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West Virginia Mat Lines

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

The question at the 58th WVSSAC State High School Wrestling Tournament was not so much which teams were going to win, but how they well they were going to do along the way.

Oak Glen (AA/A) and Parkersburg South (AAA) came into the tournament as heavy favorites, as each team qualified the most wrestlers in their respective divisions. I read a comment in the paper downplaying the significance of Parkersburg South qualifying 14 wrestlers - all at third place or higher. Anyone who has been around the sport for a while knows that when a team such as Oak Glen or Parkersburg South qualifies 13 or 14 wrestlers, it’s a good bet that they’ll take the team title unless something bizarre happens along the way.

But nothing bizarre happened, and the two teams spent the weekend flirting with the record books. As I did last year, I’ll just cover some highlights in this article. More details on the championship finals can be found in the AAA wrap-up and the AA/A wrap-up.

Sportsmanship seemed to be high this year and the injuries seem to have been few and far between. North Marion’s Mike Abrams suffered a broken arm during his quarterfinal match with John Marshall’s Shawn Simmons. Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery, Mike, and we hope to see you right back out there next year!

As always, there were some close and controversial calls at the state tournament. I for one would not want to have the weight of calling a state championship final match on my shoulders. Kudos to the gentlemen who wear the black and white for putting up with us fans for three solid days. My friend Larry Deem, the young official who passed away one week before the regional tournament, was talking to Dale Ray and me just three days before he died. He was telling us how much he absolutely loved officiating, and that how much faster the action on the mat is when you’re right there with it. He also admitted to Dale that he had discovered a new respect for officials since he’d become one himself. It was strange and very sad not to see Larry at the state tournament. Some folks didn’t realize until last Thursday that the official who passed away was actually Larry, who’s face they knew but not necessarily his name. There’s no doubt in my mind that Larry died a happy man, doing what he loved. And there’s also no doubt that he had that ever-present smile on his face, sitting in his best seat ever for this year’s state tournament when his beloved Patriots brought the title back home. Larry was a devoted fan, and he will be sadly missed by many people.

And speaking of officials, I forgot to mention last time how enjoyable it was working with Bill Crede and Chris Diserio, the two officials who worked at Mat 2 at the AAA Region 1 tournament. Bill said they were having way more fun that any two officials should be having. Hmmm, was it because those superior table workers took all the stress off you guys, Bill? (Smile) There was probably more to the fun than I’ll ever know about, but they were still cutting up as the finals were about to begin. I thought I was going to have to separate them! And Bill, I loved the special “warmup” you did right before the finals started.

I read with some amusement a couple of posts on the forum insinuating that Brittany Woodall’s success was due to help from the officials. Everyone who has watched her wrestle knows she’s all business and doesn’t need help from anyone. She’s currently ranked #3 in the nation at 110 pounds in the United States Girls’ Wrestling Association.

The Buckhannon-Upshur sophomore led the way for the largest group of female wrestlers ever to step on the state tournament mats. Brittany came within one match of placing in the 112-pound weight class. With two more years left in her high school career, she looks to be in good position to become the first female to place in the AAA division.

Another young lady from West Virginia is also nationally ranked in the USGWA. Danielle Cox from St. Marys is currently ranked #2 at 138 pounds. I’m pretty sure Jessica Teter, an 8th grader at Edison Junior High is planning to wrestle in the national tournament, so I want to wish all these young ladies the best of luck!

Another young lady who has gained some national fame didn’t do it because she is a wrestler, but rather a fitness competitor and model. Allow me to explain. I was talking to now-retired Cameron Coach Jim Potts and John Marshall Coach Ed West the other morning, and Coach Potts pulled out the latest issue of “Oxygen”, a women’s fitness magazine. At first I thought it was a little odd that Coach Potts would carry a magazine like this around, but then I remembered Jeff Hughes mentioning Potts’ daughter Jaime to me when he e-mailed me some facts that I used in my last article.

Jaime Franklin has achieved national fame through fitness competitions, and is featured in two separate sections in the latest issue of the magazine. She’s a beautiful young lady who resembles her dad. Coach Potts mentioned that she’s planning to start a family, so hopefully he’ll have a little one in a year or so to spend time with in his retirement. Best of luck to you and your family, Coach!

But back to the wrestlers, I want to mention a group of wrestlers that I like to acknowledge every year. It takes a lot of mettle for a wrestler to have his hopes of becoming a state champion dashed on the first night of competition but then pick himself up and come back to win all of his subsequent matches to take third in the state. This year two young men accomplished the feat.

Wahama’s 130-pounder Perry Ellis contracted a severe cold and a touch of the flu on the day of the AA/A Region 4 tournament, and then spent the next few days trying recover. Not at full strength entering the state tournament, Ellis dropped a 5-4 decision in the first round to Petersburg’s Trevor Wolford. However, the Warrior wrestler won the final five matches of his high school career to take a third place finish.

Hedgesville’s Derrick Young fell victim in the first round to a third period pin by eventual 189-pound champion Codi Norman of Parkersburg South. But Young didn’t let that stop him from wining the rest of his matches in dominating fashion. Anyone who thinks consolation wins aren’t important can point to Young as an example of just how untrue that is. He pinned his way to third place, earning a whopping 23 points for Hedgesville, which is actually one more point that a lot of individual champions have scored in the past. (The minimum points an individual champion can score at the state tournament is 22.)

Another wrestler who came close to accomplishing the same feat as Ellis and Young was Man’s 103-pounder Ben McCoy, who was definitely the feel-good story of the wrestling season. By now, most fans have heard about the “One ‘Man’ Team” from Man, as McCoy is Man’s lone wrestler, and has been all year. McCoy single-handedly outscored 14 other teams and finished 28th at the state tournament. But a lot of fans haven’t heard the personal side of Ben’s story. I got the opportunity to talk to Ben, his dad and assistant coach Mark McCoy, and head coach Wayne Bennett right after Ben won his consolation semifinal match Saturday morning.

Mark McCoy wrestled for Man back in 1976, the last year they fielded a wrestling team. His brother Tim also wrestled for Logan and graduated in 1974. Tim currently coaches at Gilbert High where his son Nick placed 6th at 130.

Ben and Nick started wrestling when they were about 4 ½ years old. I made a note to myself a long time ago to watch for Ben, because I was sitting at the Parkersburg Junior State Tournament, when the men in front of me told me to remember Ben’s name because it would be worth remembering one day.

Ben’s family moved to Alabama in 2002, where he wrestled for a couple of years before they moved back to West Virginia. Upon returning to West Virginia, Ben’s mother Missy contacted Gary Ray, Assistant Executive Director for the WVSSAC about getting a wrestling program started back up at Man so Ben could finish his wrestling career in his native state. The McCoys were able to work out a deal where Ben could practice with the Gilbert team at the Larry Joe Harless Community Center, of which his Uncle Tim is the director.

The dedication put forth by the family just to enable Ben to wrestle would be a story in itself, but the McCoys have also overcome personal tragedy along the way. When Ben stepped on the mat Friday morning, it was the 20-month anniversary of the worst day in his family’s life. On June 25, 2003, Ben lost his best friend and biggest fan when his 19-year-old brother Justin tragically lost his life. Through talking with the McCoy family, I realized their family is very similar to mine, and I don’t know how I could have dealt with the death of one of my two sisters, who are also my two best friends. But Ben did indeed overcome the tragedy and brought wrestling back to Man High School this year along with the pride of a fourth place finish. And I’m sure Justin was smiling down on his little brother the whole time. Ben has another year to realize his goal of an individual state championship, and I wish him the best of luck.

The McCoy family would like to share their tribute to Justin with the Matlines readers, so I ask that you take a minute to visit Justin’s website at http://www.angelfire.com/hero/angelpages/justin1.html.

You’ll see what a special young man Justin was and how loved he was by his friends and family. And please be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and sign the Guest Book.

Well, the daily practices and rigid dieting are over for another few months. I had to laugh at Parkersburg South’s 119-pounder Travis Townsend, who told us Sunday morning that after he won his third place match on Saturday, he went to enjoy a good meal at Bob Evans. Upon returning to the Civic Center for the finals, he feasted on junk food including pizza and a big pretzel, and then went to Wendy’s after the tournament was over! He said his goal was to hit 140 by the time he got back to school on Monday.

And Sarah Wilson, mother of St. Marys 103-pound champion Brandon Wilson, said she knew her boy was going to pack on the pounds after Saturday. She said he hasn’t stopped eating and that he’s beefed up to 120 pounds already! I suppose we’d better let them enjoy it while they can, because before we know it November will be here and they’ll start the process all over again.

I for one can’t wait!
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