Although this has little to do with the action on the mats, I want to commend the teams from Fairmont Senior and Parkersburg South on their show of respect during the singing of the National Anthem at the South/Fairmont/Grundy (VA) triangular. I usually make it a point NOT to look around during this time, but I couldn't help but notice the constant movement of the Grundy wrestlers, while the wrestlers on the two West Virginia teams were quietly and respectfully standing still until the song was finished. Maybe it's not a big deal to most people, but it is to me, and I think it speaks highly of these young men. And speaking of the National Anthem, it's always nice to hear Beth Johnson's lovely voice.
I want to send my apologies to Martinsburg for incorrectly reporting the results of the CVAL Tournament. Martinsburg won the tournament, and I want to thank those who very kindly brought the fact to my attention. And while we're on the subject, two Bulldog wrestlers, Brad Davis and Scott Gusic, each hit the 100-win mark. Gusic also broke the school record for wins in a season when he got win number 40.
Petersburg's Dan Lahman broke his brother Nick's career win record when he got his 116th win. Another accomplishment of his brother's that he'd like to match is that of an individual state title. Brother Nick won the 189-lb title in 1996.
University's Kenny Griffin will get win number 100 with his first win at the state tournament.
One tournament that I failed to mention altogether was the New River Valley Conference Tournament, which was won by Braxton County.
Probably the biggest news coming out of the regional tournaments was Martinsburg's runner-up finish in the AAA region 2 tournament. The Bulldogs of Coach Steve Britner qualified more wrestlers than any other team in the region and were actually three points in front of eventual team champion North Marion at the start of the semifinal round. Expect to see at least half if not more of the Martinsburg contingent to place among the top six in the state, allowing the Bulldogs to be almost guaranteed a top-ten finish.
In other news from region 2, East Fairmont's Matt Miller won his 160-lb class as expected and is now one step closer to a state title. Wrestling all year in the shadow of the Jason Ward - Josh Dearth debate, he's out to prove that he's a force to be reckoned with. He enters the tournament with only one loss, and that was to an Ohio wrestler. He has yet to face either Dearth or Ward, but if things go as he hopes, he'll get his chance to meet up with one of them in the 160-lb finals, as his two top opponents will square off in the semifinal round. Miller is just a sophomore (he placed 4th as a freshman at 152), so he's gunning for a shot at being a three-time state champion. Should Ward win the 160-lb title, it will be his third state title in four years. Jimmy Johnson of Calhoun County is also seeking a third individual title.
Mike Miller won his third straight title last year and now hopes to become only the sixth four-time champion in the 52-year history of the tournament.
Going back to the subject of Jason Ward, I was surprised to find that he is the only four-time regional champion crowned this year. I had to go back over my figures a second time because I thought surely there would be more (for those of you who, like I did, immediately thought of Mike Miller, he finished as a regional runner-up last year). Several three-time regional champions were crowned this year and a lot of them are juniors, so expect to see a bigger list next year.
Even though it appears on paper as though Huntington was the only school to qualify their entire team, that's not so. Berkeley Springs is bringing their entire team to the state tournament also - it just happens that they only have an eight-man squad!
I'll have to keep a closer eye out for Wheeling Park's Brian Flanegin at the state tournament. He was on and off the mat so quickly at the AAA Region 1 tournament that I missed him each time he was on the mat. Look for Flanegin to be one of the top contenders in the 135-lb class.
After looking over the brackets, it looks like the AAA race is going to be extremely tight and could be a matter of who gets the most pins. The tournament winner may not even be decided until after the finals Saturday night, so the top teams must have great consolation rounds going into Saturday's finals. At first glance it looks like it could be a three-way race between Cabell Midland, Parkersburg, and Parkersburg South. Parkersburg High School will benefit from the seedings of their six regional champions (the most of any AAA school), four of whom have very good shots at getting in the finals. Cabell Midland could get as many as six in the finals, but a couple are outside shots. South's chances aren't as good at getting as many finalists (I'm predicting anywhere from one to three), but they have several wrestlers who are capable of wrestling well through the consolation bracket. This tournament (the AAA division) could really come down to who gets the most pins over the course of the next three days.
In A/AA, it appears that once again Oak Glen will be favored to take home their third straight team title, but it won't be an easy road for them this year. For instance, last year they won their region by nearly 100 points, but this year that margin was cut almost in half. With the talent spread a little more evenly throughout the state's top wrestlers, it looks like the Golden Bears could be limited to as few as four finalists, and the road to the state championship might not be as smooth as it has been for the past two years. Oak Glen always seems to flourish at the state tournament, though, so they might have to make me eat my words. The fact that they will start the tournament with excellent pairings (six champions and no fourth-place finishers) can't hurt, so they could easily place 10 of their 13 wrestlers. I look for Region 1 to make a strong showing as Cameron and Williamstown should pose the greatest threat to the team title. Although Williamstown finished as runners-up in region 1, Cameron may have the edge when it comes to draws at the state tournament, which may allow them to place more wrestlers than Williamstown, who starts the tournament with six fourth-place regional finishers going up against regional champions - ouch! Wirt County, although qualifying most of their team, may not have the depth to challenge for the runner-up spot this year, but should still place among the top five.
It takes a lot to go through an entire season without a loss. Four West Virginia wrestlers have managed to make it to the state tournament without tarnishing their records. Congratulations to Nicholas Hedrick of Fairmont Senior (42-0 at 145), Eric McCartney of Calhoun County (39-0 at 145), Dan Lahman of Petersburg (41-0 at 215), and Luke Salmons of Ravenswood (26-0 at 275) on their tremendous seasons so far. Also worth mentioning are the West Virginia wrestlers who have not lost to any in-state opponents. They are Tucker Brown (Cameron - 103), Matt Stevens (Parkersburg - 103), Ash Wenmoth (Williamstown - 112), Mike Bosley (Parkersburg South - 130), Jason Litten (Frankfort - 145), Brandon Williams (Parkersburg - 152), Josh Dearth (Parkersburg South - 160), Matt Miller (East Fairmont - 160), Scott Gusic (Martinsburg - 171), and Adam King (Ripley - 215).
I thought it would be nice to mention those wrestlers who have qualified for the state tournament four years in a row. In next week's article, we'll list those who placed in the tournament all four years. Here's the four-year qualifier "honor roll" in alphabetical order:
Adam Bryant, Point Pleasant
Scott Bush, Ravenswood
Scott Cottrill, South Harrison
Nicholas Hedrick, Fairmont Senior
Dave Green, Bishop Donahue
Adam King, Ripley
Brandon Kupfer, Cameron
Addam Lewis, Liberty-Raleigh
Eric McCartney, Calhoun County
Alex McClung, Oak Glen
Mike Miller, Wirt County
Jimmy Moles, Herbert Hoover
Chad Mullins, Ripley
Chad Purpura, Bishop Donahue
Aaron Ransom, Greenbrier West
Andrew Richards, South Harrison
Ryan Russell, Point Pleasant
Luke Salmons, Ravenswood
Jason Seville, Berkeley Springs
Josh Staubs, Martinsburg
Justin Underwood, Braxton County/Richwood
Jason Ward, Cabell Midland
Jason Waugh, Berkeley Springs
Chad Wehrle, Herbert Hoover
Tommy Widmyer, Berkeley Springs
Justin Wince, Ritchie County
It's nice to welcome back the programs at Clay County and Musselman. The two schools qualified three and two wrestlers, respectively for the state tournament.
Wayne County's newest consolidated school, Spring Valley, is writing the final chapter on their inaugural year as the school's first four state qualifiers in it's brief existence will make the short trip up the road to the Huntington Civic Center.
And speaking of consolidations, this will be the last year we'll see wrestlers from DuPont and East Bank, as the two schools combine next year to become Riverside High School, which I believe will be a AAA school.
Well, that about does it for this week. I want to wish all 448 wrestlers, their coaches, families, and fans the best of luck this weekend. Let's keep sportsmanship at an all-time high, keep the injuries to the bare minimum, and enjoy an exciting three days of the best wrestling the state has to offer. See you in Huntington!
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Updated January 22, 1999