isn't a new face. He served as an assistant at for Sean Doyle.
''We've been together for seven years so I hope it will be a seamless transition,'' said Jack Doyle, a John Marshall High School and West Liberty University graduate. ''He teaches right next door to me so we'll be together the whole year.''
The younger Doyle said he's been fortunate in watching and learning from his cousin during his years as an assistant coach.
''I've learned how a program needs to be run and what things need to be done to make sure we remain successful.
''But (Sean's) knowledge of the sport is going to be missed, no doubt.''
The Patriots return 11 of 12 starters this season.
''Not too many coaches are fortunate enough to jump into a program as a head coach and have this amount of talent returning,'' Jack Doyle said.
''We're looking for a huge year out of many kids. We have two state finalists returning and two OVAC finalists back so we're looking to be very successful.''
One of the teams that stood as a roadblock on Park's championship road the last few seasons is Parkersburg South.
The Wood County Patriots also have a new coach in Donna Dixon, who replaced the retired Paul Jackson.
Linsly has resurrected its wrestling program following a 10-year hiatus.Brian Valentine, who competed on the final squad in 2002, is the team's coach.
''I started teaching at Linsly last year,'' he said. ''Some of the kids had heard I wrestled and they asked me if I'd be willing to coach a team if we could get enough kids out.
''I said, 'Absolutely.' '' We have about 17 kids out so we should be able to fill most weight classes.''
A variety of topics were covered during the event, as well as during a mandatory coaches workshop that took place immediately prior to the dinner.
Coach of the Year plaques were awarded, as well. Winners were: Class 5A: Jackson, Parkersburg South; Class 4A: Mike Blackburn, Steubenville; Class 3A: Scott Roth, Martins Ferry; Class 2A: Scott Kinemond, Shadyside; and Class A: David Wiles, Beallsville.