WHEELING - The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Parkersburg South and Steubenville have ruled the Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Championships the past few years, and the two schools are poised to do so again this week.
The Patriots and Big Red both have 11 seeded entrants - the most of any school - heading into the 60th annual event, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday and WesBanco Arena.
''It's always a great accomplishment when you have the most seeds,'' Steubenville coach Mike Blackburn said at Monday night's tournament news conference at WesBanco Arena.
''Hopefully, it sets us up for a great battle (against South).''
South is going for its fourth straight OVAC crown since joining the bi-state conference. Last January, the Patriots edged Big Red by 34.5 points for the overall crown.
So, is this the year Big Red catches up with the four-time defending West Virginia Class AAA champs?
''They're proven year in and year out,'' Blackburn said. ''They set the bar for everyone.
''There's always a chance ... we just have to wrestle.
''They'll have some surprises, too, I'm sure. They have 11 seeded wrestlers and I wouldn't be surprised if some of their kids that aren't seeded place, too.''
South has proven its depth this season with sickness and injuries taking a bite out of its lineup. Still, the Patriots have maintained their moniker as the team to beat, both at OVACs and in the Mountain State.
''If the boys come out and wrestle they will do well,'' said first-year coach Donna Dixon, who took over for the retired Paul Jackson this season. ''We're happy with our team.
''We expect the guys to come up here and do their best and that's all we can ask for. We'd like to win, but if the kids do what we want to see on that mats that's really want we want to see.''
Of South's 11 seeded wrestlers, just one - Lance Hill - is top-seeded. Hill (14-1), now at 113 pounds, is aiming for his third consecutive OVAC title.
Steubenville has three top seeds, tied with Shadyside for the most.
Anthony Craig (17-1) at 126, Greg Moray (19-0) at 220 and Tariq Wilson (24-2) at 106 are in the top spots for Big Red. Moray won last year at 220, while Wilson is the only freshman top seed.
''He's done everything you could ask of a freshman,'' Blackburn said of Wilson. ''He's wrestled in some big tournaments against some really good guys.
''His two losses are to (Ryan) Bennett (of Cuyahoga Falls CVCA) who placed fourth in Ohio at (Division II) 106 last season and (Benny) Gomez from (Holt) Michigan who was fourth in Michigan (Division 1) last year.''
Ian Baker (21-2, 145), Alex Quinn (15-0, 152) and Chase Kinemond (17-2, 160) are the Tigers' top seeds.
''This is the first year I've had them all back due to injuries and what not,'' Shadyside coach Scott Kinemond said of the senior trio.
''I think they've earned that respect. Now they have to come out and wrestle.''
Wheeling Park has two top seeds - sophomore Dylan Taylor (27-4, 138) and Cody Amos (27-2, 182), who is going for his third straight championship.
Five other schools have one top seed each. They are Meadowbrook (Jerad Patterson, 21-2, 120), University (Scott Lopez, 29-0, 132), Caldwell (Kale Rayner, 22-2, 170), Brooke (Nathan Dawson, 18-2, 195) and Morgantown (Taylor Ortiz, 34-2, 285). Dawson won his first conference and state titles last season.
Thirty-nine teams and more than 400 wrestlers will take to the mats at 6 p.m. Thursday for the annual opening ceremonies, which feature all of the competitors entering the arena Olympic-style. This will be followed by first-round action at 6:30 p.m.
Friday's action begins at noon with second-round and first- and second-round consolation matches. The second session of the day, beginning at 6 p.m., will contain quarterfinal and third- and fourth-round consolations.
Semifinals and semifinal consolations begin at noon Saturday. That night, at 6, introduction of the finalists will take place, followed by championship matches, along with third-, fifth- and seventh-place bouts.