WV-Mat, Mat Lines ...

West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for January 22, 2004:

Sometimes you can be a hero even in defeat. Just ask Parkersburg South's 215-pounder Josh Davis, who just might be the most popular guy at Parkersburg South High School today, at least among the students who are fans of South wrestling. Davis was mobbed by teammates and coaches at the end of his 11-5 defeat at the hands of Lou Thomas Wednesday that sealed the victory for the Southsiders against their nationally ranked arch nemesis and defending state champion, Parkersburg High.

Lou Thomas is one of the best wrestlers not only in West Virginia, but in the USA as well. Ranked third in the nation, Thomas has wrestled and defeated some of the country's best. But perhaps those guys don't understand what happens when you pit Parkersburg against Parkersburg South. Emotions run high. Adrenaline pumps. Skill takes a backseat to will. Big matches happen. And perhaps the biggest match thus far in Davis' high school career was actually a loss.

The thing about the 215-pound match, which just happened to be the last match of the night, was that probably 95% of the 2,000 fans in attendance were expecting a pin by Thomas. With only a five-point deficit to overcome (29-24), a pin by the big guy would allow the Big Reds to squeak out a one-point victory to retain not only city bragging rights but their #1 ranking in the state. In fact, I was sitting next to a Parkersburg High man who told his kids as the final match was starting, "Well, we're going to win by one".

Davis had a strategy from the get-go - do NOT get pinned. (It had worked for the Big Reds earlier in the match as 140-pounder Josh Bailey and 160-pounder Dustin Combs managed to lose by mere decisions rather than the expected pins.) Thomas got the first takedown of the match about halfway into the first period but Davis managed an escape. Although hit with his first stalling call, Davis only found himself behind by one to start the second period in a match that many thought wouldn't last two minutes. Thomas chose neutral and the two danced around a while until Davis was hit with another stalling call, giving the frustrated Thomas two more points. Thomas finally got his takedown to take a 5-1 lead, but was penalized for unnecessary roughness (I believe) to end the second period at 5-2. As the third period started you could actually feel the momentum shift from the "north" side of the fieldhouse to the "south" side. Big Red fans were getting a little antsy and Patriot fans were growing more hopeful, literally by the minute. Davis chose down to start the third, and after Thomas' attempt at a cradle didn't work out, he let Davis up. Once again Davis was hit for stalling, giving Thomas an additional two points. A subsequent takedown made it 9-3, but Thomas checked the clock and realized that his only hope now was a technical fall, and time was not on his side. He let Davis up and got another takedown but the clock was winding down. And when the South faithful started the "10-9-8" chant, it was all she wrote for the annual dual - one of the best I've witnessed in years.

On a side note, if Thomas had pulled off the technical fall and tied the match, officials would have had to go clear down to #6 on the tie-breaker system for dual meets. Neither team had any team points deducted, each team won 7 matches, each team had two pins, and Thomas' potential tech fall would have given each team one tech fall apiece. The Big Reds did score the first points in 9 matches to outscore the Patriots on first points 16-10. Talk about your close match!!!

Although Josh Davis was the obvious hero of the night, several wrestlers were actually heroes as well as they contributed to a phenomenal team effort on both sides of the mat. In fact, the only "big" names who won in the manner predicted were Brandon Rader (135), Chance Litton (145), and Joey Lindamood (189) for the Big Reds and Kyle Walters (171) for the Patriots. As is usually the case in this dual, if your team doesn't get the expected points early then it doesn't bode well for the final outcome.

South came into the match at a disadvantage. I must admit that when I found out that Ryan Ewing had moved into the 112-pound slot for the Big Reds I knew it would spell bad news for their opponents, including South. I, like many others, had done my "pre-match" calculations and I had given a slight advantage to Parkersburg High. (Ok, South fans - feel free to let me have it when you see me at the WSAZ this weekend!) And on top of that, a sickly South team was about to face a healthy, injury-free Big Red team. (Zac McCray, Aaron Kelley, Chad Porter, and Codi Norman were all battling the flu.) Things didn't look all that promising for the men in blue.

Perhaps Josiah Dorton set the tone for South in the first match of the night as he gave up an 11-4 decision to defending state champion Ryan Dearman at 275. Although his loss put the Patriots in a 3-point hole, the mere decision was not good news for the Big Reds, who were expecting Dearman to repeat history and pin Dorton as he did in the 2003 dual.

And then along came Hueston Kellar. Again, the Big Reds were expecting a victory at 103, but as Kellar mentioned in the Parkersburg News, "We had it in our heads that we were going to win", and his pin of Scott Stilgenbauer put the Patriots back in the lead. I don't know how many of you know it, but Kellar's future stepfather is none other than Mike Litton, so expect big things from this little freshman.

Ewing, another talented freshman, put his team back in the lead with his own pin over freshman Travis Townsend. Ewing is just getting started, so if the pairings work out right, don't be surprised if you see him in the 112-pound final at this year's state tournament. And don't count Townsend out either. I've seen this young man wrestle since he was a little kid and he has had some tough matches this year. You haven't heard the last of him.

The 215-pound match overshadowed South's biggest win of the night. At 119, South's Zac McCray found himself pitted against Parkersburg's Jake Hays. The two battled to a scoreless first period, and Hays got the escape in the second after choosing down. McCray began the third down as well and got an escape early in the period to knot the score. The match ended in regulation with a 1-1 tie, and neither wrestler was able to score a takedown in the overtime period. McCray started the 2nd overtime period on top and held on for the victory.

One of the night's most exciting matches came at 125 where the Big Reds' Robert Shyver and the Patriot's Aaron Kelley squared off. Shyver got the first takedown and was trying hard for the nearfall as time ran out in the first. Kelley deferred choice and Shyver chose down. A Shyver reversal made it 4-0, but Kelley scored a reversal of his own with 37 seconds left in the period and registered two nearfall points at the buzzer to even the score. Kelley began the third in the down position and Shyver scored a two-point nearfall of his own, but Kelley quickly answered with a reversal. As it looked like the match was heading for overtime, Shyver saved the day for the Big Reds with a reversal late in the third to secure the 8-6 decision, although many had predicted a major decision.

Sometimes a gamble pays off, sometimes it doesn't. Fans of this inter-city series have witnessed many strategic moves on the part of the coaches over the years. With his team only ahead 12-9 at this point, Big Red mentor Scheny Schenerlein made the first switch of the night. Most people were predicting Brandon Rader to pin South's Matt Dunn at 130 and South's Chad Porter to pin Casey Ice at 135. So to try for two wins instead of one, he switched Ice and Rader. But the plan "Dunn" backfired (pardon the redneck pun) as Matt Dunn handed Casey Ice a 7-1 decision. Neither wrestler managed to score any points in the first. Ice began the second period down, and Dunn was hit twice for stalling until he turned it on and came up with three nearfall points as time ran out. Dunn chose down to begin the third, padded his lead with a reversal, and then scored a takedown at the end of the match.

That set the stage for a rematch of last year's 119-pound state championship match, where Rader won his second straight title with a 9-3 decision over Porter. But the ailing Porter was deemed unable to wrestle and instead Rader faced Nathan Hall, who he easily put away in 58 seconds.

South's Shaun Smith wanted a pin. When he saw he wasn't going to be able to get it against Parkersburg's Josh Bailey, he opted to go the technical fall route. Leading 10-4 to begin the second, Smith chose to begin the period in the neutral position. However, Bailey surprised the Patriot with a takedown to start the second. As the match wore on, the tech fall looked to be beyond reach, but Smith had managed to build up a 15-7 lead, good enough for a major decision. But Bailey once again came to life and scored a reversal right at the buzzer to narrow the deficit to 6 making the final score 15-9.

The 145-pound match between Parkersburg's Chance Litton and South's Felix Osuna Cotto was actually a lot more exciting than the 6-0 final score would leave one to believe. The two are pretty evenly matched, but Litton came out ahead thanks to a first period takedown, a second period reversal, and a third period takedown. With Litton, Osuna Cotto, John Marshall's Dustin Richey, and University's David Campbell all in this weight class, the 145-pound weight class at the Region 1 tournament will be worth the price of admission itself.

South's Sean Smith nearly got the pin he wanted at 152 against the Big Reds' Kyle Dowler, but Dowler tapped out of a nearfall, causing the Patriot fans to go nuts. Although Dowler came close to putting Smith on his back in the first (he couldn't establish control), he was no match for the talented senior as Smith handed him a 17-2 technical fall.

Probably the slowest paced match of the night was between South's Codi Norman and Parkersburg's Dustin Combs. Norman was battling the flu and wasn't wrestling his usual style, and Combs was penalized for stalling. The match ended in a 4-0 decision for Norman.

Kyle Walters didn't waste too much time in getting the final pin of the night as he put away Big Red Scooter Myers in the first period.

With two matches to go, everyone thought the 189-pound match between Parkersburg's Joey Lindamood and South's Curt Radcliff would be the weight class that decided the outcome of the whole match. The first period ended with Lindamood holding on to a slim 2-1 lead. After Radcliff deferred choice, Lindamood chose down to start the second and scored an escape about 15 seconds into the period and then a takedown to gain a 5-1 advantage. At some point in the second the two wrestlers butted heads and spent a good amount of time getting their heads bandaged and taped to stop the bleeding. (And might I add, Mark Dearman does a fine job of cleaning up blood!) But hey, what's a PHS/South dual without a little blood? I mean after all this is a battle, but when wrestling resumed it looked like a couple of Revolutionary War soldiers engaged in battle - one in red with his head and fingers taped, and one in blue with his head bandaged. When Lindamood pulled off the 7-2 decision, he raised his arms to the South crowd (in the only "exchange" between wrestler and fans all night) as if to say, "Hey, I've won the battle and we're going to win the war."

But we all know now what happened in the final match of the night. And just as the Patriots were declared the winner of the Revolutionary War in 1783, another set of Patriots won their war in 2004 in one of the best duals between the schools in the history of the rivalry. In the understatement of the year, the ever-humble South Coach Tim McCartney called it "a good win".

The dual between the two schools always draws people from different parts of the state. I received an email from a girl named Kristie who had planned to bring someone to Parkersburg for the match. I also saw some Williamstown folks there among countless others. One interested spectator in particular made quite a hike to catch the action. Brooke's Braden Shaw was on hand, possibly to catch a look at Chad Porter. Although he didn't get to see Porter wrestle, I'm sure he didn't go home disappointed. And even though the Big Reds may have been disappointed, they have to admit that this was one heck of a match.

So many times this match has come down to which team has the greatest will to win. Last year that will clearly belonged to the Big Reds as they embarrassed South in front of their home crowd with a 41-14 defeat. The South wrestlers believed that they would get their revenge this year as did the South coaches and many of the South fans. The faithful South student section even turned a chant into a prophecy. When the Big Red student section rose to their feet and began chanting "Scoreboard, scoreboard", the ardent South students answered with a chant of their own: "It's not over, it's not over". Indeed it wasn't over until it was over.

And although the dual is now history, the battle for state supremacy is still not over. Coach Schenerlein stated that "the ship won't sink" and has promised that his troops will be ready for February. So the Patriots can enjoy the sweet taste of victory for the time being but then they'll have to get back to business, because in just a matter of weeks the war will be on again in a battlefield in Huntington.
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