Another state wrestling tournament has come and gone, and now our thoughts turn to next year. Before I go any further, I want to mention a couple of items that I missed last time.
I managed to leave out Brooke's Dan Stanley as a four-time state qualfier. Stanley finished the 1998 season as the 119-lb runner-up and finished third this year at the same weight.
Two more names can be added to the 100-win "hall of fame", as Calhoun County's Jimmy Johnson and Cabell Midland's David LeMaster each reached 100 wins. Johnson is just a junior and will be adding to his total win-count for one more year.
A couple of other facts that I overlooked prior to the state tournament were that Petersburg's Dan Lahman (AA 215-lb champion) entered the tournament undefeated and left that very same way, making him one of only two wrestlers who finished the year undefeated. Parkersburg's Brandon Williams entered the tournament without a loss to any in-state wrestlers, and, as the top returning wrestler in the AAA 152-lb weight class, he is sure to be among the state's top wrestlers when next season rolls around.
I'd like to congratulate the wrestlers who have placed in the state tournament for four straight years. They are Fairmont Senior's Nicholas Hedrick (fifth, third, champ, champ), Wirt County's Mike Miller (four time state champion), South Harrison's Andrew Richards (runner-up, fifth, fourth, third), Cabell Midland's Jason Ward (champ, runner-up, champ, third), and Ritchie County's Justin Wince (fifth, fourth, third, champ).
Every wrestler who comes to Huntington has dreams of going home a winner. To a lot of people, that only means one thing - taking home an individual title, but to the majority of the people who attend the state tournament year-in and year-out, the young people who have made it to the state tournament are already winners. Many have endured strenuous training and strict diets, and some have even wrestled with injuries that would have sidelined athletes in other sports. Wrestling builds character like no other sport can, and to be included in the elite group who get to compete for a state championship should be considered an honor never to be forgotten. I salute all the wrestlers in this year's state tournament and I want to congratulate the winners and their runners-up. However, all the place-winners should be commended, for sometimes it takes a strong individual to bounce back after a devastating loss, collect himself, maintain his dignity, and go on to place in his weight class after his dream has just died. Three wrestlers in particular came into the tournament ranked among the top eight in their respective weight classes. They were all three ranked higher than their first-round opponents, yet Todd Daggett (Parkersburg South), Justice Smith (Ritchie County), and Byron Wellman (Cabell Midland) all three found themselves in the consolation bracket at the close of Thursday night's opening session. Each wrestler was faced with having to win five straight matches to place third, yet each of these three young men did what he had to do. Daggett plowed through the consolation bracket with four pins and a decision and Smith made his way to third with two pins, a major, and two decisions. And then there was Wellman. After losing a one-point decision on Thursday night, Wellman cruised through his first two consolation matches with a pin and a 9-2 decision. But then the going got tough. His next win was a mere 3-2 victory and his final two wins were both overtime decisions. Wellman is the epitome of wrestling with heart. While Daggett and Smith are seniors, Wellman is only a sophomore, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him right back up there again next year.
Region came out ahead in the statistics in both AAA and A/AA once again this year, crowning the most individual champions in each division (AAA Region 1 tied with Region 4), and placing the most wrestlers in the top six.
Here are the results by region:
AAA A/AA Champions Champions Region 1 - 4 Region 1 - 7 Region 2 - 3 Region 2 - 1 Region 3 - 3 Region 3 - 4 Region 4 - 4 Region 4 - 2 Place-winners Place-winners Region 1 - 29 Region 1 - 33 Region 2 - 21 Region 2 - 15 Region 3 - 16 Region 3 - 25 Region 4 - 18 Region 4 - 15As for conference success, the LKC was king of the small schools while the MSAC reigned supreme in the big school division. The Coalfield Conference and the OVAC had champions in both divisions. Here are the champions by conference:
AAA A/AA MSAC - 7 LKC - 6 NCAC - 3 OVAC - 5 Coalfield - 2 Coalfield - 2 OVAC - 2 PVC - 1Last year the AAA division was loaded with seniors, but this year the underclassmen stole the show as nine state champions will be back next year to try to defend their titles, along with 44 other place-winners. In AA, only five state champions will be back next year, plus 44 other place-winners.
Top Ten Teams According to Returning Points:
AAA 1. Parkersburg 118 2. Cabell Midland 105.5 3. Parkersburg South 85.5 4. Hedgesville 85 5. Wheeling Park 47.5 6. North Marion 46.5 7. Herbert Hoover 43 8. Huntington 41 Nitro 41 10. Fairmont Senior 40 A/AA 1. Cameron 96.5 2. Oak Glen 96 3. Ritchie County 87 4. Calhoun County 69 5. Williamstown 64 6. Weir 57.5 7. Frankfort 45.5 8. Ravenswood 42.5 9. Tyler Consolidated 38 10. Shady Spring 35
Teams Returning Seven or More of Their State Qualifiers
AAA Huntington 11 University 10 Fairmont Senior 8 Parkersburg 8 Parkersburg South 8 Cabell Midland 7 Herbert Hoover 7 A/AA Braxton County 9 Calhoun County 8 Cameron 8 Greenbrier West 8 Ritchie County 8 Frankfort 7 Oak Glen 7 Shady Spring 7 Williamstown 7
Teams Returning 100% of Their 1999 Qualifiers
AAA Capital 4 Lewis County 3 East Fairmont 2 Logan 2 Philip Barbour 2 St. Albans 2 Oak Hill 1 A/AA Braxton County 9 Shady Spring 7 Tyler Consolidated 4 Webster County 4 Clay-Battelle 3 Madonna 2 Sissonville 2
Chalk one up to the coaches again for being pretty accurate when it comes to picking the best wrestlers in the state. I saw a pre-tournament list compiled by the coaches of who they thought would finish in the top eight in each of the AAA weight classes. Their accuracy was amazing, as they predicted 74 of the state's top 84 wrestlers in the AAA division, correctly predicting 88% of the wrestlers that either placed or at least made it to the consolation quarterfinals. Even though I didn't get to see a list for AA, there were team predictions on the sheet I received also, and the coaches correctly predicted both Oak Glen and Parkersburg South to win the state tournament. I think it's safe to say these guys know their wrestling! I want to say thanks to Roy Michael, Bill Archer, and all the other coaches who put so much hard work into compiling these polls every year.
The polls might have been even more accurate had it not been for some injuries and that nasty flu bug. Ripley was one team who was hit hard by the flu during the weekend of the state tournament, and several of their wrestlers would have finished much higher in the tournament had they been healthy.
To all the wrestlers who wrestled their hearts out this year, from the state champions to the junior varsity wrestlers who stuck with the team to the very end, to those wrestlers whose seasons were cut short by injuries, be proud of yourselves because you are among the finest athletes in this state. We fans certainly are proud of all of you. To the seniors who will be leaving the high school wrestling scene this year, I wish you the best of luck in your post-graduation endeavors. If you go on to wrestle in college, be sure to keep the rest us informed about your college career. We really are interested in what you're doing! To the underclassmen who will return next year, train hard, stay healthy, and keep your mind focused on those grades. Best of luck to all the wrestlers who will be wrestling throughout the spring and summer. Again, let someone on the website know how you're doing, because we love to read about the accomplishments of our West Virginia wrestlers.
That about wraps up another season of Mat Lines. Again, I want to say thanks to Tim Miller for his COUNTLESS hours of hard work on this website, for asking me to write the column (I always tell him I hope he never gets tired of hearing me say that), for "catching" things that I miss, for "patching" things that I remember after I submit the articles, and for putting up with all of my questions. I want to thank everyone who has written to me this year and either sent information, pointed out something I missed, or simply asked a question or two. I've made so many new friends just in the past three months, and I thank the Good Lord for each and every one of my wrestling friends, both old and new.
Have a great summer everyone, and I'll see you back here in December!
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Updated March 12, 1999