This is a busy time of year, not only for Christmas shoppers (myself included) rushing to find those last-minute bargains, but for wrestling teams around the state as well. A lot of wrestling has been going on the last couple of weeks, and here are a few observations and notes from the past several days.
Four wrestlers have already hit the 100-win mark in their wrestling careers at this early point in the season. Eric McCartney of Calhoun County, Chad Purpura of Bishop Donahue, Andrew Richards of South Harrison, and Jason Waugh of Berkeley Springs will now set their sights on setting some school records as well as going for state championships in their senior year.
It was good to see Ravenswood's Luke Salmons back in action at a quad with George Washington, Ripley, and St. Albans. Rather than taking the easy route and going for the quick pin, Salmons spent a lot of time working from his feet and put on some takedown clinics for the crowd before taking his opponents' backs to the mats. Salmons will be going for his second straight AA heavyweight title.
Speaking of the Ravenswood - Ripley match, there were some exciting moments, as is always the case when two rivals face each other. Ravenswood's Scott Bush, fresh off a big win over Ritchie's Jason Hayhurst, found himself paired up with Ripley's Adam Smith. The two wrestled a close match and found themselves tied 5-5 in the third period when Bush scored two more points with 25 seconds left on the clock. He nearly lost control at one point, but held on for the win. Jon Dauch came from behind in his match with Ripley's Chad Mullins to win in overtime. Dauch tied the match with two seconds left and got the overtime takedown to defeat Mullins, a 5th place finisher in last year's state tournament.
Ripley's Adam King is the top returning placer at 215 (4th in 1998) and looks like he's well on his way to making a run for this year's 215-lb title.
The Parkersburg High - Parkersburg South dual finally lived up to the excitement of years past. The past few years have seen South win by relatively comfortable margins, as they have taken the dual every year since 1993. This year the going wasn't so easy for the Patriots, who found themselves down 15 points going into the final three bouts and knew they had to get some pins to retain bragging rights to the city's wrestling crown. Todd Daggett (189) and Wes Pickens (215) each added to the Patriots' cause with much-needed pins, although Pickens came close to building up too many points and getting a technical fall before he finally got the slap of the mat in the third period.
With the score 39-36 in favor of the Big Reds, the night's outcome rested on the shoulders of the big guys. South's Pat Sleeth took Tyler Stover to the mat and nearly got the pin with a cradle that the partisan South crowd felt was enough to end the match. It wasn't good enough for the official however, and the match went into the second period. It didn't seem to affect Sleeth, though, as he turned his Big Red foe on his back and got the pin just eight seconds into the second period, saving the day for South.
Fans from both schools can come away from the match saying "if only". South had to forfeit the 171-lb class as Chris Moles failed to make weight, while Parkersburg was wrestling without the services of injured Robbie Ball, last year's regional champion at 189.
The dual meet was a quick one, lasting only one hour and five minutes. Every match but one was either won by pin or forfeit, which is a rare occurrence in a match between these two teams. The closest match of the night was also the biggest win of the night for the Big Reds as Brandon Williams came from behind to defeat Ty Emrick 4-3. Emrick was leading the match 3-1 going into the third period when Williams got the escape. Then with 32 seconds left on the clock, Williams got the go-ahead takedown. Emrick almost got a break when he got his choice of position after Williams' second stalling offense. He chose to remain down and couldn't break away, allowing Williams to hold on for the win.
Emrick faced another setback this past weekend as he fell victim to Robert C. Byrd's Matt Queen. Queen was the aggressor from the offset and won a convincing 7-2 decision. The Eagle standout should be one to watch this year, as he has already taken top honors at Weir's Red Rider Invitational.
John Madia from Robert C. Byrd had a big match last weekend as well, as he pinned Lakewood St. Edwards' John Bialowes in the first period. Few West Virginia wrestlers can say they've pinned a wrestler from one of the top ranked teams in the nation.
South's Casey Daggett had a sweet victory against St. Ed as well, as he got a little revenge with a 4-3 victory over Nick Mann. At the Ironman Invitational a week earlier, Mann defeated Daggett 6-4 and went on to win the tournament while Daggett placed fourth.
Defending AAA 171-lb champion Mike Thompson of Shady Spring found himself in a tight match with Liberty Raleigh's Addam Lewis (last year's AA 3rd place finisher at 160) as the two wrestled to a 1-0 decision in the 189-lb finals of the BNI tournament. Thompson came out on top in the first meeting between the two wrestlers, and fans were eagerly anticipating a rematch at the Raleigh County Quad four days later. But the match didn't occur for a number of reasons. First of all, Thompson was scheduled to have teeth removed a couple of days earlier and was not expected to compete. He did, however, and posted three wins on the night. Lewis, on the other hand, was the one who had to stay home. He pulled ligaments in his ankle and will be out for probably another week. The two may never face each other again this year as Thompson is dropping to 171. He'll have no problem finding another stellar opponent from Liberty Raleigh, though, as that spot is filled by none other than Stephen Kinley, the AA 171-lb defending state champion. This may turn out to be the hottest rivalry in the state, since both wrestlers are returning to the same weight class where they won their titles last February. (Note: Shady Spring wrestled in the AAA division last year but has returned to AA this year.)
Although some questions have been raised about the rankings in the first AA coaches' poll, there is no question who should be at the top of the AAA poll. To no one's surprise, North Marion was chosen as the state's top team in the big school division. Already claiming dual meet victories over three top-ten teams (#2 Cabell Midland, #6 Parkersburg, and #7 Herbert Hoover), the Huskies will get a chance to show the state how they rate as a tournament team when they compete in January at the Nitro Invitational.
Well, I'm going to catch one more day of wrestling before Christmas as I plan to take in the action at the Super Quad between Berkeley Springs, Independence, Williamstown, and Wirt County, and then it's time to relax and enjoy the holiday weekend.
Best wishes to all of you for a happy and blessed Christmas and a wonderful 1999.
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Updated December 23, 1998