The wealth of AAA wrestling power seems to be spread more evenly around the state this year than it has been in a long time. In regions 1, 2, and 3 the top two or three teams in each region should dominate and qualify wrestlers in the double digits. A few teams could even qualify all 14 wrestlers for the state tournament. However, if you've followed the state tournament closely in the past, you know that although numbers are important, what's more important is what a team does with the wrestlers it brings to Huntington. For instance, in 1996 Fairmont Senior (nine wrestlers) almost took the team title out of the hands of Parkersburg South (fourteen wrestlers). All nine of Fairmont's wrestlers placed in the top six. With no clear-cut favorite established to take the state title, it could shape up to be a hard-fought battle over the three-day course of the tournament.
Following is a brief summary of each region, with a list of possible key matchups. (Note: I've only had a sneak peek at seedings for region 1, so depending on seedings in other regions and/or injuries, some of the wrestlers mentioned may not even meet up with one another.)
Although John Marshall ended Parkersburg South's in-state dual win streak, the Patriots should have a slight edge over the Monarchs. John Marshall is forfeiting one weight class, which could be a crucial factor when it comes to team points. South also has another factor on their side - they're wrestling on their home turf. The South team wants revenge, and fans will be coming out of the woodwork hoping to see it happen.
119 - Although Matt George of Parkersburg is ranked #1 in the state, four other wrestlers in this region are capable of being state placers (Dan Stanley of Brooke, Pat Mull of John Marshall, Kenny Griffin of University, and Justin Cox of South). Unfortunately, one wrestler will be staying at home.
125 - In one of the state's toughest weight classes, region 1 is full of quality wrestlers, including state runner-up Joel Newberry of Parkersburg.
145 - Due to seeding criteria, Jeremy Adkins of John Marshall will meet Jason Johnson of South in the semifinals, even though the two wrestlers are ranked #1 and #2 in the state, respectively.
275 - Erik Spriggs of South is ranked #3 in the state and will see if he can live up to the billing as he faces some tough heavyweight opposition.
In what should be the most predictable AAA regional outcome
in the state, North Marion should be the favorite to take
top honors, possibly qualifying 13 or 14 wrestlers for the
state tournament. Fairmont Senior will be right on their
heels though, and should be up to the challenge of trying to
put a stop to the Huskies' recent tournament success. Last
year the Eastern Panhandle teams held both North and West to
10 qualifiers apiece, but the margin could be a little wider
103 - Some of the state's best lightweights hail from region 2, including Jim Shetler (Hedgesville), Greg White (North Marion), Jonathon Delligatti (Fairmont Senior), and Zach Smith (Jefferson).
112- There's been no official word on the injury status of Hedgesville's Anthony Regalbuto, but if he's in action, a possible matchup with defending state champion Dan Bonasso of Fairmont Senior could be one of the best matches of the tournament. 160 - Ryan Besedich of North Marion and J. D. Kirby of Jefferson should be expected to meet in the finals of this weight class.
189 - Once again, there has been no official word on this, but I heard that Elkins' Lonnie Sharp is injured. From what I've read, he is the only wrestler to consistently give serious challenge to North Marion's Jason Conaway this year.
As always, Cabell Midland and Huntington will battle it out for top honors in region 3, followed by a strong challenge from Point Pleasant. These three teams have some outstanding individuals and a lot of depth. Cabell Midland should once again qualify most if not all of their team and could come out on top in the team standings as well. I still haven't heard whether or not Huntington will be fielding their original team (not the one they had at the MSAC). What team the Highlanders bring will have a definite impact on the number of wrestlers they qualify for the state tournament.
103 - Region 3 also has its share of quality lightweights. Alex Reed of Point Pleasant and Chris Johnson of Nitro should be expected to meet in the finals, however.
125 - Once again, Jared Walters of Cabell Midland should square off with Joe Thorpe of Huntington. Jeremy Burris of Point Pleasant moved up from 119 recently and could make things interesting.
275 - Jack Chapman of Cabell Midland recently returned to the wrestling world with a successful second-place finish in the MSAC. He'll see if he can continue his success with a regional title.
Region 4 could be the most exciting regional tournament team-wise, as no team should be expected to run away with the title, although on paper Roane County appears to be the favorite. Buckhannon-Upshur has had a great year and should be ready to challenge for the top spot, along with Ripley. Unfortunately, the Southern teams haven't gotten as much exposure on this website this year, so I could be overlooking the likes of Shady Spring or Greenbrier East.
135 - Mike Stone of Roane County should be expected to face Jimmy Moles of Herbert Hoover.
145 - Mike Hosaflook of Ripley is one of the state's best at 145, but he could meet up against some tough competition in Tony Frame of Nicholas County and Eric Golden of Greenbrier East.
275 - Four of the state's top-ranked heavyweights reside in region 4 (Mike Hennessey of Nicholas County, Joe Heath of Greenbrier East, James Jarvis of Woodrow Wilson, and Matt Reed of Lewis County).
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Updated February 17, 1998