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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
AAA State Tournament Wrapup for March 7, 2005

The South has risen again after a mid-season wake-up call.

The Parkersburg South Patriots turned a dual meet loss to cross-town rival and two-time defending Parkersburg – an admitted low point in the season – into the motivation they needed to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and begin a late-season ascent that culminated in their fourteenth state championship, and the fifth for AAA Rod Oldham Coach of the Year Tim McCartney.

South set records for first round wins (14), quarterfinal wins (13), and first round points scored (51 ½), and tied their own record number of place-winners (13). And after doing a bit of research, I discovered that the Patriots also tied the record for number of points scored. The 1988 Big Reds of Parkersburg scored 277 points, which stood as a record that not even the 1995 Patriots broke. And might I add that the 1988 Big Reds scored 277 points with only twelve wrestlers, and are arguably still the best AAA team in state history.

The 279.5 final tally for the 1995 South team that is listed on WV-Mat.com is actually a typographical error. According to results listed in three separate newspapers, South’s final score in 1995 was 268.5. After double-checking the results with a hand tally of my own, I verified that the newspaper accounts were indeed correct. I’ve been telling my husband that all those old yellow newspaper clippings would come in handy some day!

One other interesting observation I made was that Parkersburg South has won a state title in the year ending in “5” for the past four decades – 1975, 1985, 1995, and now 2005.

South truly put forth a team effort as all 14 wrestlers contributed to the final team score. 135-pounder Nathan Hall won two matches and came within placing by just a hair as he lost an overtime decision to John Marshall’s Lee Doyle. Fortunately for the Patriots, they sewed up the team title early, because the final round of the night didn’t transpire exactly the way they wanted, as they only managed one championship out of nine.

South 103-pounder Corey Matheny, a fan favorite, found himself pitted against Wheeling Park’s Ronell Green. The northern Patriot was too much for the southern Patriot, though, and Green won the first match of the night with an 18-8 major decision. Both wrestlers are just sophomores, so there might be some more matchups between the two over the next two seasons.

Another Patriot, South’s Hueston Kellar, gave a valiant effort against Musselman’s Dustin Haislip, but the Appleman sophomore lived up to his #1 ranking with a 7-4 decision to take the 112-pound title.

The first period of the match was pretty exciting as Kellar grabbed the first takedown, only to let Haislip up rather than surrender a reversal. Haislip took the lead with seventeen seconds left when he scored the takedown at the edge of the mat. Kellar managed an escape at the buzzer to tie the score 3-3 at the end of the first. Haislip built up a 6-3 lead by the end of the second thanks to an escape and takedown, and added a penalty point in the third after Kellar was hit twice for stalling, much to the delight of several cheering anti-South fans. Kellar’s last-second escape wasn’t enough and Haislip went on to become only the second state champion from Musselman and the first in Class AAA. Musselman’s first champion was Assistant Coach Shawn Martz, who was a two-time champion in 1988 and 1989, when Musselman was in the AA/A division.

Nitro’s Anthony Easter finished the season with the best record of West Virginia’s four unbeaten wrestlers as his victory over Wheeling Park’s Abbie Rush in the 119-pound final gave him his 45th win in as many matches. Rush actually led the match at one point 3-2, but Easter began to open up a lead in the second that he wouldn’t surrender and he went on to claim his third straight individual title with an 8-5 decision. Easter ended his remarkable high school career with 160-4 record and a #12 national ranking.

Rush was one of four finalists for a Wheeling Park team that enjoyed their best finish at the state tournament since 1996. His teammate Ron Green successfully defended his 2004 title with a win over Parkersburg South’s Zac McCray in a rematch of the Region 1 125-pound final. Green got the opening takedown and never surrendered the lead, although McCray made things interesting when he narrowed the gap to 9-7 thanks to a takedown with 48 seconds remaining. But Green didn’t stay down long and got a final escape to win the match 10-7. Ever the good sport, Green held McCray’s arm up with his at the end of the match.

Parkersburg’s Josh Neal was on a quest to be just the third wrestler to win a title in both divisions. Chris Blosser won titles for Spencer (AA/A) in 1992 and Roane County (AAA) in 1994, and Adam Schindler won titles for Ravenswood (AA/A) in 2000 and Ripley (AAA) in 2001. Neal was a two-time defending champion from Shady Spring who had moved to Parkersburg for his final year. He faced Nitro freshman Seth Easter at 130 in a tight and tense match. After a scoreless first period, Neal quickly began the second with an escape. Several fans thought he should have had a takedown in the second but it was never awarded, and then when Easter scored a takedown at the edge of the mat, jeers could be heard from everywhere, as the highly successful Easter brothers have grown accustomed to having the crowd root against them. Easter got an escape in the third to up the score to 3-1, and Neal was valiantly fighting for a takedown near the end of the period. But time ran out and Easter became the second wrestler in his family to win a state title as a freshman, and is now on a quest to become the state’s next four-time state champion.

Three years ago another freshman won his first state championship and went on to win three more as Parkersburg’s Brandon Rader became just the eighth 4-time state champion in West Virginia history and the first ever for Parkersburg High School. Capping off a phenomenal high school career, the Big Red senior – who many think could be the best wrestler ever to come out of West Virginia - treated his fans to one more round of his take-no-prisoner style of wrestling as he pinned Lewis County’s Jeremy McCarty early in the second period of the 135-pound final. Having built up a 7-1 lead, Rader chose to begin the second on his feet and took just five seconds to take McCarty to his back. The match was over less than a minute later as Rader won his fourth title halfway through the second period. For his efforts, Rader received a standing ovation from nearly everyone in attendance at the Big Sandy Arena.

While Rader took less than three minutes to put the finishing touches on his wrestling career, another one of West Virginia’s all-time best wrestlers treated the crowd to the full six minutes in his final high school match as Ripley’s Mitch Smith put on a takedown clinic against Parkersburg’s Casey Ice in the 140-pound final. Ice put forth a good effort, and even got a takedown in the waning seconds of the match, but Smith had built up an insurmountable lead and took his third individual title with an 18-9 major decision.

Having nearly 200 high school matches to his name, the first three-time state champion from Ripley finished his career with 195 wins against three losses. And amazingly enough, only one of those losses was to a West Virginia wrestler, when Smith lost an overtime decision to Parkersburg South’s Shaun Smith in last year’s 140-pound final.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate both Brandon Rader and Mitch Smith on their fine careers and to thank them for their outstanding contributions to West Virginia wrestling, not only in our state but in the country. Smith, on his way to Hofstra next fall is currently ranked second in the nation and Rader, a future WVU wrestler, is ranked fourth. I’m sure the entire state joins me in wishing these two fine wrestlers the best of luck with their college wrestling careers.

Mitch Smith will be the first person to tell you that nothing in wrestling is guaranteed, as he found out full well in last year’s finals. And as much as Shaun Smith enjoyed playing the part of the spoiler in 2004, he had the misfortune of being on the receiving end this year. Smith met up with his Region 1 runner-up Micah Gerasimovich of Morgantown in the 145-pound final. The match started out rather slow, and both wrestlers were penalized for stalling at the same time. When Gerasimovich was able to successfully ride Smith the entire second period, things were looking up for the Mohigan senior. The match actually came to life in the third, and when Gerasimovich broke free from Smith’s grasp with 36 seconds remaining in the match, time was running out for Smith to reclaim his title. When the match was over and Gerasimovich had claimed the 2-1 decision, he just sat on the mat for a moment with his head down as in disbelief that it had actually happened.

Gerasimovich had a great senior year which included spending some time atop the WV Coaches Association/WV-Mat.com individual poll, earning his fourth straight NCAC championship, and then finally becoming Morgantown High’s first wrestling champion in 31 years. Congratulations on a great year, Micah!

Another wrestler made history for his school as Dustin Richey became the first ever three-time state champion from John Marshall. He found himself in the finals against Parkersburg South’s Chad Porter, himself a defending state champion who’d handed Richey his first loss on the season just a week earlier.

In one of the night’s most exciting and controversial matches, Richey got the first takedown, but Porter escaped with 44 seconds remaining in the first. Richey went in for an ankle and had Porter doing a tremendous balancing act, hopping on one foot for at least 20 seconds if not longer to prevent the takedown. Richey scored a reversal to start the second and the period ended with Richey up 4-1. Porter began the third on bottom and tried to escape with a nice somersault but the Patriot junior couldn’t escape the grasp of the Monarch senior until less than 30 seconds were remaining in the match. A Porter takedown tied the match 4-4, but Richey broke free with just 11 seconds remaining. A penalty point for Richey made it 6-4, and in the last seconds of the match it appeared as though Porter had the tying takedown, but the official didn’t see it the same way, much to the displeasure of the South fans.

This was the third year in a row that Richey avenged an earlier loss to his opponent in the finals to win the match when it really counted.

Parkersburg’s freshman sensation Andy Thomas lived up to his billing as the number one 160-pounder in the state with his victory over Martinsburg’s Chris Conner, a first-time placer for the Bulldogs. The win didn’t come easy for Thomas, though, as Conner secured the first takedown just ten seconds into the match. Thomas managed the escape before time ran out in the first, and then added another escape in the second to tie the score. A subsequent takedown with 45 seconds left in the period would prove to be all the points he needed, even though a third period escape by Conner made the final score 4-3. Thomas, the younger brother of three-time state champion Lou Thomas, will now follow in the footsteps of teammate Brandon Rader in an attempt to become Parkersburg’s next four-time state champion.

As I mentioned earlier, Dustin Richey avenged earlier losses to his opponents to overcome them in the championship finals. The wrestler whom Richey defeated in last year’s finals was not about to let history repeat itself. Parkersburg’s Chance Litton continued the shutout of Parkersburg South in the finals when he handed Patriot senior Bryan Teter an 8-0 major decision in the 171-pound final. And although he’d just beaten one of their own, the South faithful gave Litton a much-deserved standing ovation. The South fans were also applauding the efforts of Teter, a first-year South wrestler who ended his high school career with a runner-up finish.

Litton appeared to be on a mission in his final year, and had placed third at both the Ironman Invitational and Beast of the East, along with winning the Powerade, Winners Choice, MSAC, and Region 1 tournaments. His success has earned him a #7 ranking in the country. He also has the rare distinction of being a Big Red wrestler that even partisan South fans will cheer for at all times, as he is respected and admired on both sides of the Little Kanawha River.

South’s Codi Norman finally gave the South fans a reason to cheer in jubilation in addition to admiration, as he successfully defended his state title with a 15-0 technical fall over East Fairmont’s Billy Ray. The technical fall helped Norman become the highest individual AAA scorer in the tournament with 29 ½ points.

Ray found himself facing a Parkersburg South wrestler in the finals for the second year in a row. And as disappointing as the loss to Norman must have been, it wasn’t nearly as disappointing as having to bow out early in last year’s final with a concussion. That concussion plus a series of beatings the Bees’ gridiron star had taken on the football field this past fall made Ray seriously consider not wrestling his senior year. But a couple weeks into the season he decided to return, and ended his senior season as a three-time placer and two-time runner-up.

Norman’s victory at 189 would prove to be the only one on the night for South as Josh Davis (215) and Josiah Dorton (275) were unable to avenge their regional losses.

Parkersburg’s 215-pounder Joey Lindamood finally captured the title that eluded him last year, but it was no walk in the park as Davis gave his best effort to date against the Big Red junior. No points were scored in the first, and Lindamood scored a reversal in the second, only to be answered by a Davis escape. But with 20 seconds left in the second, Lindamood took a 4-1 lead. Davis got another escape to begin the third, and after Lindamood was hit with a stalling warning, Davis took his Big Red opponent down with 43 seconds left in the match. Davis himself was penalized for stalling, and just as it appeared the match would go into overtime, Lindamood broke free in the last six seconds of the match to win 5-4. Later on the podium, Lindamood didn’t even try to hide his emotions as the elated wrestler let out a couple of whoops and sported one of the biggest smiles of the night.

Anyone who was in attendance at the AAA Region 1 tournament knew the rematch between Dorton and Wheeling Park’s Kevin Staub would be a good one. Having faced each other a total of five times over the past two years, their matches are never typical of a heavyweight match, which usually features two big men tying up fighting for hand control and relying on bottom-man escapes and/or riding time to win the match. Rather, there is usually a lot of action when these two wrestlers hit the mats. Dorton weighs less than 230 pounds and looks more like a lean 215-pounder, while Staub is a big man who is surprisingly quick and agile, and great at countering any takedown attempts that come his way.

Although neither wrestler scored in the first, Dorton went ahead with an escape in the second, but Staub countered with a takedown. Dorton couldn’t be kept down, though, and tied the match with an escape to head into the third. Staub went ahead with his own escape, and the two fought for control with Dorton coming close to grabbing the go-ahead takedown as time ran out, but Staub held onto the lead to win the match 3-2. The two wrestlers have a mutual respect for each other, and just as his teammate Ronnie Green did, Staub grabbed Dorton’s hand and held it up when the official raised his hand in victory.

Staub and the Green brothers combined efforts in a stellar performance by Wheeling Park, giving them multiple champions for the first time in 10 years, and three individual champions for the first time since 1987.

Although the state tournament is now history, several of this year’s seniors will be continuing their seasons at the High School Senior Nationals at the end of this month. I’d like to wish them as well as well as the seven champions who will be returning to the mats next year the best of luck in all their off-season wrestling endeavors.
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