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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
sullivj2@ohio.edu
Here's the line for January 15, 2004:

Oh, the best laid plans

I had the next few days all planned out. I'd travel up the road this evening to Sistersville to catch the triangular match between Cameron, Tyler Consolidated and Williamstown. Then I'd leave early Saturday morning and head to the Braxton County Armory for the Braxton Pizza Hut Big 16 Invitational. Now it looks like I'll miss both events, but for very different reasons.

As I listened to the weather forecast this morning, Wood County is expected to get a couple of inches of snow tonight. Now I don't know how many of you have ever been to Tyler County, but they always manage to get snow there that some of us wish for and others thank the Good Lord that we don't have. So call me a wimp, I'm not going to take any chances. I'll just have to hope someone sends in the results.

As for the Pizza Hut tournament, I'd even tried talking my niece Lauryn and her friend Micki Lynn into foregoing their annual trip to the Winner's Choice to accompany me to Braxton County. Well, it looks like the girls can go to Fairmont now because I'm going to have a visitor this weekend that no wrestling event in the world would keep me from seeing. My husband Larry called me Monday morning to tell me that my stepson Brian would be arriving in Charleston that day for a 15-day leave from Iraq. It's been nearly a year since I've seen him and he's coming to see us this weekend. So call me whatever you want - wrestling can wait. (No offense intended toward the fine folks at Braxton County.)

You know, having a family member serving our country overseas really puts things into perspective. Another young military friend whom I got to see this past Sunday told of 151-degree heat in Iraq (he said to relate you'd need to blow a hair dryer into your face) and flesh-eating insects, not to mention the constant threat of injury or death. When I see people arguing on the WVMat forum about who will win the dual between Parkersburg and Parkersburg South, which team has the toughest schedule, which conference is the toughest, how the regions need realigned, who's the top in each weight class, etc., it still makes me so thankful that we live in a country where we CAN argue about stuff like that while people like my stepson Brian and my friend Isaiah (and so many others) are risking their lives so our freedom isn't taken away from us. When Doc adds the page listing those former wrestlers who are serving in the military, please remember to keep them all in your prayers and to thank them if you ever see them in person.

Ok, now back to wrestling. I was really looking forward to the Braxton tournament because of a couple of human interest stories I read about in the Braxton Citizens' News. First of all, be sure to thank official George Keeney for his dedication to this tournament. Keeney has officiated at every single Big 16 tournament and will step on the mats for the 26th time at this year's tournament.

Second, Braxton senior 145-pounder Lance Hines (14-1) will attempt to make history as part of the first father-son duo to become Big 16 champions from Braxton County High School. His father David became Braxton's first individual champion when he won the 155-pound weight class in 1981 (pinning his way through the tournament). Lance's only loss has been to East Fairmont's Shawn Moore in the 152-pound weight class, so he'll have his sights set on a title of his own.

Hines isn't the only Eagle grappler expected to contend for top honors. Teammates James Adams (130) and Jordan Flynt (140) will bring 15-0 and 16-0 records, respectively into the tournament. Several other teammates are sporting good records, so look for Braxton to battle it out with some tough teams like Calhoun County, Greenbrier West, Roane County, and Shady Spring.

All the weight classes have outstanding wrestlers in them and there will be some great matchups, but I wanted to pick a few weight classes to keep an eye on at the tournament this weekend.

At 130, Adams will put his unbeaten record to the test against Shady's Anthony Harvey and Calhoun's two-time defending state champion Justin Ashley, who suffered only his second loss of his career last weekend at the hands of North Marion's Justin Lodge. Ashley will be the only wrestler attempting his third Pizza Hut title.

The 152-pound weight class is loaded statewide and a few of those wrestlers will be wrestling in the tournament this weekend. Look for Calhoun's Eric Metz, Frankfort's Devin Bosley, and Grafton's Kevin Efaw to be top contenders. Metz and Bosley are both defending Pizza Hut champions.

Greenbrier West's 189-pounder Mark Smith got a bit of revenge at last weekend's Jackson County Invitational as he handed Independence's Robert Ward a 10-7 decision in the championship final. Ward (last year's 189-pound Pizza Hut champion) defeated Smith earlier in the year by a 3-2 decision in double overtime, so a possible rubber match between the two talented wrestlers is highly anticipated.

If you head on up I-79 you'll find another one of the state's premier tournaments, the Winners Choice/Rotary Invitational at the Fairmont Woody Williams Armory. This tournament pits some of the states best AAA and A/AA teams against each other. With defending champion Parkersburg wrestling in Virginia this weekend, the 2004 title is up for grabs.

At first glance, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick University as the team to beat from West Virginia. (I'm not sure if any out of state teams are going to be there, so I'm just going to talk about the West Virginia teams.) University and Ripley both had identical 5-3 dual meet records at the Wheeling Park duals, and for the most part are pretty evenly matched. However, in the few spots where Ripley isn't as strong, University is and it might be enough to put them over the top.

Williamstown might not have a full squad, but what they do have is unbelievable. Don't be surprised if the Yellowjackets finish right behind University and ahead of all other West Virginia teams. Hedgesville and East Fairmont have a good shot at making the top five, and Buckhannon-Upshur could sneak in there as well.

The 103-pound weight class will be worth the price of admission in itself. I might be wrong, but both Seth Phalen of Ripley and Dustin Haislip of Musselman will come into the tournament undefeated. Add to the mix East Fairmont's Jobey Knapton (fresh off an impressive win at the Nitro Pat Vance Invitational), Jefferson's Colton Gustines, University's Shane Bartolo, and Williamstown's Ryan Flowers, and you've got the makings for an exciting weight class that usually has more vacant spots than wrestlers.

Another possible stellar matchup would be at 125 where Bobby Cooper (another unbeaten Ripley wrestler) could meet Morgantown's Jared Garvin. Garvin wrestled both 125 and 130 at the Wheeling Park Duals so he might be at 130. If that's the case, he'll find himself in the same weight class as North Marion's Justin Lodge, who as mentioned earlier, defeated Calhoun's Justin Ashley to take the 130-pound title at Nitro.

Two other possible matchups to look for could be Hedgesville's Troy Foltz and Woodrow Wilson's Jay Thomas at 152, and Hedgesville's Brad Ammons and Williamstown's Alan Tracewell at 171. If my records are correct, Tracewell is undefeated and Ammons has not lost to a West Virginia wrestler.

The biggest match of the night could well come at the end of the night, as East Fairmont's Jesse Valentine and defending A/AA state champion A. J. could face off again in a rematch of the 275-pound final at the Nitro Invitational. Valentine decisioned Freda last weekend to take the title.

So if you want to catch some exciting wrestling this weekend, head to Interstate 79 and then head either north or south and you're bound to get your money's worth. Good luck to all wrestlers wrestling this week


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