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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for March 5, 2004:

It’s been almost a week since the 2004 WVSSAC State Wrestling Tournament came to a close. There’s so much to say, and to keep from becoming too long-winded I’ve decided to include separate links to the AAA and AA/A recaps and just focus on the overall tournament in this article.

The days between the regional tournaments and the state tournament seemed to just blend together thanks to some controversy between two arch rivals. I was afraid that just as the senseless antics back in January of a male performer and a woman old enough to be his mother detracted from an outstanding Super Bowl, a controversy of our own here in the Mountain State would take away from the supreme efforts of 443 athletes who had wrestled their hearts out in the regional tournaments and were about to begin the biggest weekend of their season. But as it turned out, the fans were pretty decent and the wrestlers displayed excellent sportsmanship.

In the midst of all the pre-tournament hoopla, some history in the making got overlooked. First of all, a record six wrestlers were going for their third consecutive titles, with five of them being successful. I remember when being a 3-time state champion used to be HUGE, but now with the caliber of wrestlers we have it’s a lot more common. Don’t be surprised if this year’s Dutton Award winner is picked from among that group.

Also, I’m really surprised that no one mentioned Brittany Woodall’s place in history. The 112-pound freshman from Buckhannon-Upshur might not be the first girl to ever wrestle in the state tournament, but she’s the first ever to compete in the AAA division. Although she didn’t win a match, she’ll more than likely be around for the next three years. And you might have seen her and not even known it. With her short hair and muscular arms, she looked just like one of the guys from the back.

Now how ironic is it that the only girl in the tournament didn’t need to wear a hair cap but several of the guys did! Some of you parents may groan when I say this, but I love the shaggy hairstyles that some of the boys are sporting these days. I think the reason I like it so much is it reminds me of the hairstyles from back in the mid ‘70’s when I first started coming to the state tournament.

Something else I liked about the tournament was the fact that for the consolation round on Saturday the mats were lined up four across rather than four square in the center of the arena. A big thank you goes out to whoever made that decision. I remember sitting literally in the top row one year and it was impossible to see the wrestlers if they got too close to the edge of the mat. A small change sure can go a long way!

And while I’m handing out attaboys, I’d like to thank the coaches who require their wrestlers to wear their official team uniforms for the awards pictures. I was looking at the awards pictures I’d taken and it just looks so classy to see the wrestlers in full uniform when they’re standing on the podium.

One complaint I did have was totally beyond the control of the tournament directors. (Pardon me for a minute while I jump up on my soapbox.) There were several fifth place finishers from different regions who might have placed at the state tournament had they made the trip to Huntington. What a shame that those kids had to stay home when there were more vacant spots in the brackets this year than ever before. I don’t know why the WVSSAC can’t take a look at this problem and possibly set up some sort of pigtail system where if there is at least one vacancy in a weight class, all fifth place finishers could wrestle off for the opportunity to fill the spot(s).

Something else I hated to see was the number of wrestlers taken out by stretcher. Did anyone else notice that most if not all of the major injuries happened on Mat 7? I was talking to Julie Surbaugh (wife of Webster Coach Mike Surbaugh) before the start of the first round Saturday morning and we noticed the paramedics had just left the stretcher “parked” mat-side at Mat 7. I’m sure it was a coincidence, but it still seemed like a creepy omen. Here’s wishing the injured wrestlers the best. Let’s hope the injuries aren’t too serious.

I do want to take a moment to pay tribute to a special group of wrestlers – those who lost their first round match but sucked it up and wrestled back through the consolation round to take third place. This year Ravenswood’s Sam Dennis (152), Point Pleasant’s Jacob Carr (171), Wirt County’s Jacob Lowe (215), Wyoming East’s Ryan Campbell (275), and Parkersburg South’s Josiah Dorton (275) each won five straight matches to finish third. Dorton is the only junior in the group, so he should begin next season as the top-ranked 275-pounder in the AAA division.

All in all, this was a great state tournament. I got to see old pals and make a few new friends. One of my newest friends turned out to be a “knight” in shining armor, Cabell Midland fan Don Neal. During the finals every year I sit with the press on the floor between the two mats. I was up taking pictures of the 275-pound winners and had left my notes, my program book, and my treasured “wrestling bag” back at my spot in front of the radio booth. I’d gotten so caught up in socializing and picture taking that I just forgot about my gear. Don found me and returned all of my stuff (at least I thought it was all of it). But then as I was walking back to the hotel I ran into Don and his son Alex again and Don told me how he had found a completed program book. I looked at it and realized with great relief that it was mine and how close I’d come to losing it. Now that might not seem like a big deal to some people, but those people who know me know how mental I am about my “book” and that I’d have gone nuts if I’d have lost it (right Lynn and Lauryn?). So thank you Don for looking out for me!

That about does it for this year. I’m looking forward to going to the spring qualifier tournaments and hopefully the tournament in Virginia Beach this year. And Ed Smith, if you’re reading, I actually plan to go to the matches this year and not the beach!

Good luck to all wrestlers who plan to wrestle throughout the summer. I’ll see you all in December!
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