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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
AAA State Tournament Wrapup for March 5, 2004

The AAA division of the 2004 state wrestling tournament went pretty much as expected, with one huge surprise. When the final scores were posted, Parkersburg High had won its second consecutive AAA title and Parkersburg South finished second, 20 points behind.

Not unexpectedly, eight state champions hailed from the city of Parkersburg. Four other champions from Region 1 joined with the champions from Parkersburg and Parkersburg South to turn in a dominating performance at this year’s state tournament. Only two state champions (Nitro’s Anthony Easter and Fairmont Senior’s Matthew Delligatti) were from schools outside Region 1.

Kyle Turnbull and David Campell, both of University were two of the Region 1 state champions. Their victories were special not only for University High but for Monongalia County as well. Turnbull was the first champion from Mon County to win multiple times since Morgantown’s Sam Rozanece won his third consecutive title in 1970. It’s also the first time that University has had more than one state champion since 1956, the year they won the state championship. University’s program has been enjoying success in the past several years under Head Coach Ken Maisel. Chalking up their most successful year in recent history, the Hawks celebrated 20 dual meet victories for the first time, won their first-ever Winner’s Choice/Rotary Invitational Tournament, and won the NCAC Tournament for the second time in four years. And Maisel’s idea to shift David Campbell from 145 to 152 for the regional tournament paid off big time as Campbell claimed an individual state title one week later at that weight. I know it’s customary to award Coach of the Year to coaches who either coach the winning or runner-up team at the state tournament, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Maisel didn’t receive some consideration this year for his efforts.

Wheeling Park sophomore Ron Green was one of the top 103-pounders as a freshman last year. He ended up missing the last part of the season though, and he started his second season determined to win it all at the same weight. And win it all he did with a 6-1 decision over talented freshman Jobey Knapton of East Fairmont. Knapton is first lightweight from East Fairmont to make it to the finals.

At 112, Nitro’s Anthony Easter prevented Region 1 from making it two in a row as he racked up a 17-5 edge over John Marshall’s Logan Hartle before getting the pin in 4:57, making it two in a row for himself. The second of a talented trio of Easter brothers, Anthony finished the year with 39 wins without a loss will be going for his third straight title next year. He’ll be joined on the mats next year by younger brother Seth.

The 1-0 final score of the 119-pound final was no surprise. It was just a matter of whether defending champion Kyle Turnbull of University or Brian Humphrey of Wheeling Park would walk away the winner. The two had entered the regional tournament undefeated (they didn’t face each other in the regular season) and met in the semifinals with Turnbull prevailing 5-0. But with the stakes a little higher this time, the match was wrestled a little more conservatively, and Turnbull’s go-ahead escape in the third was all it took to keep his unblemished record in tact and claim his second straight title. Turnbull dedicated his victory to his mother, who has never missed a single match her son has wrestled.

At 125, Parkersburg’s Robert Shyver made it two in a row for himself as well as he shut out Ripley’s Bobby Cooper 6-0. Cooper had won a regional title all four years as a Viking but failed to place in his first three years at the state tournament. But he went out in style with a runner-up finish to his credit.

Brandon Rader made it two in a row for the Big Reds and three in a row for himself as he pinned Region 1 champion Mike Durbin of Brooke in 4:59 in the 130-pound final. Rader had a scare on his way to the finals though, as North Marion’s Justin Lodge came within two points of sending the Big Red to the consolation bracket with an exciting semifinal match that ended 9-7. Lodge and Rader are both juniors, so a 2005 rematch may not be out of the question.

Parkersburg South’s Chad Porter silenced the critics again this year as he found himself once again in the state tournament finals. Overlooked as a freshman, Porter finished runner-up at 119 last year. Spending the year ranked behind Brooke’s Braden Shaw and Jefferson’s Codie Gustines, he defied the odds to take the 135-pound title in a hard fought match against Shaw that ended in a 3-2 decision.

Porter’s match must have served as some inspiration for fellow Patriot, 140-pound junior Shaun Smith, because he pulled off what many consider to be the biggest upset in state tournament history. Smith had the task of facing none other than Ripley’s Mitch Smith (a junior with a career record of 143-1 going into the match), who had been dubbed “The Tiger Woods of wrestling” by one of the state’s sportswriters. The two had faced each other at this year’s WSAZ Invitational, a match to which Shaun Smith attributes part of his success. After a scoreless first period, Shaun began the second in the down position and got the escape to take the 1-0 lead. But Mitch answered in the third with his own escape to even the score 1-1, where it remained until the end of regulation. When the overtime period started, both wrestlers were being a little conservative and were hit with a double stalling call. But when Shaun got the winning takedown it set off one of the loudest celebrations I’ve heard from the South fans since 1996 when Patriot sophomore Jason Johnson pinned Fairmont Senior’s Rashaan Bates in the finals.

The two Smiths had wrestled together for several years in youth programs, mainly with the Junior Patriots. They are friends and have a mutual respect for each other. Shaun Smith called Mitch Smith “the best there is”. Mitch Smith handled the loss with a great amount of dignity and class and has already begun focusing on his senior season.

Coming into the state tournament, 145-pounder Dustin Richey of John Marshall looked like one of the most vulnerable defending state champions. He’d already lost twice by pin to his opponent in the finals, Chance Litton of Parkersburg. But he met up with a different Chance Litton than he’d seen in the previous two meetings and capitalized on Litton’s uncharacteristic style, taking the early lead in the first and never surrendering that lead as he earned his second straight title by way of a 7-5 decision. John Marshall has never had a 3-time state champion, so here’s wishing Richey the best of luck next year. I also want to wish Chance Litton the best of luck next year. He is one of the most respected wrestlers in the state (I’ve never heard anyone knock him) and he’s one of my favorites.

At 152, Cambell’s gamble sure paid off. University’s David Campbell wrestled a large portion of the regular season at 145. But prior to the regional tournament, Coach Ken Maisel suggested to his wrestler that he might consider moving up a weight class for the postseason. Part of the decision came from the fact that Region 1 was absolutely stacked at 145. Unfortunately for Campbell, things were just as tough in the region at 152, where he placed third. But we all know that the only matches that really matter are the ones in Huntington, and the Hawk senior won when it counted most as he avenged a regional loss to Region 1 champion Corey Adkins of John Marshall with a 5-1 decision.

Allow me to digress for a moment. Campbell’s fate at the region is just another example of how tough the regional competition really is. I know it’s not news to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last few decades that Region 1 always has a strong showing at the state tournament. However, when compiling some statistics I noticed something amazing and I wanted to give credit where credit is due. Of the 56 AAA Region 1 wrestlers at the state tournament, 54 won at least one match. Of the two who failed to win a match, one had to do so because of an injury default!

Anyway, back to the matches. Parkersburg South’s Codi Norman kept the Region 1 streak alive as he found himself facing off in the finals against a Brooke Bruin for the second year in a row. Norman finished second as a freshman last year to the unstoppable Phil Bliss, and faced another Bruin this year in junior Dana Davis. As I do every year, I pay close attention to any wrestler who wins his division at the OVAC tournament, because it means there’s a good chance he’ll make an appearance in the finals at the state tournament. I was impressed with Davis last year, but he just missed qualifying for the state tournament due to an injury default. When I saw that he’d won this year’s OVAC I knew he’d give Norman all he could bargain for. The regional final between the two wrestlers was an awesome match, and the state final didn’t disappoint either. The action-filled, high scoring match found the wrestlers tied 8-8 with just 35 seconds remaining in the match thanks to a reversal by Davis. That’s when Davis made a gutsy move and let Norman up to give the Patriot a lead which he would not surrender, giving the South sophomore his first state title.

South’s Kyle Walters gave the Patriots a perfect score on the night as he won his second title in three years with an injury default victory over East Fairmont’s Billy Ray at 171. The Patriot senior had built up a 6-0 lead over Ray when he unintentionally slammed his opponent hard on the mat early in the third period. Walters regretted that Ray was unable to finish the match and wished him the best. Fortunately, Ray is just a junior and will grab his 100th career victory next year with his first win of the season.

Just like at 140, I hated it that someone had to lose the 189-pound match. I’ve enjoyed watching Parkersburg’s Joey Lindamood wrestle over the past two years, and I had the pleasure of meeting his parents during one of the breaks at the state tournament this year. (I even found out that I’d gone to school with his mother!) But on the other hand, it was so heartwarming to see something finally go right for Fairmont Senior’s Matt Delligatti. After finishing sixth at 215 as a freshman, things looked promising for the young Polar Bear wrestler. But he injured his shoulder early in his sophomore season and then injured the other shoulder in his junior season. Both injuries led to season-ending surgeries. He’d finally made it through most of his senior season unscathed, but it just wasn’t in the cards for Matthew Delligatti to finish a wrestling season without an injury. He had to sit out the last regular season match of the year due to a cut above his eye that I believe required 13 stitches. Then one week before the regionals he broke his foot playing basketball with friends. And to top it off, his final match with Lindamood ended in a hard-fought 3-2 decision.

Perhaps Delligatti had a guardian angel watching over him this year. Almost two years ago, Delligatti’s grandfather, Ross Maruka passed away. One of Marion county’s greatest wrestling fans, Maruka never had any sons of his own – just seven daughters! But two of his daughters married into the Delligatti wrestling family and a few years later, the name Delligatti became a household word in wrestling circles once again. Grandsons Jonathon, Anthony, and Hunter Delligatti and Chris and Jonross Neptune had all made it to the state tournament during their wrestling careers at Fairmont Senior, but their granddad never got to see any of them capture an individual title. But as his grandson pointed up to him after winning the final match of his high school career, I’m sure Maruka was smiling down from the best seat in the house.

The rest of the night belonged to Parkersburg as 215-pounder Lou Thomas didn’t surprise anyone by taking his third individual title by way of pinfall. The nationally-ranked Big Red senior met up with Huntington’s Kenny Hutchinson in the finals but said goodbye just 1:04 later as he put the Highlander’s shoulders to the mat.

Thomas’ Big Red teammate Ryan Dearman successfully defended his 275-pound title with a tough 3-2 decision over East Fairmont’s Jesse Valentine. Valentine appeared to be on a mission as he jumped ahead 1-0 with an escape in the second. But Dearman tied the match in the third with a quick escape and then went ahead with a takedown midway through the period. The match was halted for a moment as Dearman popped a contact. Most wrestlers would have handed the soiled contact to their coach, but not Dearman. He popped it right back in his eye!

A lot of people didn’t think the Patriots would finish as close as they did to the Big Reds, including Dearman, who gave credit to South for their effort. It was nice to see him exchanging handshakes and congratulations on the podium with South’s Josiah Dorton (3rd at 275) at the end of the tournament.

Of the 14 AAA state champions, half will be back next year to defend their titles. I want to thank all the wrestlers for an entertaining year, wish the seniors the best of luck with their futures, and wish the underclassmen the best of luck next season. See you next year!
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