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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan

Here's the line for February 14, 1999

A lot has happened since I wrote my last column, so I apologize for the length of this particular installment!

Several wrestlers have hit the 100-win mark and some have even established records along the way. Congratulations go out to Tony Hardway (Braxton), James Harris (Braxton), Jason Hayhurst (Ritchie), Dan Lahman (Petersburg), Marshall McClung (Greenbrier West), Aaron Ransom (Greenbrier West), Jim Shetler (Hedgesville), Josh Staubs (Martinsburg), Jared Walters (Cabell Midland), Ash Wenmoth (Williamstown), and Willie Westbrook (Williamstown).

Staubs broke the Martinsburg record for career victories (108) previously held by Kent Lyons. Ripley’s Adam King recently broke Mike Hosaflook’s school record for career victories when he registered win number 139 at a meet in Athens, Ohio. Brooke’s Dan Stanley has hit the 150-win mark, breaking the record his cousin Rick Stanley broke last year. Coincidentally, Rick Stanley broke the record that was previously held by another Stanley cousin, DeWitt Stanley.

Fairmont Senior’s Nicholas Hedrick has established himself as one of Marion County’s all-time best as he set the Marion County record for career wins, surpassing the record of 150 wins set by 1998 state champion Adam Gorby of North Marion. After tying the record with a forfeit, Hedrick updated the Marion County wrestling books in style as he took just 21 seconds to register a pin for the record-setting victory.

Oak Glen surprised no one with their second-place finish at the OVAC tournament. Having dominated other teams in both dual and tournament settings this year, the Golden Bears could be considered the strongest team in either the AA or AAA divisions. One team that might put a cramp in Oak Glen’s style next weekend could be Williamstown. The Yellowjackets have been coming on strong lately, with a second-place AA finish at the WSAZ tournament and a convincing win at the LKC tournament. Two wrestlers, Ash Wenmoth (112) and Willie Westbrook (119), defeated previously undefeated AAA wrestlers at the WSAZ tournament en route to claiming individual titles. Williamstown finished only nine points behind AA winner Wirt County at the WSAZ, but won the LKC by nearly 40 points over runner-up Ritchie County and third place Wirt County. With five conference champions (Wenmoth, Westbrook, Justin Wenmoth, Zac Johnson, and Buddy Hawkins), and a solid overall team going into the regional tournament, the boys from Wood County would love nothing more than to win a regional crown in their home gym. However, a strong Cameron team (ranked #2) could also make things interesting. Stay tuned for more details on the AA Region 1 tournament (as well as the other regional tournaments).

Speaking of the OVAC, congratulations to Brooke’s Joe Nichols (171) and Oak Glen’s Alex McClung (HWT) for winning individual titles, and to Brooke’s Dan Stanley (119), Wheeling Park’s Mark Evans (125), and Oak Glen’s Jason Jones (160) for finishing second. Bishop Donahue, Brooke, Cameron, John Marshall, Oak Glen, Tyler Consolidated, Weir, and Wheeling Park all had wrestlers place in the tournament, which many consider to be tougher than the state tournament.

Regrettably, I missed the LKC Tournament this year and missed the opportunity to see a four-time LKC champion crowned. I’d like to congratulate Wirt County’s Mike Miller on becoming just the seventh LKC grappler to win four straight conference titles. Miller was also named the tournament’s Oustanding Wrestler, and my guess is that it probably was a unanimous decision among the coaches.

Although there weren’t any real surprises in the LKC finals, there was a touch of disappointment as Ravenswood’s Luke Salmons, who is the undefeated defending AA heavyweight state champion and would have been the top seed, is still nursing an injury sustained at the WSAZ tournament. Two-time state champion Jimmy Johnson was suffering the effects of an accident, which saw him drop his 119-lb final with Williamstown’s Willie Westbrook. As mentioned earlier, Westbrook is having a tremendous season and very well could have won the match anyway, but anyone would agree that had Johnson been at full strength, the match would have been a lot closer.

All season long, when anyone has talked about the 189-lb class in AA, we’ve heard names like Lahman, Busick, Lewis, Thompson, and others, but perhaps we might want to remember the names Arnold Houser (St. Marys) and Ryan Delebreau (Williamstown). The two wrestled to an 8-3 finish in the LKC finals, with Houser emerging as the victor. Houser has had a successful senior year at St. Marys and should have what it takes to place among the top six in Huntington (he finished fifth at the same weight last year). Delebreau is just a freshman, and it looks like he’s got quite a wrestling career ahead of him.

North Marion is winding down their season in the usual fashion, coming off another NCAC tournament win (their 10th), and appear to be more than ready to go for their second straight AAA title. Even though the conference tourney is an annual battle between North Marion and Fairmont Senior (no other team has ever taken home the title), University produced an impressive showing (third place) from their ever-improving team. Standouts Nathan Kinsley and Kenny Griffin (one of the state’s few remaining undefeated wrestlers) brought home titles for the Hawks while Dave Hefner and Chris Flynn finished as runners-up. It appears that both the championship and consolation heavyweight finals were some of the most exciting matches of the night as both ended in 2-1 overtime decisions.

Plenty of excitement was on tap at this year’s Coalfield Conference tournament. Woodrow Wilson won the tournament on the strength of seven finalists, four of which were individual champions. Liberty-Raleigh, despite having only an eight-man team, finished in sixth place, proving that quality always means more than quantity.

The finals saw some wrestlers avenge earlier losses to their final-round opponents as Woodrow Wilson’s J. K. Tyree and Matt Burgess each defeated wrestlers whom they’d lost to earlier in the season. Tyree pinned Greenbrier West’s Troy Morello in their 119-lb final, and Matt Burgess won a tight 6-4 overtime decision over Nicholas County’s Jamie Nash in the 145-lb final. Tyree’s win was special in a sentimental sort of way, as his father Mike Tyree was a Coalfield Conference 119-lb champion himself in high school.

Two of the night’s biggest matches were at 125 and 189. Big Creek’s Scott Hale won one of his biggest matches ever as he decisioned Greenbrier West’s Dennis Blankenship 3-2. A bit of controversy surrounded the match, as it appeared that Blankenship was going to pull ahead 4-3 near the end of the match, but the official didn’t award any points for his efforts, allowing Hale to hold on for the win. Another big match pitted Liberty-Raliegh’s Addam Lewis with his cross-county rival Josh Moyer of Independence. The two had split their two previous matches, and it appeared that the rubber match was going to go into overtime, when Lewis got a takedown with five seconds remaining in the match.

Cabell Midland also surprised no one by taking the WSAZ and MSAC crowns. Proving to be one of the state’s best teams in both dual and tournament formats, the Knights have held on to their #1 ranking for the past several weeks. Coach Sparks isn’t clearing a space in Midland’s trophy case just yet, though. The Midland mentor is taking a humble approach to the state tournament, realizing that although his team probably will be the favorite coming out of the regionals, anything can happen. Most everyone is agreeing that the luck of the draw will be a big factor in the success of this year’s AAA teams.

The big news at the Big 10 was not the fact that Grafton successfully defended their tournament crown, but the fact that the Liberty-Harrison wrestlers were unable to compete. Coach Tom Hilton was ill and unable to attend the meet, and because the school is not able to fund an assistant coach’s position, the wrestlers - two of whom (Ryon Anderson and Drake Jenkins) were expected to be contenders - were unable to compete in the tournament. This is a sad situation, and I hope that someone will take the necessary steps to solve the problem, whether it is securing the funds for another coaching position or whether it means someone stepping in on a volunteer basis to assure that in the future these athletes will not be denied the chance to compete simply because they don’t participate in a more glamorous sport.

Another oddity of the Big 10 Conference Tournament was that there were absolutely no 112-lb wrestlers in the tournament. Perhaps it has happened before, but not to my knowledge.

As for the wrestling that did go on at the Big 10, Grafton had 10 of their wrestlers finish in either first or second place. Coach Rod Auvil was named Big 10 Coach of the Year - a title that I feel is well-deserved. Even though I haven’t yet gotten the chance to meet him myself, I’ve talked with a few of his wrestlers and am immensely impressed by the work ethic, healthy attitudes, and all-around good manners he instills in each of his wrestlers. Congratulations, Coach, and keep up the good work!

South Harrison’s Andrew Richards (160) has faced a few setbacks this season, but not at his final Big 10 showing, as he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Wrestler. Richards has placed at the state tournament each of his previous years, and is one of only five wrestlers who will have the chance to become four-time state placers at this year’s state tournament.

The Cardinal Conference tournament has come right down to the wire during the past three years as East Bank has edged out Winfield for the championship in the duals tournament. The tables were turned this year, though, as Winfield came from behind to win their match with East Bank on pins by John Ellithorp (189), Joe Baxter (215), and freshman heavyweight Jay Davis. East Bank still had a strong showing, despite being plagued by injuries all year. Star grappler Matt Simmons has been out the entire season with a football injury, and Jimmy Meadows injured his knee earlier in the year. Doug Jenkins (135), Dewey Bostic (160), and Brian Keeney (171) didn’t let recent injuries spoil their return to the mats as they each took home individual titles. Jenkins, by the way, had only wrestled five matches all year.

The Eastern part of the state has some extremely talented wrestlers this year, and they found themselves in recent conference tournaments as well. Berkeley Springs, Frankfort, Keyser, Musselman, and Petersburg all competed in the Potomac Valley Conference (PVC) Tournament and Hedgesville, Jefferson, and Martinsburg competed in the Cumberland Valley Athletic League (CVAL) Tournament. Both conference tournaments are wrestled in a duals format. Keyser finished with a perfect 4-0 record in the PVC, while Hedgesville had the best finish among the West Virginia teams in the CVAL. Both Keyser and Musselman have moved into the ranks of the AAA teams this year, so they may have some individuals who could turn out to be darkhorses at the tough Region 2 tournament.

Hedgesville is known for getting the big lead in dual matches on the strength of their awesome lower weights. Martinsburg, on the other hand, finds their strength in their middle-upper weights. Jefferson isn’t seeing quite the success they’ve seen in recent years, although they still have some quality wrestlers. Two Jefferson wrestlers to watch for are sophomore Devin Abshire at 119, who recently lost to Hedgesville’s Jim Shetler by just one point (1-0), and senior Robbie Webb at 152. Webb’s record was an impressive 31-7 as of the CVAL Tournament..

Although Berkeley Springs didn’t win any of their duals at the PVC, they have some strong individuals, and will have a much better showing at the region 2 tournament next weekend. The conference tournament set the stage for some exciting matchups at the regional. Coach Horace Blankenship and his Indians have built up some big individual rivalries with Coach Mick Lantz and his Frankfort team this year with Billy McCann battling it out with Sean Junkins at 125, Jason Seville going head to head with Jason Litten at 145, Jason Waugh facing Chip Kimble at 152, and Richard Stotler going at it with Jeremiah Kuykendall at 189. While not all of these matches may not be contested in the championship finals (some, because of seedings, may not even happen at all), any time these wrestlers face off with each other at the regional, it should be worth watching.

Congratulations go out to the Patriots Junior Wrestling Club for capturing the national title recently at the Tulsa Nationals. I want to say a special thank-you to Dean Moore who, along with a dedicated group of assistants and parents, gives up numerous weekends every year to take these kids to the finest youth tournaments the country has to offer. Their efforts are certainly appreciated, and you’ll see several of their protégés excelling in Mid-Ohio and Kanawha Valley high school wrestling in the next few years.

Well folks, it’s crunch time now, as teams begin to prepare for the regional tournaments. Next week I’ll attempt to give my thoughts on each region, but until then here’s hoping those who are injury-free will remain healthy, and those with injuries will get stronger every day and be back as good as new come tournament time.

Contact Jenny Sullivan at sullivj2@oak.cats.ohiou.edu

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Updated January 22, 1999