Happy New Year everyone! I hope all of you had a very happy holiday season and that you’re ready for the new year.
Since it’s been nearly a month since the last edition of Mat Lines, I thought I’d review a few items of interest from the month of December and preview what I think some of January’s highlights will be.
First of all, congratulations to Anthony Regalbuto of Hedgesville and Matt Jones of South Harrison for reaching the 100-win mark early in the season. Coach Larry Shaw of Oak Glen hit a milestone as well, capturing his 200th dual win.
Speaking of Jones, it’s good to see him back after missing most of last year. Ravenswood’s Adam Schindler and Robert C. Byrd’s Jeff Mayer are also back after a year’s absence, and it looks like all three wrestlers are in for a great season. Jones and Schindler both went undefeated at the Ritchie County duals, and I believe Schindler is still undefeated and Jones has only one loss. Mayer should make some noise in the 119-lb class.
I was also glad to see that defending state champion Matt Miller of East Fairmont is back on the mats and storming through the 171-lb class. Good to see you back Matt! One of Miller’s biggest wins at the Wheeling Park Duals was a 2-0 decision over crosstown rival Jeff Courtney of Fairmont Senior. I believe the loss was Courtney’s first in-state loss of the year, so these two could meet in the finals of several more tournaments this year, possibly even the state tournament.
I made my first ever trip to the Brooke Classic back in early December. Actually, my sidekicks (my two nieces) and I spent a couple of hours at the Ritchie Duals before heading north to Wellsburg, just to arrive in time for the dinner break. So then it was off to Weirton to catch some of the Red Rider Invitational finals before going back to Brooke High. Cameron had already sewn up the team title, but it was a treat to see some of their wrestlers battle it out for individual titles. Interestingly enough, Tucker Brown (one of the early favorites at 119 this year) has faced some of his toughest competition in teammate Justin Kotson. If I’m not mistaken, Brown defeated Kotson for the top spot at the Red Rider Tournament, but then Kotson beat out Brown for third place honors at the Max Horz, Jr. Invitational.
I want to thank Nick and Lori Busick making us feel so welcome at the tournament. I’m just sorry we didn’t get to stay for all of the finals. I didn’t get to see a final team score, but I believe Weir High finished in third place behind Cameron and River (OH). Weir’s team is back on the rise and with the addition of a youth program, should continue to improve in the coming years.
And now back to Brooke. Although I saw some outstanding individuals from Pennsylvania (some of whom I’d seen a week earlier at a triangular in Parkersburg), the biggest impression made on me was by the Fairmont Senior team. Mark my word, this is a team to be reckoned with this year. Thirteen of their wrestlers scored points for their team, boosting them to a third-place finish behind perennial AA power Oak Glen, who also had thirteen of their wrestlers score points in the tournament. Both of these teams will just get stronger throughout the year, so things should be looking good for the “Bears” (both the Polar Bears and Golden Bears).
I hope to produce an early season weight class report where I will focus more on individuals, but one individual I want to mention is Jonathon Holt. Holt finished sixth in the state as a freshman and was having a strong sophomore season last year, entering the regional tournament as one of the state’s top-ranked wrestlers in his weight class. But things don’t always go as predicted come tournament time, and Holt was eliminated from the AAA Region 2 top four when he lost a decision to Jefferson’s Andre McDonald (another name fans would do well to remember – he’s off to a fantastic start). It looks as though he’s put it all behind him as he started off the year with a first-place finish at Brooke and has just two losses on the year if I’m not mistaken.
A couple of other interesting tidbits came out of the Brooke Classic. East Fairmont’s heavyweight Justin Hostutler was given the fastest-pin award with an eight-second pin. Fairmont Senior’s Jeff Courtney was one of the recipients of the Sportsmanship Award. Courtney got a quick pin of his own at the Wheeling Park duals last week as he registered a nine-second pin. But as fast as those pins were, they can’t match the five-second pin by Williamstown’s Bob Brookover at the Super Quad at Independence right before Christmas.
Fairmont Senior finished in third place at the Brooke Classic in part because of a flagrant misconduct call against a wrestler from Shaler, Pennsylvania. I’m not bringing this up to take anything away from Fairmont, but rather to stress how important sportsmanship is in the sport of wrestling. The Shaler wrestler lost his composure in a championship match and was thrown out of the tournament, along with the 25 points he had scored, costing his team a possible top-three finish. Dr. Bill Welker made a wonderful point in his weekly “Mat Talk” column about how other sports should follow the example set by amateur wrestling and put more emphasis on the importance of unsportsmanlike behavior. Too many times we see professional athletes act in a totally unprofessional and unsportsmanlike manner, only to be rewarded by attention from the media. It still irritates me that when I mention that I’m a wrestling fan I have to justify that it’s the “real” wrestling. It’s kind of ironic that a sport which I feel is the most demanding of amateur sports is too-often confused with a professional sport” that feeds off of showmanship, vulgarity, and other misconduct. Ok, down off the soapbox now. I just want to say that I agree with Dr. Welker that the rule-makers in the sport of wrestling should be proud of the strides they’ve made to assure that poor conduct will not be tolerated in our sport.
Another team that should make everyone stand up and take notice is Braxton County. If I have complete records, this team has not tasted defeat this year, neither in a dual nor in a tournament. According to my records, the team has four undefeated wrestlers in James Harris (125), Tyler Crislip (135), Tony Hardway (160), and Bobby Hart (171). I’m not sure if this is a record or not, but they actually scored three different 84-0 wins in the same day! With first place finishes at the Frankfort Invitational and the Webster County Hardwood Duals, the Eagles have their sights set on an LKC crown this year and possibly even more.
Who knows, this could be the year for Bears and Eagles. Another Eagles team that poses a huge threat is Hedgesville. I believe that they are undefeated in dual matches and just missed a win at the Max Horz, Jr. Invitational. They are simply outstanding in the lower and middle weights and fairly solid in the upper weights, which makes them nearly unstoppable in a dual format. They’ll put their tournament skills to the test in the upcoming January tournaments. Although no official AAA coaches’ poll has been produced, I would have to say that Hedgesville could be in consideration for the top two spots in AAA, along with Parkersburg South. Now that South is scheduled to appear at the Winners Choice Tournament, it will be fun to see how these two teams stack up against each other. Throw Fairmont Senior and North Marion into the mix and it should be one of the best Winners Choice tournaments ever. Perhaps we’ll also get to see Hedgesville’s Anthony Regalbuto meet up with North Marion’s Bill Gatian. The two didn’t face each other at the Wheeling Park Duals, much to the disappointment of some fans.
Fairmont Senior and Hedgesville are pretty even matched. Hedgesville took the dual 32-27, but Fairmont was wrestling without the services of 103-pounder Jonathon Delligatti, giving the Eagles six points right off the bat. But that’s not to take anything away from Kevin Ballam. Ballam and Delligatti are two of the state’s best at 103, so who knows what the outcome would have been had Delligatti not been out due to illness.
Parkersburg South had a pretty successful December, going undefeated in duals and placing higher at the Ironman and Brecksville tournaments than they’d ever placed in previous years. They’re now ready to see how they measure up to their West Virginia competition as they will also compete in the WSAZ tournament. I think it’s been about six years since South has competed in an in-state tournament. Doc Miller pointed out some interesting observations regarding the two times that Cabell Midland and North Marion have wrestled each other this year. In the first meeting, Midland came away with the 40-36 victory, but in the second outing, North Marion was the 40-30 victor. The difference came down to several North Marion wrestlers avoiding pins the second time around.
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