WV-Mat, Mat Lines ...

West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for January 19, 2005

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow?..

No, it's not a modified version of the US Postal Service motto. Rather, it's the mantra of thousands of screaming fans who packed Parkersburg South's Rod Oldham Athletic Center Wednesday night for the annual wrestling dual between Parkersburg High and Parkersburg South.

The first real Mid-Ohio Valley snow storm of the wrestling season might have closed schools in Wood County for the day, but it didn't deter the avid fans who braved the elements to watch their beloved wrestlers battle it out for city bragging rights.

The hype surrounding the match had been unbelievable. People had begun talking about the dual on the WV-Mat forum weeks ago. I even left work early to make sure I got a decent parking spot. When I arrived at 5:20 p.m., the parking lot was nearly full, and the varsity matches weren't slated to start for another hour and a half! I would later observe that by the time the match was in full swing, the standing room only crowd had blocked the aisles and spilled onto the hardwood.

The first thing I saw when I approached the press table was an example of the dark humor of someone at Parkersburg South. There were two pieces of paper taped to the table reading "Reserved for Parkersburg News", and one piece reading "Reserved for Judge Hill". Just in case you've been hiding under a rock lately (or perhaps golfing in Myrtle Beach), Judge Hill is the judge who overturned the WVSSAC's ruling that Parkersburg High wrestler Jake Hays was ineligible to wrestle a fifth year. (Hays wrestled two years as a freshman at Jackson Junior High and is now wrestling in his third year at PHS.)

Besides getting a decent parking space, arriving to the match early has other advantages. I got to watch several of the fans arrive, among them former wrestlers from both sides of the river. I know some former wrestlers actually made the drive from Morgantown just for the match. This dual meet is also like a homecoming, and rivalry aside, there were several fans from the opposing two teams greeting each other and talking and laughing.

After six junior varsity matches that saw the Big Reds come out on top 15-12, and then a gorgeous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a Parkersburg South choral group, it was now time to get down to business.

The starting lineups were announced, with no real surprises. At 140, South's Aaron Kelley was to face either Casey Ice or Brandon Rader. I made the remark to Jay Bennett of the Parkersburg News that I bet Rader would end up wrestling Shaun Smith at 145 instead. Jay didn't listen to me?.

The match started as it did one year ago - at the 275-pound weight class. Josiah Dorton of South wrestled very conservatively against Big Red foe Zach Nolan. The two danced around in the first period with neither wrestler taking many shots. As it looked like Dorton was going to have to make his second-period escape the only score of the match, he took Nolan down with 1.7 seconds left on the clock to walk away with a 3-0 decision.

Forfeit victories for South's Corey Matheny (103) and Hueston Kellar (112) gave the Patriots an uneventful 15-0 lead going into the fourth match of the night.

Travis Townsend, South's 119-pounder, got things started with a quick takedown against Kyle McPeek, but slowed things down after that, so much that he got called for stalling twice in the match. McPeek found himself down 7-1 part way through the third period, but a takedown, reversal, and penalty point brought him to within 9-6, although it wasn't enough, and Townsend upped the Patriot's margin to 18-0.

Once again the stage was set for the classic Jake Hays/Zac McCray matchup. Last year's match ended in an overtime victory for McCray. This year's match appeared to be headed the same way. After two periods there was still no score in the match. The wrestlers had tied up a couple of times in the first, and then the Southside crowd started venting their frustration at Hays, whom they felt was riding McCray's hips and not working toward anything else. Their pleas were finally answered with 11 seconds to go in the second, when the official hit Hays for stalling. Hays chose down to begin the third, and got the much-needed escape. Again, the South crowd felt like another stalling penalty should be called on Hays, which would tie the match. But the official didn't see it the same way, and the match ended with a 1-0 victory for Hays.

Josh Neal, a Big Red wrestler facing eligibility issues of his own, didn't let the distractions get to him in his 3-2 win over Patriot Matt Dunn. Neal, a two-time AA/A state champion transfer from Shady Spring appeared as though he'd win the match 3-0, until Dunn got a reversal with 18 seconds left in the match. Dunn tried to tilt Neal's shoulders, but it wasn't enough, and Neal held on for the slim 3-2 victory.

Using the same wrist tie-up that Neal used in the prior match, the Big Reds' Josh Bailey held South's Nathan Hall powerless in a 6-0 decision.

At this point in the evening, the fans hadn't been treated to any excitement. No pins, lots of stalling on both sides (in my opinion), and no real aggressiveness. That old '60's song "Build Me Up, Buttercup" sprang into my head. To paraphrase the song, the singer is asking his girl why she builds him up just to let him down. That's how I was feeling about this match that had been hyped for so long. It had been a bit of a letdown thus far.

But all was about to change. At the beginning of the 140-pound match, announcer Ken Davis was waiting to announce who was wrestling for Parkersburg, when Big Red Head Coach Scheny Schenerlein (amidst a barrage of boos from the South crowd) was literally looking back and forth between Casey Ice and Brandon Rader, trying to decide who to put in the match against South's Aaron Kelley. You could almost see and hear the wheels turning in Scheny's head. And just like a Vegas roulette wheel, Scheny's big gamble paid off not only in the 140-pound match, but for the rest of the night, as he decided to send in Ice and save Rader for the next match.

The match between Ice and Kelley was a battle between ailing wrestlers, as Kelley is nursing a bad knee that has Coach Tim McCartney very concerned, and Ice is having back problems. Kelley actually came out on fire with an 8-second takedown, sparking the first real reaction from the South crowd all night. But the injury seemed to get the best of Kelley, who took two or three injury timeouts, allowing Ice to rally for a 6-3 victory.

And then the stage was set for the first marquee match of the night. At approximately 8:10 p.m., a rumble must have been felt throughout all of South Parkersburg as the Rod Oldham Athletic Center came alive like I've never seen before. Two state champions were going to battle it out as Brandon Rader, a three-time defending state champion and PHS' normal 135-pounder moved up two weight classes to meet South defending state champion Shaun Smith. Smith actually shot for an ankle first, and appeared to have a takedown at the edge of the mat, but Rader skillfully repositioned before the official could make the call and the two went out of bounds. After choosing down in the second, Rader quickly reversed Smith and then took him to his back for a two-point nearfall before Smith got out of the predicament. Facing a 6-0 deficit heading into the third, Smith got and escape and takedown to come within three points, but Rader opened up the lead in the third after an injury timeout by Smith, taking the Patriot to his back one more time to finish the match 13-4.

Another defending state champion for South, 152-pounder Chad Porter is always entertaining. The Patriot didn't disappoint his fans, as he plowed into Big Red Ryan Ewing for a three-second takedown. Porter continued to run up the score in his 19-4 route of his cross-town opponent.

Scooter Myers' pin of Patriot Zack Sallee was probably all the momentum that Parkersburg needed for the win, and the first pin of the night was a big win for the Red and White. Sallee, wrestling for starter Nick Munday (who is out with Mono), was only trailing 2-1 when Myers took him to his back with less than a minute to go in the first. About 25 seconds later, it was all she wrote as Myers finished with the pin. George Keeney, one of several state officials in attendance, and I agreed that this was the real turning point for the Big Reds.

South's Bryan Teter gave one of the Patriots' better efforts in his match against freshman phenom Andy Thomas. However, it wasn't enough as Thomas built up enough points for a major decision in his 14-6 win over the South senior.

Marquee matchup number two between South's Codi Norman and Parkersburg's Chance Litton started out fast and furious, but ended up with Litton controlling the entire match and holding the defending state champion scoreless for six minutes to take an 8-0 major decision.

Litton's major decision rendered the 215-pound match moot, as Parkersburg had now built up an insurmountable 30-23 lead, but Big Red Joey Lindamood wasn't satisfied with a mere win. Starting the third period in neutral position with a 4-2 lead, the Big Red junior took his Patriot counterpart to his back and sealed the deal for the Big Reds with a pin with just 28 seconds gone in the third.

The beauty part of dual wrestling meets is that as a coach you can use strategies that you're not going to be able to use in the regional and state tournaments. I remember how former North Marion Coach Roy Michael was famous for juggling his lineup in big dual matches, namely against Fairmont Senior and Parkersburg South. Coaches all over the state use similar strategies against their rivals. That's what makes dual matches so exciting. The rivalry between the two Parkersburg schools also has a long history of coaches using different strategies to win the match, and this year Scheny made a great coaching decision and the gamble certainly paid off. Congratulations to the Big Red wrestling program on a big victory.

But bear in mind, as history has shown, the winner of the annual dual does not necessarily have a lock on the state tournament. Several times over the years, the loser of the annual dual has gone on to one-up their rival at the state tournament. Could this year be South's year? A healthy South team will be hard to beat at the regional and state tournaments if Parkersburg cannot fill the 112-pound weight class, but a healthy South team isn't a certainty, and Parkersburg definitely has enough big guns to take their third straight state championship. Only time will tell, but it should definitely come down to another classic battle in Huntington between the two teams from Parkersburg.

Return to the Mat Lines index
Return to the WV-Mat front page