Hello again everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed your time off from work or school. It hardly seems like nearly nine months have come and gone since I last wrote a column, but I remember thinking at the time that the 1998-99 season seemed light years away. But now December is here, scrimmages and youth tournaments are in full swing, and the high school season gets underway this week. I think it's safe to say that everyone is ready to wrestle!
Of course the big news of the week for AAA fans will be the third annual season-opening match between Cabell Midland and Parkersburg South. Fans from both schools are approaching the match with guarded optimism. Both teams lost some quality seniors from their respective squads last year, but each team also has a wealth of talented underclassmen. South in particular has a good group of sophomores, some who have been wrestling since before they started school. I'd say if one were to add up the total years wrestling experience, South may have an advantage. Midland should have a mathematical advantage though, returning more state tournament points and place-winners, including defending state champion (and future WVU wrestler) Jason Ward and state runner-up Jared Walters. Several members of the team wrestled very well in the off-season also, whereas most of South's veterans were involved in spring sports and didn't continue wrestling past the state tournament. Needless to say, both teams will be ready for this match, and the victor could be favored to grab the #1 spot in the AAA coaches' poll.
Speaking of rankings, congratulations to Cabell Midland for their #8 Mid-Eastern regional ranking in Wrestling USA Magazine. It just goes to show that if you want to get the rest of the world to notice, you have to leave the state to wrestle. To do that takes dedicated coaches and parents who travel around the country supporting these young people in their efforts. I know several coaches who give up the biggest part of the year just to take these kids to quality tournaments - many times at their own expense. I won't ever get to be a wrestling parent - just a wrestling fan, but as a fan I want to say thanks for dedicating so much of your life to these kids.
I thought about speculating on the top teams around the state in both AAA and AA, but I don't think it's fair for me to judge teams until I see what they've got. The only reason I made the statement regarding South or Cabell Midland being a favorite for the #1 spot is because I know a little more about these two teams at this point in the season. Plus Midland should be guaranteed to be #1 in the pre-season poll, based on returning numbers (see March 12 edition of Mat Lines for statistics). If South happens to knock them off though, they could take over as the top team in the state, since the poll is based on dual results.
Hopefully next week I'll be able to catch some AA action at the Ritchie County Duals, and possibly even before that if I make it to Ripley when the Vikings host a quad featuring Greenbrier West, Wirt County, and Logan.
Until then, best of luck to all this year's wrestlers. Keep those grades up and stay healthy!
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Updated December 1, 1998