The season hasn't started out too well for some of last year's defending state champions. First, a shock went through the state on December 3 when Jason Ward was pinned in his first outing by Josh Dearth of Parkersburg South. Then, less than a week later, Brian Floyd of North Marion proved he's ready to be counted among the best in the state at 125 when he handed Matt George of Parkersburg a 7-2 loss. This weekend at the Ritchie Duals, Scott Bush of Ravenswood beat Ritchie's Jason Hayhurst by one point (3-2), and South Harrison's Andrew Richards downed Chad Purpura of Bishop Donahue 7-4. Any rematches between these pairs of wrestlers will be highly anticipated, since the defending state champions are surely determined to seek revenge while their opponents are wanting to prove their victories are for real.
I stopped by the North Marion/Parkersburg match the other night, and I thought it would be a much more intense match than it was. With a 52-20 route of the Big Reds, North Marion showed that they have every intention of going for a second straight AAA title. There are no pushovers on this team, as each Husky wrestler scored at least one point, and no one gave up a first-period pin. A North Marion win this big at this point of the year should spell trouble for the rest of the state, because keep in mind that the Huskies always get better over the course of the season, and Roy Michael seems to get a lot of mileage out of his team come February. But then again, so does Joe Handlan. With some talented sophomores and some quality veterans, the Big Reds could be in the thick of things as well.
Handlan and his tribe are anticipating Thursday's showdown with cross-town rival Parkersburg South, who had a better showing this weekend at Walsh Jesuit's Ironman Invitational than they did last year. South placed five of their wrestlers, including sixth-place finishers Clint Radcliff (130), Ty Emrick (152), and Josh Dearth (160); fourth-place finisher Casey Daggett (125); and runner-up Wes Pickens (215). Pickens is only the second Patriot to ever reach the championship finals at the Ironman. Mike Sharpe placed second two years ago at the same weight. Daggett and Dearth each came up against the eventual tournament champions, with Daggett coming within two points (6-4) of a victory over eventual champion Nick Mann of Lakewood St. Edward. Lakewood St. Edward, who at one point was ranked #2 in the nation, will be bringing their team to Parkersburg Saturday for a triangular with South and Robert C. Byrd.
AA/A wrestlers took to the mats this weekend in several tournaments across the state. I chose to attend the Ritchie County Super Duals, where there was never a dull moment. Even when there wasn't a marquee match going on, fan support was great and rivalries were in full force. I thought the tournament ran very smoothly, and the finals started at 4:00 - right when they were scheduled. A huge hats-off goes to the fantastic results reporting on this website by Mr. Bill Wince. As a matter of fact, I was very pleasantly surprised at all of the results from this weekend that were posted on the website. Thanks to all of you! It may take a while to digest all of it, so that's why I'm just going to cover the action at Ritchie County in this edition.
The big match of the Ritchie Duals had to be Scott Bush's 3-2 decision over defending state champion Jason Hayhurst. The two wrestled through a scoreless first period, but then Hayhurst got the first point with an escape in the second. Bush answered with a takedown, but Hayhurst followed with another escape. Bush broke free for an escape in the third, and held on for the 3-2 decision. At this point it looked like Bush would be a favorite for outstanding wrestler, but he had one more tough match in South Harrison's Matt Jones. Once again the score was 0-0 at the end of the first period. Bush scored a reversal in the second, but Jones escaped to make the score 2-1 going into the third. Jones evened up the score with another escape and Bush got the go-ahead takedown. Once again, Jones escaped and the match was coming down to the wire when Jones was called the second time for stalling. Bush was given his choice of position and chose down. With 15 seconds left in the match, he scored a reversal to secure the win at 6-3. At the end of the day his efforts were rewarded by being chosen as the tournament's most outstanding wrestler.
Even though most people would have agreed that Bush was the logical choice for the outstanding wrestler award, some consideration had to be given to South Harrison's Andrew Richards, who handed defending state champion Chad Purpura of Bishop Donahue his first loss of the year. The two wrestled a close match until the third period, when Richards scored an escape, takedown, and nearfall to win the match 7-4. Purpura had another close match earlier in the day as he moved up a weight class to take on Wirt's Danny Drennen at 171. Drennen was behind 4-2 in the third period and got an escape with 45 seconds left on the clock, but couldn't get the go-ahead takedown.
Ritchie reigned supreme in their home gym as six Rebel wrestlers went 5-0 on the day, including Justin Wince (130), who registered five pins (four of them in the first period). Todd Snider (135), Rhett Koslosky (140), defending state champion Nat Smith (145), Justice Smith (215), and Thomas Naylor (275) also ended the day with perfect records. Jason Hayhurst didn't let his setback with Bush stop him from pinning his remaining four opponents.
Calhoun's Eric McCartney (152) didn't even break a sweat until his final match against Ritchie's Mike Goff. McCartney scored three pins in under 60 seconds each (in addition to one forfeit) before having to go the distance in his 14-1 win over Goff. McCartney's brother Travis (112) and their teammate, two-time state champion Jimmy Johnson (119), also had perfect records on the day. Johnson had three pins and two forfeits while the younger McCartney had two pins, two forfeits, and a come-from-behind victory over Joey Sharp of Wirt. If my memory is correct, McCartney scored five points in the final 20 seconds of the match to take a 5-2 decision.
Speaking of the Calhoun-Wirt match, it went down to the wire, with the team score being tied 36-36 going into the heavyweight bout between Wirt's Doug Pifer and Calhoun's Jeremy "Buddha" Laughlin. The match drew quite a bit of attention as it looked like things could go either way at one point. But then Laughlin turned Pifer on his back and it was all over.
Even though Wirt County did not make it to the championship round, they got some good performances out of several of their wrestlers and went 4-1 on the day as a team, despite giving up forfeits at 145 and 152. Derreck Shearer (130), Mark Lowe (135), Josh Cross (140), Mike Miller (145), and Kris Villers (189) all had five wins a piece, with Lowe and Cross each getting four pins. Lowe got into some trouble against Terry Childers of St. Marys, falling behind 5-2 in the first period before rallying in the third for the 8-7 victory. Shearer had the big win of the day for the Tigers as he won a tight 6-4 overtime decision over Winfield standout Nick Prather. Shearer was ahead 3-0 going into the third period, when Prather pulled ahead 4-3 with a reversal and two-point nearfall. Shearer got the escape to take the match into overtime, and then scored the winning takedown. Mike Miller had to go into overtime himself to keep his record intact, defeating Winfield's Justin White 8-6.
Fans may want to keep an eye on Terry Childers. After almost defeating Lowe (last year's runner-up at 130), he went on to post four pins, three of which came in under 50 seconds.
There were several quick pins over the course of the day, but Nat Smith and Mark Lowe tied for the quickest slap of the mat at :09 each. Mike Miller wasn't far behind with a 10-second pin of his own. Lowe, by the way, had another pin at :12.
Besides Andrew Richards' big win over Chad Purpura at 160, he also had four pins for South Harrison. Justin Wright would have been the second Hawk wrestler to go undefeated, but a young man named Jason Snider got in the way. Snider, who placed 5th for the Knights in last year's state tournament could be a force to be reckoned with this year. A couple of other wrestlers who haven't gotten a lot of publicity but are worth mentioning are Sissonville's Brandon Bess (189) and Bishop Donahue's Brenden Welsh (215). Both big guys walked away with four pins and a forfeit to start their seasons on a perfect note.
Ravenswood was without the services of their two highest returning state placers. Luke Salmons (1998 heavyweight state champion) was taking his ACT test and, from what I heard, Adam Schinder (3rd at 112 last year) doesn't have enough practices in yet. Salmons should be in action Wednesday night, but I'm not sure if Schindler will be ready yet.
That about does it for this week - just in time to catch some more action Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This weekend will mark some milestones in a few wrestling careers as at least a couple of wrestlers should reach the 100-win mark. If any of you have news such as this to report during the year, please contact me and I'll make every effort to mention it here. Good luck to everyone this weekend. Travel safely and wrestle wisely!
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Updated December 15, 1998