Note: This report is not a set of predictions, but rather a report on what I've seen, heard, or read so far this year. In each weight class I'll list a few wrestlers who have shown some success on the mats in the month of December, and highlight some of the key rivalries that may exist within those weight classes. Just because a wrestler's name appears first on the list doesn't necessarily mean he is my "pick" for the top spot in his weight class. Also, as I've stated before, I only report what I know. If I fail to mention a wrestler whom you think is worthy of mentioning, it may be because his or her team's results haven't been reported to this website or to a newspaper that I've seen. Please call any mistakes and/or oversights to my attention.
Matt Stevens is off to a good start in his first year at Parkersburg, with only one loss against a top-rated Pennsylvania wrestler. He hasn't faced any of his top AAA opponenets yet because he started the season at 112. Two of those opponents are Fairmont Senior's Jon Delligatti, whose only loss was a one-point decision to a PA wrestler, and Greg White of North Marion, whose only in-state loss has been to Delligatti. Throw in Cabell Midland's Justin Stanley (two losses to White), Hedgesville's Kevin Ballam (only losses have been to White & Stanley), Nitro's Robbie Ripley (10-1), and Woodrow Wilson's B. J. Miller (winner of the BNI tournament) and you've got a tough field in the making. Keep an eye out for Huntington's Josh Barrett, Parkersburg South's Jeremy Layner, and Ripley's Matt Smith.
Last year's 103-lb finalists, Alex Reed of Point Pleasant and Chris Johnson of Nitro find themselves in the same weight class with each other again this year. The two were undefeated going into the finals at last year's state tournament, but Reed came away as the champion. Both wrestlers are undefeated (Reed is 5-0 and Johnson is 18-0) and may not meet up until the WSAZ tournament. Before Johnson runs into Reed, he could meet up with another undefeated wrestler, Buckhannon-Upshur's Trent Casto (10-0) at the Nitro Tournament this weekend. Hedgesville's Dustin Bowers had no in-state losses prior to the Wheeling Park Duals and should be one to watch, as should Huntington's Robbie Williams, University's Nathan Kinsley, and Parkersburg's Clayton Samples.
Defending state champion Matt George has returned to the same class where he won the title a year ago after starting the season at 125. He finds himself once again in the same weight class with his runner-up from last year, Dan Stanley of Brooke. The going won't be easy for last year's finalists as they will face two of the state's top wrestlers, Cabell Midland's J. P. Stanley (undefeated) and Hedgesville's Jim Shetler. J.P. Stanley recently defeated Shetler 3-1 at the Wheeling Park Duals, handing Shetler his only in-state loss this year, and also defeated Brooke's Stanley. Casey Daggett of Parkersburg South is having some luck against his Ohio opponents, having placed in both the Ironman and Brecksville tournaments, but has fallen victim to George when the two wrestled at 125 earlier in the season. Devin Abshire is having some early success in his first year at Jefferson, as are Huntington's Ryan Fullen (who placed 5th last year at 103), Nitro's Billy Griggs (14-4), and Roane County's Matt Mitchell (who placed 3rd last year at 112). Although I haven't seen many results, I think Point Pleasant's Ryan Russell should be one to watch too.
Anthony Regalbuto of Hedgesville continued his unbeaten streak at the Wheeling Park Duals, having won a tight 6-4 decision over North Marion's Brian Floyd, which I believe was Floyd's first loss this season. All three Eastern Panhandle AAA teams have tough wrestlers at this weight, as Martinsburg's Josh Staubs and Jefferson's Ian McBride are off to good starts. Others to watch for are Cabell Midland's Dave LeMaster, Herbert Hoover's Wesley Lane, John Marshall's Matt Kotson, Parkersburg South's Clint Radcliff, and Ripley's Adam Smith.
Joey Mayle of Buckhannon-Upshur has gotten his season started on a perfect note, having won all of his 15 matches so far. University's Kenny Griffin is also off to a good start, having defeated Cabell Midland's Todd Arbes by a 5-4 decision (which I think was Arbes' first loss of the year). Preston's A. J. Tasker is one to watch, as I believe his only in-state losses have come against Arbes and Griffin. If I'm not mistaken, Ripley's Jake Samples was undefeated before dropping decisions to Mayle and Tasker at the Wheeling Duals. Once again the Eastern Panhandle boasts a couple of talented wrestlers in Jefferson's Chris Tull and Martinsburg's Sean Agoney. Parkersburg South's Mike Bosley should be a force at 130 after dropping from 135, where he had some early success. Watch for Greenbrier East's Tony Reese and Huntington's Paul Brooks.
Hedgesville's Bryan Moats was the talk of the state tournament last year as a freshman, and he refuses to believe in the "sophomore jinx" this year as he remains undefeated to date. Moats defeated always-tough state runner-up Jared Walters of Cabell Midland at the Wheeling Park Duals. The loss to Moats is Walters' only loss to any of his current in-state 135-lb opponents. Moats and Walters aren't the only talented wrestlers in the field as undefeated (13-0) Jesse Allman of Buckhannon-Upshur, Dave Hefner of University, and Brian Flanegin of Wheeling Park will make things interesting.
Chad Mullins of Ripley is out to improve on his 5th place finish in last year's state tournament. Prior to the Wheeling Park Duals, his only loss had come at the hands of a AA wrestler (Ravenswood's Jon Dauch). Some of the other top contenders in this weight class include Hedgesville's Derek English, Martinsburg's Brad Davis, Brooke's Jason Gillespie, Capital's Jeremy Lane, Fairmont Senior's John Bland, Parkersburg's Jason Trusty, and University's D. J. Tatar.
Defending state champion Nicholas Hedrick of Fairmont Senior has remained unbeaten on the season, having bested some top Pennsylvania grapplers along the way. He hasn't, however, met up yet with undefeated (9-0) Billy Baisden of Buckhannon-Upshur. The two should get a chance to meet in a couple of weeks at the Winners Choice Tournament in Fairmont. Baisden handed Ripley's Scott Rhodes (who had traveled to Wheeling undefeated) a loss in Wheeling. Although I haven't seen a lot on the following wrestlers, Elkins' Matt Phares, George Washington's Marcus Gray, and Woodrow Wilson's Matt Callahan should make some noise at this weight.
The 152-lb weight class has its share of talented wrestlers. Parkersburg South's Ty Emrick, who placed third at the same weight last year, has already fallen victim to Parkersburg's Brandon Williams (no in-state losses) and Robert C. Byrd's Matt Queen. The field also includes Buckhannon-Upshur's undefeated (10-0) Cameron Shell and Herbert Hoover's Jimmy Moles, who may also be undefeated. Greenbrier East's Jason Tucker, Jefferson's Robbie Webb, and North Marion's John Ramsey could make things interesting at this weight.
The first match of the season at this weight got people talking about the final match of the season at this weight as Parkersburg South's Josh Dearth handed Cabell Midland's Jason Ward his first loss since the 1997 state finals. People are already speculating that the two will meet in the state finals, but that won't be the case if some other high-quality wrestlers in this class have their say. East Fairmont's Matt Miller, I believe, has not lost a match yet, and he should get the chance to meet up with Ward at the Nitro Tournament this weekend. Prior to the Wheeling Park Duals, Ripley's Tim Birthisel had not lost to a AAA opponent yet. Herbert Hoover's Chad Wehrle, Martinsburg's Joe Jackson, and Nitro's Scott Coulter can't be counted out of the race either as they're all off to good starts.
The wrestlers at 171 haven't gotten as much publicity as the 160-pounders, but that's not to say there's a strong field at this weight. Scott Gusic of Martinsburg has only lost once in 22 matches (to an Ohio wrestler), and as far as I know, Roane County's Lonnie Nichols is undefeated. Nichols could face a tough regional opponent in Ripley's Nathan Logan, who only had one loss prior to wrestling at Wheeling. Regions 1 and 2 bring their own standouts to this weight as Region 1 wrestlers Todd Daggett of Parkesburg South and Joey Nichols of Brooke join Region 2 wrestlers Brad Phillips of Elkins, Jonross Neptune of Fairmont Senior, and Bob Hawkinberry of North Marion to make the weight class a tough one.
Parkersburg South's Wes Pickens had a good deal of success at 215 (while giving up 20 pounds), and understandably is doing well at 189 for the Patriots. He'll face some tough competition in Fairmont Senior's Holland Dotts, Preston standout Jarrett Jennings (14-3), Don Alexander of Brooke, Josh Alderton of Martinsburg, Josh Burner of Philip Barbour, and Mike Roach of Point Pleasant.
The bulk of the talent seems to head south for this weight class as the best of these big guys tend to hail from regions 3 and 4. Cabell Midland's Josh Coffey (5th at 215 last year) will face some tough regional competition in Huntington's Jason Cox and Point Pleasant's Adam Bryant. The fight for top honors in region 4 should be a tough one as Ripley's Adam King (11-0 as of 12/28) and Herbert Hoover's Matt Wehrle (also undefeated as far as I know) are two of the state's best at this weight. However, giving them a challenge in the region could be Roane County's Robert Welch. However, the east and the north should not be left out of the picture as Martinsburg's Josh Robinson, University's Ryan Murphy, and Wheeling Park's Steve Ochap could provide strong challenges.
A lot of folks are looking for Joe Heath to become Greenbrier East's first state champion (correct me if I'm wrong), as he finished fifth in the heavyweight class last year. Unfortunately, we haven't seen a lot of results and don't know what Heath's record is so far this year. In this weight class, Heath's top opponents should come from the north central part of the state as some of the state's top heavyweights include Fairmont Senior's Dave Hearst, (whose only losses, I believe, have been to Alex McClung of Oak Glen), Lewis County's Freddie Persinger, Buckhannon-Upshur's Rob Fortney (whose only in-state loss has been to Persinger), Morgantown's Brian Padovini, North Marion's Jim Gaines, and Philip Barbour's Nick Shomo.
Acknowledgments: Mr. Gusic, Chris Johnson, Tim Mayle, Tim Miller, Brian Reed, Will "Scheny" Schenerlein, Dana Walters, Butch Whitecotton, The Beckley Register-Herald, The Fairmont Times-West Virginian, The Jackson Herald, The Martinsburg Journal, The Parkersburg News, The Parkersburg Sentinel, The Wheeling Intelligencer, and The Wheeling News-Register.
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Updated January 5, 1999