South going for history
PARKERSBURG – History very well could be made when the 66th annual West Virginia state wrestling tournament concludes Saturday night inside Huntington’s Big Sandy Super Store Arena.
Top-ranked Class AAA Huntington qualified its entire team and according to the statewide coaches poll the Highlanders are expected to capture the program’s first state crown.
However, No. 2 Parkersburg South and first-year head coach Donna Dixon are trying to win a fifth straight triple-A state title, which would be a record in the big school classification.
Of the Mid-Ohio Valley’s three area big school mat teams, Parkersburg South has the most qualifiers with 12. Parkersburg head coach Chris Way’s Big Reds have 11 while Matt Smith’s Vikings from Ripley got 10 through the regional.
“We had some tough losses last weekend, but it’s all about peaking at the right time,” stated Smith, whose six regional champions came from Austin Hileman (132), Preston Martin (152), Nate Starkey (170), Greg Medina (195), Freddy Roush (220) and heavyweight Daryl Hicks.
Hicks, Parkersburg South 170-pounder Drake Mills and Big Red 182-pounder Jared Haught are the only area grapplers expected to have top of the podium finishes at the state tournament, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. today.
Haught, who will be vying for a third career state crown, will carry a 46-0 record into the final weekend of the season. The only other undefeated Class AAA wrestler is George Washington’s Jake Smith. The senior 160-pounder is 37-0 and is ranked first by state coaches.
One of the tough losses coach Smith was talking about came at 138 where last year’s 120-pound state champion Jake Martin had a 10-4 lead before getting pinned in the regional final by Shady Spring’s Nick Farley.
The Big Reds had a pair of exciting 3-1 wins in the regional finals thanks to Sam Phillips at 126 and Trapper Hays at 132. The third seeded Phillips secured his victory thanks to a takedown in overtime against Patriot top seed Kyle Knotts. Hays, a fourth seed, used a takedown in the first period to upend No. 2 seed Jordan Quiocho of Parkersburg South.
“Sam had lost to the kid from South twice,” Way noted. “He’s had some injuries and some sickness and hasn’t been 100 percent all year. He’s just now starting to turn the corner and feel good.
“He realizes this was his last opportunity to go to the state tournament and do well and he’s wrestling and feeling better. Everybody is feeling pretty good about themselves right now.”
Both the Patriots (Jake Alexander at 152) and the Big Reds (Skyler Terrell at 138) had No. 2 seeds capture regional crowns last Saturday at Brooke. Aside from Alexander and Mills, coach Dixon’s other regional champs were Logan Ball (106), Lance Hill (113) and 160-pounder Briar Shively. Haught, Phillips, Hays and Terrell were joined by teammate Jason West at 120 as regional champions.
“I don’t want to make any predictions about what is going to happen, but I feel we are going to go down and wrestle well and get multiple guys in the finals,” Way added.
“I feel confident we can have multiple guys get state championships. Hopefully, we can win as many matches as we can and the team race will take care of itself.”
Out of the 14 Class AAA weight classes, only two of them pit local wrestlers against one another tonight. The first comes at 120 where Parkersburg South’s Braidon Knotts takes on Ripley’s Antonio Jones. Also, Patriot 195-pounder Matt Dixon will be out to try and upset the regional champion Medina, who is 26-7 on the campaign.