Four weeks is way too long to go without seeing any wrestling in person! Until Wednesday night, I had not been to a wrestling match since December 15. Normally I wouldn’t let such a drought occur, but a variety of reasons had kept me away from the action over the holidays and during the last couple of weeks. But it’s good to be back, and I don’t think anything can keep me away from the WSAZ tournament this weekend! I wanted to try to make the first night of the monstrous OVAC tournament, but it wasn’t possible.
The West Virginia teams might not be as dominant in the OVAC as they have been in the past. Several individuals will be gunning for titles including Wheeling Park’s Mark Evans (125) and Steve Ochap (215), who have placed third or higher in every tournament they’ve wrestled this year. Cameron may make a run at Oak Glen in the overall points race even though they’re in different division in the conference. At first glance it looks like Cameron could have more individuals reach the semifinals and finals whereas Oak Glen might have more wrestlers who score points. Whatever the outcome, keep your eye on the wrestlers who do well at this tournament, because the wrestler who does well here almost always places or, in a lot of cases, even wins at the state tournament.
Two tournaments that I absolutely hated to miss were the Braxton Big 16 and the Winner’s Choice tournaments. Unfortunately, a commitment to a WV Fairs & Festivals convention and queen’s pageant (my “other” life) kept me in Charleston from Thursday through Sunday of last week. But thanks to the Internet I was able to at least keep up with what was happening at the Winner’s Choice. I got a little bit of information about the Braxton tournament through my new friend Casey Auvil (daughter of Grafton coach Rod and sister of Grafton wrestler Cory). Although we were enjoying the pageant (Casey is the reigning Miss Taylor County Fair), we both wanted to be watching wrestling, so needless to say we talked about wrestling every time we were together. Casey and I weren’t the only convention-goers who wished the convention had been some other time. Jack and Joanne Wilson were having to miss seeing their grandson Matt Wilson wrestle for North Marion at the Winner’s Choice.
I heard nothing but good reports from the Winner’s Choice. Everyone agreed that the tournament was well-run and sportsmanship seemed to be good too. I know the folks from Parkersburg South were glad they made the trip. I hope it becomes an annual trip for the Patriots.
Just a quick note about sportsmanship: it’s been so refreshing to read the positive comments on the forum about the sportsmanship displayed by the Buckhannon-Upshur team and by the junior high and middle school teams who host tournaments. I could never tire of reading posts like that!
Some wrestlers at the Winner’s Choice continued to show the crowd why they’re considered to be at the top of their weight classes, while others made names for themselves. Hedgesville’s unstoppable trio of Dustin Bowers (119), Bryan Moats (140), and Anthony Regalbuto (145) came through the tournament undefeated as did East Fairmont’s Matt Miller (171). Williamstown’s Ash Wenmoth (125), South’s Clint Radcliff (130), Mike Bosley (135), Nathan Pickens (152), and Chris Daggett (160), and Philip Barbour’s Matt Corder (215) all remained unbeaten against in-state competition.
Unfortunately I’m not as up-to-date on the stats for the wrestlers at the Braxton Big 16 Tournament. A result that did catch my eye was Aaron Barnett’s (Independence) win over Ravenswood’s Jeremy Nester. I saw Nester wrestle earlier in the year and I know he’s having an excellent year. Barnett placed third at the Jackson County Invitational, but I don’t know if he met up with Nester. I think both Independence and Ravenswood will be at the WSAZ tournament, so perhaps the two will get a chance to meet again.
The two teams from Parkersburg had good outings Wednesday night. Both teams recorded shutouts (Parkersburg shut out Robert C. Byrd and South shut out Wirt County). The two teams also held other teams to single-digit scores (South defeated Warren (Ohio) 71-4 while Parkersburg defeated Ritchie County 66-9). While such a dominant victory is nothing new in the long history of Parkersburg High School wrestling, it was significant in the fact that it was the Big Reds’ 400th dual meet victory. No other wrestling team in the state’s history has reached 400 dual wins. Congratulations to all the coaches and wrestlers who have been a part of Big Red wrestling history over the years.
For a group of fans who witnessed their wrestlers win 27 out of 28 matches Wednesday night, the Patriot faithful were mighty quiet. Most of the time fans will go crazy when their big-name wrestlers win a match, but on this particular night it was a couple of lesser-known wrestlers who brought life to a crowd that is infamous for being loud and boisterous. In the match against Wirt, South’s Sonny Dye found himself paired up with Wirt’s Chris Miller (yes, one of THOSE Millers). The lead kept changing back and forth during the entire match and Dye was behind 6-5 with less than a minute to go in the third period. A takedown with 38 seconds left and then two subsequent nearfall points fired up the South crowd, but then the Wirt fans had their say when Miller scored a reversal with 22 seconds left. Miller took a gamble and gave Dye an intentional escape but ran out of time in his attempt to tie the score, and thus suffered a 10-8 defeat. In the last match of the night, South’s heavyweight John Bosley (no, not one of THOSE Bosleys) seemed to have a comfortable 4-0 lead over Warren’s Ben Allen when Allen scored a reversal at the buzzer to end the second period. Bosley escaped the Warrior’s grip in the third and became the aggressor, causing the Patriot fans to stomp and clap, and then finally cheer when he walked away with the 7-2 decision.
As most of the state knows, the South wrestling program is known for its fans. And although they’re not always well-liked by wrestlers across the state, some of those same wrestlers agree that they’d love to have a portion of the fan support the Patriots have. Something else flowing through the South program that is the envy of many a program is the sense of pride and tradition. Whenever I’m a spectator at a Parkersburg South match I like to look for familiar faces in the South wrestling “family”: fans who have been following the sport for the past 33 years; parents of former wrestlers who continue to support the program long after their sons have graduated; former wrestlers themselves; current junior high and grade school wrestlers who have hopes of one day being on the mats and hearing the cheers of the crowd; and fans who just love to support the most successful sport in the school’s history. Many young people in the southern half of Wood County grow up with wrestling in their blood and it just becomes a part of them. And even though I try not to mention the “b” sport during wrestling season, I think it’s worth mentioning that South’s basketball program (currently ranked #1 in the state as well) modeled itself after the wrestling program by using the “family” approach, and they are now seeing the positive results of their efforts. I think this is also evident in the rising wrestling programs across the state. You’ll find that the successful programs of today are the ones who have successful feeder programs. I know those of you involved with the youth wrestlers in our state don’t hear it enough, so thank you for all the time you’re giving today to the champions of tomorrow.
Well that’s it for now. I’m sorry the report is a little “geographically-limited”, but I’ll be able to report on more of the rest of the state after this weekend. Best of luck to everyone this weekend, and travel safely!
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