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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for January 7, 2005

Every time I head north I'm impressed. The first time I made it to Oak Glen High School a few years ago for a dual meet, I was amazed at the amount of work that went into a yearly program book that I believe could be the best in the state. And it goes without saying that I was impressed with their team!

My first trip to the giant OVAC tournament was quite a memorable one as well. From the Opening Ceremonies, to the tournament program books, to the outstanding "play by play" announcing, to the Closing Ceremonies, this tournament is top notch.

And attending the Wheeling Park Dominos Duals was such a great experience that I wanted to make sure I let everyone know how impressed I was with this tournament too. I never thought I liked duals tournaments until I made the trip to Wheeling last week. Now I'm hooked. Several people agreed with me that it's a great team experience. A total of 28 teams attended the tournament, and the teams were divided into four pools in which each team wrestled the six other teams in its pool. After pool wrestling was complete, the teams wrestled the teams from the other pools who finished in the same spot they did. For instance, the first place team in pool one wrestled the first place teams in the other three pools; the seventh place team in pool one also wrestled the seventh place finishers in the other three pools, etc.

Call me anal retentive (many people do), but I love a tournament where everything is done right. I'm a program book junkie, so I was impressed with the books. They contained team rosters for most of the teams, plus a grid-like schedule that showed what teams were wrestling on what mat at what times. Team scores were posted on the hallway walls, and the tournament stayed right on schedule from 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday clear through the last match at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. And because of the strict adherence to the schedule, coaches were able to get their wrestlers "home" on Wednesday night at a decent hour. I heard that some had planned to visit the local Cabella's store since they got finished so early.

Originally, I had planned to stay home and work last week until I found out that several of the AAA Region 1 teams would be wrestling in the same pool. I was intrigued by the idea of a regional preview, so I sweet-talked my boss into two days of vacation. And I'm really glad I did. I got to see some great matches and do a lot of socializing (of course!).

After a lackluster performance in a dual meet with Oak Glen, this tournament was just what the doctor ordered for Parkersburg South. Wrestling with their full lineup for the first time this season, the Patriots put on an impressive show and captured the team title with a 55-21 win over runner-up Martins Ferry. While winning the team title was impressive, I think the best thing South took home from this tournament was experience. For the past several years, South would have been wrestling during this same time of the year at the Brecksville Holiday Tournament near Cleveland, Ohio. It's highly likely that some of the wrestlers would have come away from Brecksville with 0-2 records against opponents that they may never see again in their careers. But instead they came home with nine matches under their belts and the chance to see how they measure up against their regional counterparts, some of whom (like Brooke and Wheeling Park) that they wouldn't have seen otherwise until the regional tournament. This tournament was a very smart scheduling move on the part of Parkersburg South. I sincerely believe that the experience from this tournament helped South in their close match this week with St. Paris Graham, who is currently ranked #1 in Ohio Division II. And I want to take just a minute to give special congratulations to South JV wrestler Zach Lott. I'm sure glad I got there in time to see you get your pin!

Other West Virginia teams had success on the mats in Wheeling as well, as Wheeling Park, Hedgesville, John Marshall, North Marion, and Fairmont Senior all came away from the tournament with winning records. Wheeling Park's only loss came at the hands of South. Although Ripley finished with a 4-5 record, the losses were all by six points or less, two of them being 3-point decisions. Fresh off their first trip to the Beast of the East Tournament, the Vikings received several outstanding performances from their wrestlers, including Junior Villafana (103) and Mitch Smith (140), who finished the tournament undefeated, and Logan Martin (112) and Seth Phalen (119), who suffered just one loss apiece. Martin and Smith upped their records to 20-1 and 11-1, respectively.

I just want to take a minute to acknowledge the work that Coach Jason Scott has done with the Ripley program. Not only has he worked hard to take the team's schedule to the next level, he's also supportive of his team and seems to be a great influence on the kids. Don't let the duals record fool you; this team will be a great tournament team in West Virginia and will be a force come February.

Two individuals who had great tournament performances were Wheeling Park 119- pounder Abbie Rush and Brooke 160-pounder Dana Davis, who each registered their 100th victory during the tournament en route to perfect 9-0 records. Davis is a perfect 18-0 on the season and I believe Rush has lost just once. Congratulations Abbie and Dana!

Davis, Rush, Smith, and Villafana were just four of several West Virginia wrestlers to finish the two-day event without a loss. Adam Moye and Mike Cremeans from Cabell Midland, Jobey Knapton from East Fairmont, Mike Michalski, John Jasper, and Matt Bosley from Fairmont Senior, Logan Hartle and Dustin Richey from John Marshall, Chris Conner and Robert Conner from Martinsburg, Hueston Kellar, Matt Dunn, Shaun Smith, Chad Porter, and Codi Norman from South, Ronell Green, Ronnie Green, and Kevin Staub from Wheeling Park also won all of their matches. (Note: My apologies to Buckhannon-Upshur fans as I was unable to obtain complete results for their team.)

Although it's impossible to catch all the marquee matches at a tournament this size (especially when one is crazy enough to volunteer to fill in as a tapper and timekeeper), I did get to see some good matches. I was lucky enough to catch several matches in what I believe will be one of the toughest weight classes in AAA this year - 152. Out of the six young men who will be standing on the podium at the end of this year's state tournament, I believe four of them wrestled at Wheeling last week. Defending state champions Chad Porter (South) and Dustin Richey (John Marshall), and state placers Troy Foltz (Hedgesville) and Henry Miller (University) all find themselves battling it out at 152.

Although Miller, Porter, and Richey all wrestle in Region 1, the Miller/Porter matchup was the only meeting between the regional foes. Region 2 wrestler Foltz lost what I believe to be only his second match of the year when he met up against Richey, who appears to be focused on a quest to become John Marshall's first three-time state champion. Richey plowed into Foltz and finished with a pin, leaving Foltz to good-naturedly shake his head, laugh, and question what had just hit him. In one of the last matches of the night, Foltz found himself paired up against Miller in a very physical and intense match that ended with Foltz getting the escape in overtime with mere seconds remaining in the match. Miller may get a chance for a rematch as both teams are scheduled to wrestle in next weekend's Winners Choice Tournament. As for the Porter/Richey matchup, fans will have to wait until February 2 to see these two defending champions go head to head in a match that will be well worth the drive to Moundsville.

The Winners Choice will give several teams a chance to see how they measure up against two-time defending state champion Parkersburg High. The Big Reds have enjoyed some success in the big name tournaments, both team-wise and individually, and will finally bring that vast tournament experience back to West Virginia in attempt to claim the Winners Choice title as they did in 2002 and 2003.

While we're on the subject of the Big Reds, I'd like to congratulate 135-pounder Brandon Rader, who won individual titles at both the Beast of the East and, most recently, the Powerade. Rader is the first Big Red and West Virginian to ever win at the Beast, one of the nation's toughest tournaments. In addition, he received the Most Falls Award with four pins. And if that isn't enough, with his win at the Beast, Rader surpassed last year's teammate Lou Thomas as Parkersburg's all-time win leader. Congratulations Brandon!

I really enjoyed sitting with Big Red grandpa Keith Litton at Wheeling on Thursday, even though he gave me a hard time about accidentally kicking his shoe! Litton and son Mike made two or three trips back and forth between the Wheeling Park Duals and the Powerade, which was being held in nearby Connellsville, PA. The Littons kept us all up to date as to how the Big Reds were progressing. If I hadn't needed to get home to send results to Doc, I'd have probably followed them back across the border to catch the Powerade finals.

And my tournament experience was complete when I finally got to meet "Gator". It was great to put a face with the name, and it was a lot of fun hanging out with him and the other guys. And of course it's always good to see my friend Barbara McFarland, mother of Brooke 119-pounder Jim McFarland.

Driving back and forth to Wheeling for two days wore me out, but evidently I wasn't the only one who was tired at the end of the day on Thursday. As one of the coaches from a neighboring state was leading his wrestlers out to the bus, I heard him wearily state, "It's been a long three days". And then I ran into former Fairmont Senior wrestler Jonathon Delligatti, who's now helping coach the Polar Bears. He too said that he was a little tired and mentioned that the time seems to go way faster when you're wrestling instead of coaching!

I can't say enough good things about this tournament and the people who made it a possibility. First of all, Domino's Pizza has sponsored the tournament for 12 years now, and this year they provided shirts for all of the head coaches. And for those of you who are involved in any kind of endeavors that require asking companies for sponsorships, you can share in my appreciation of a sponsor who is so willing to loyally support an athletics program year after year, such as Domino's, Wendy's (Brooke Classic), and WSAZ Television, to name a few.

Steve Shaffer and the people who actually run the tournament are deserving of much praise also. Like I mentioned earlier, the tournament stayed on time and match scores were posted for everyone to see. The young people who were working in the tournament offices were very polite and helpful. Joey Dolan, son of Wheeling Park Athletic Director Bernie Dolan, had the daunting task of trying to decipher results that were turned in to him and then record them in his computer. But he, his sister Claire, and Samantha Shaffer, Shaffer's daughter, worked very hard to provide results that were as accurate and up to date as possible. And although I didn't get their names, the young ladies that were working the table on Mat 3 the second day were very sweet. And Kevin Barr, you can keep the job as timekeeper. It made me a nervous wreck!

I was talking to Shaffer and Coaches Buzz Evans and Gene Monteleone after everything ended on Thursday night and they provided a few interesting facts about the tournament. The tournament started out as a six-team duals tournament and has now grown into one of the largest if not the largest duals tournament of its kind, contesting over 1600 individual matches in two days. They've had participating teams compete from as far away as Georgia, and there is enough continued interest to even make the event bigger in the future if possible.

In a tournament that was nearly perfect, the only problem I saw was that not everyone turned their results in to the office. But always searching for improvement, the men mentioned that they're looking into ways that they can assure that all match results get turned in, whether it's using something like pressure sensitive multi-part paper to record results or even posting a worker at each table to record results. They also mentioned submitting results to the press using electronic files instead of faxing hard copy printouts that have to be re-keyed.

As I'm finishing this article, the high water has forced me to take a day of vacation, and I just hate that (sarcasm intended). So now this gives me a chance to get my ducks in a row (wet weather pun not intended) and try to squeeze in some time this weekend at both the Jackson County Invitational in Ravenswood and the Pat Vance Invitational in Nitro to catch some of the state's premier AA/A wrestlers along with some AAA teams I haven't seen yet.

So to all wrestlers participating in tournaments this weekend, best of luck and do your best to keep out of the mud and off your backs!

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