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Kehler, UHS wrestling enter OVAC tournament with confidence

MORGANTOWN — The University High School wrestling team had just about the best week a program could ask for last week, earning two duel victories over a pair of defending state champions, Parkersburg South and Northern Garrett (Md.).

The Hawks are now rolling into one of the tougher and more important stretches of their schedule with the OVAC conference tournament beginning this evening at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling and with the bigger tournaments of the year still to come such as the WSAZ, regional, and state tournaments.

As of last week, 11 of the 14 starting varsity wrestlers for UHS were ranked in the top 10 for their weight class in the state, with senior Luca Felix (165) and Brock Kehler (285) coming in ranked No. 1.

Kehler entered his junior season after an undefeated, 53-0 state title-winning sophomore year in the 215-pound weight class. With an unscathed record of 33-0 so far this year, Brock is entering the OVAC tournament with a streak of 88 straight victories dating back to the beginning of last season but is doing it in the 285-pound weight class after moving up on the roster for the Hawks for his junior year.

“I’m happy with my performances this year so far and am feeling very confident at this point in the season,” Kehler said. “The biggest difference this year has just been adjusting to the size of my opponents. Bigger guys mean it’s harder to move them or lift them but I can use my speed against those opponents to give me an advantage. Usually, I’m giving up some weight but I’m training hard in the weight room to make up for that.”

The work Kehler has put in to better his performance on the mat has certainly been reflected in his results, saying that intensity has remained on the top of his list all season.

“I’m trying to constantly push the pace of my matches,” Kehler said. “I’ve been working on my conditioning a lot to be able to score as many points as I can and then ultimately get the falls that I want. I think I’ve been able to do that well this year to get my work in and then go for the pin to help the team.”

Not only has he faced the challenge of moving to a new weight class, but Kehler is also diving into his college recruitment trail, saying he has visits scheduled for the coming spring.

“The recruiting process has been fun already,” he said. “I’ve met so many great coaches and being able to see what kind of opportunities are out there for me is fun. I’m getting everything lined up to take some visits in the spring once the season is over.”

One thing that doesn’t show up on paper when it comes to Kehler is his leadership, something UHS head coach Ken Maisel said he has been doing even before this year.

“He certainly is that guy for us, but I would even expand it to last season,” Maisel said. “He started taking on that leadership role last year. Sometimes when you’re at a big tournament and you have coaches on every mat already, it’s nice to have a guy who can say that they will go over to another mat and help out one of their teammates or support them in our place. He leads by example in the wrestling room and by the way he lives his life outside of the wrestling room. His teammates love him and truly look up to him.”

After the big week that UHS had, Maisel says he hopes his team can keep that focus with their most difficult matches of the season yet to come.

“It becomes a little more individually focused with the non-duel meets coming up,” he said. “When you have so many teams like you do in the OVAC, you’re bound to hit an opponent at some point that is a strong wrestler, maybe even in the first round, and maybe someone who you’ve never seen before. You can’t afford to take any rounds off and that’s what we are trying to get our team to focus on.”

The Hawks will begin the 70th annual Ron Mauck OVAC conference tournament tonight in Wheeling inside WesBanco Arena. Matches will begin at 6:30 p.m.