By Dave Morrison
WHEELING - Despite winning nine of the last 10 Main Street Bank/Undo's Holiday Classic, Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz will tell you it is easier to remember the last time his Maroon Knight girls lost the annual early-season showcase event.
"I remember it very well," said Kurtz, who also acts as a director of the tournament. "It was 2008 and we lost to Bishop Donahue. And they beat us pretty easily."
They will meet again today, at 7 p.m. in the first round of the tournament at Wheeling Jesuit University.
The tournament starts with a pair of JV games. Bishop Donahue boys will play Wheeling Central's JV (the first of three meetings between the two schools). Clay-Battelle and Steubenville Catholic play at 2:30 p.m..
At 4 p.m. Madonna ((3-2) will face Steubenville Catholic (2-7) in a girls game, followed by Steubenville Catholic (4-0) and Clay Battelle (4-1) boys at 5:30 p.m.
Following the Bishop Donahue (1-4) vs. Wheeling Central (4-3) girls game will be the highly-anticipated early-season class between Bishop Donahue (2-0) and Wheeling Central (1-0).
"Madonna and Bishop Donahue are both in our section and this can really play into our seeding for the sectional tournament," Kurtz said. "I think it's a pretty balanced tournament with evenly matched teams in both the boys and girls (brackets)."
While the four boys teams are a combined 11-1, the area rivalry pitting Bishop Donahue and Wheeling Central is the game generating the pre-tournament buzz.
Both return a plethora of starters and both are capable of making a deep postseason run.
Each team will face equal matchup problems in tonight's contest.
For starters, Wheeling Central senior David Park presents a problem when he is running out on the perimeter, where he can shoot the three. At 6-foot-5, he also has the ability to post up.
"Park, being a 6-foot-5 guard presents matchup problems for us," Wise said. "First of all, you have to try to take away the 3 and make him put the ball on the floor. If they try to post him up we have to front and back him. He and (Chase) Harler are both hard to defend."
On the other hand, Bishop Donahue will present a problem in Chase Truex, who a 6-foot-4 and being of wide body, has owned the paint area, averaging 22 points and 16.5 rebounds per game.
Saturday there will be more JV action, followed by the girls consolation game at 4 p.m. and the boys consolation game at 5:30. The girls championship game is at 7 and the boys championship is 8:30.
Tickets to the tournament are $5.
For wrestling fans , the Park Duals will kick off this morning at 9 a.m. at WesBanco Arena.
Many of the outstanding Valley programs will be in the tournament, but also some good state-wide teams, like Parkersburg South and outstanding Ohio squads like Steubenville. A total of 25 teams will take part in the two-day tournament.
"It is still early in the season test but we should be ready," Park coach Jack Doyle said. "I talk to the team all the time about perception and reality. There is a perception that we are a pretty good team. The reality is, we will get a good idea of where we are at the end of this tournament. Both Parkersburg South and Steubenville finished ahead of us in the OVAC Tournament last year."
Park has a 3-0 dual record this season with wins over Brooke, Morgantown and John Marshall.
One of the marquee teams making its way north for the event is Georgia power Woodward Academy.
Wrestling will take place all day today and Saturday with the finals scheduled for Friday at 4:30 p.m.