West Virginia Mat Lines
by Jenny Sullivan
AA/A State Tournament Wrapup for March 7, 2005
An unprecedented ninth straight Class AA/A wrestling championship has put Oak Glen on course to set a record that may never be broken as their latest title put them one win behind Parkersburg’s Boys Tennis team for the longest winning streak for high school athletic teams in West Virginia. With 148.5 points returning next year, the Golden Bears look poised to tie that record.
Having to go through the season without the services of injured defending state champion Brennon Chambers, the Golden Bears of Coach Larry Shaw didn’t let the loss of Chambers or other various injuries get in their way as they manhandled the competition from early on. A second place finish at the Brooke Classic was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season. Placing 12 of the 13 wrestlers they brought to the state tournament and coming within one match of placing all their wrestlers, Oak Glen put forth a total team effort to finish the tournament with 248 points – 92 points ahead of runner-up Shady Spring.
The runner-up finish for Shady Spring was no surprise as Coach Larry Snuffer brought an experienced and talented team to this year’s state tournament and went home with several accolades, including two individual champions and the Outstanding Wrestler Award. For his efforts, Snuffer was awarded the AA/A Dix Manning Coach of the Year Award. Coincidentally, Manning was the long time coach at Shady Spring before Snuffer took over the helm.
As successful as Oak Glen’s wrestlers have been over the past nine years, it came as a bit of a surprise that they had their first-ever freshman in the finals as Ethan Dray finished second in the 103-pound weight class to Region 1 foe Brandon Wilson of St. Marys. The freshman Golden Bear wasn’t able to score a point against the freshman Blue Devil, and Wilson used a 5-0 decision to put a cap on a remarkable 35-0 freshman year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the last freshman to go undefeated was none other than Mitch Smith of Ripley.
Wilson’s teammate Tommy Little, another talented freshman, found himself facing defending champion Robert Rash of Independence in the 112-pound final. Rash’s only loss on the year had come at the hands of Huntington’s Zach Fraley, and he continued his winning streak against AA/A opponents in style as he handed Little an 18-0 technical fall.
The 119-pound final was a rematch of the Region 1 final as Cameron’s Tim Cumpston faced Oak Glen’s Brandon Davis. The two battled to a scoreless first period, but then Cumpston took the lead with an escape and takedown in the second. Davis managed an escape in the third, but it wasn’t enough as Cumpston held on for the 3-1 win.
The 125-pound matchup between defending state champions Derek Scarbro of Shady Spring and Brandon Miller of Oak Glen promised to be a barnburner, and it didn’t disappoint. Scarbro got the first takedown midway through the first, but Miller got the escape before the end of the period. Scarbro started the second on bottom, and got a penalty point for an illegal hold. But when Miller turned the Tiger senior on his back to take a 4-3 lead, the Oak Glen faithful went nuts. Then with less than 30 seconds to go in the period, Scarbro regained the lead for good with a reversal and nearfall. And by the time the final seconds were ticking away in the third and a throng of Shady Spring fans were chanting “Derek, Derek”, Scarbro had built himself up a 10-5 lead and held onto it to claim his third straight individual title.
Scarbro accomplished the two goals he set for himself prior to the tournament. He of course wanted to win his third straight title, and he was hoping for the Oustanding Wrestler Award, which he received, undoubtedly by a very high margin.
After Scarbro won his match, he went over to the side of the mat to hug teammate Anthony Harvey. The good luck must have literally rubbed off, as Harvey hit the ground running in his 130-pound final against Liberty Harrison’s Mike Grilli, who just happened to be Liberty’s first finalist since Mike Fortier won the heavyweight title in 1995. But Grilli wasn’t as fortunate as his predecessor, as Harvey dominated the match and walked away with a 14-3 major decision.
I’d been watching Harvey for a couple of years after former Wirt County coaches Matt Ashley and Joe Burton told me about the scare he put into three-time champion Justin Ashley of Calhoun County at the 2003 Nitro Invitational. I knew any wrestler who could hang with Ashley would be a contender for a title, and Harvey proved that theory to be true.
The most controversial match of the night came next as 2003 champion Judd Billings met up with Calhoun’s Andrew Cummings in the only Little Kanawha Conference matchup of the night. And the match proved to be a classic LKC battle as the two were knotted at one point apiece as time was running out. But just as it appeared the match would go into overtime, the official awarded Billings a takedown at the edge of the mat, a call that was questioned by Calhoun Coach Mike Stump. Many thought the match should have gone into overtime, but the referee’s decision was made, and Billings won his second title in three years.
Although I’m sincerely happy for Billings and his coaches, I can’t help but feel for Cummings, a senior who justifiably felt that the match should have gone into overtime where he and his opponent could have decided the outcome. I read a forum post by former North Marion finalist Daran Hays a couple of weeks ago that said only 50% of the finalists are going to walk away happy at the end of the tournament. To me, that’s the worst part of the tournament – having to share the heartache of a wrestler who’s just lost his chance to become a state champion. Billings knows the feeling all too well. He lost his bid to become a possible four-time state champion last year in the last 20 seconds of his match with (then Shady Spring wrestler) Josh Neal.
In the only head-to-head match between the top two teams, Oak Glen’s Jessie Mahan squared off with Shady Spring’s Justin Chapman in the 140-pound final. While AAA team leaders Parkersburg South were being shut out on the next mat, the Golden Bears were suffering some misfortune of their own, having gone 0-3 to this point. But when Mahan used three two-point nearfalls to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 6-2 lead going into the final period, the picture started looking brighter for the defending champs. And by the time the Oak Glen fans had begun counting down the final ten seconds, Mahan had won his first championship with an 8-2 decision.
While the pictures of numerous individual champions adorn the halls of Oak Glen High School, one lone picture of a state champion wrestler can be found at Point Pleasant High School. Alex Reed won the 103-pound title back in 1998 when Point Pleasant was still among the ranks of the AAA schools. But the picture of another state champion will be joining Reed’s picture soon. Point’s 145-pounder James Casto was perfect in both his semifinal and final matches, holding his opponents scoreless. In fact, he surrendered only two points to his opponents the entire weekend. His 3-0 win against Cameron’s Jeff Pettit gave the sophomore the distinction of becoming the first AA/A champion from his school along with the chance of becoming the school’s first three-time champion.
Although Cameron’s Jeff Cumpston was surely disappointed to see his teammate Jeff Pettit finish as runner-up, he didn’t let it stop him from becoming Coach Jim Potts final champion of his successful career. The all-state Dragon football player faced another all-state football player in Calhoun County’s Justin Price in the 152-pound final. Price may have garnered the higher accolades on the football field (first team all-state to Cumpston’s second team), but Cumpston came out ahead on the wrestling mat, as he held Price scoreless to take an 8-0 major decision.
Something interesting I learned when talking to Coach Mike Stump earlier in the day was that Price, who was a first-time placer for the Red Devils, has only been wrestling since 9th grade. He played basketball clear through middle school, had an 8-8 record his freshman year as a wrestler, and didn’t even crack the varsity lineup until his sophomore year. Not too shabby!
Another wrestler that’s not too shabby is Oak Glen’s Rhett Northcraft. Owning an OVAC championship and a win over ever-tough Dana Davis of Brooke (AAA), the defending state champion Northcraft came into the tournament a heavy favorite to claim the 160-pound title. He didn’t disappoint his fans either as he put on one of the night’s most dominating performances against Point Pleasant junior Brent Hereford in a 17-2 technical fall. Interestingly enough, Northcraft won every match at this year’s state tournament by technical fall.
Up until this year, Calhoun County had been completely shut out when it came to wins in the finals against opponents from Oak Glen. But undefeated 171-pounder Paul Goodrich ended the drought with a close 3-2 decision over Oak Glen’s David Foltz. Goodrich is one of only four wrestlers who finished the season without a loss, as he upped his record to a sparkling 43-0. If the phrase “undefeated champion Paul Goodrich” seems familiar, it’s because Goodrich’s father – also named Paul – completed an undefeated season back in 1982 to claim the 167-pound title for Calhoun County. The younger Goodrich has the chance to one-up his father, as the junior will be returning next year to defend his title.
Oak Glen’s 189-pounder Chris Stevens described his performance at this year’s state tournament as the worst he’d ever wrestled. But if winning the title with a second-period pin and scoring more individual points than any other AA/A wrestler (29 ½) is his worst effort, then it’s probably a good thing for his opponents that he’s graduating this year! His opponent in the finals, Berkeley Springs’ Randy Waugh proved himself worthy, as he was only trailing 4-3 when Stevens stuck him for the pin.
Waugh is another first-time placer, and by making the finals he proved that the only wrestling that counts is on the mats – not on paper. Coming into the tournament ranked 8th at 189, the Region 2 runner-up defeated two regional champions on his way to the finals.
Speaking of the polls, the coaches knew that putting defending champion Cody Potts in the number one slot at 215 was no mistake. The undefeated Oak Glen senior pulled down his second straight championship with a third period pin over St. Marys’ Brian Barnhart to finish the season at 43-0. Barnhart is just a sophomore, so don’t be surprised if he starts the 2005-2006 right where Potts was – on top of the 215-pound class.
The final AA/A match of the night ended with a victory for who I believe is the youngest wrestler ever to win a heavyweight title in state history. Fourteen-year-old Independence freshman Adam Barnette won a match that was historic from the start. His opponent in the finals was Gilbert’s Anthony Murphy, the first finalist ever from Gilbert. After a typical heavyweight first period that ended in no score, Barnette got an escape in the second, and then Murphy tied the match with his own escape in the third. When the match went into overtime, Barnette got the takedown to become the first freshman ever to win a heavyweight title in either division.
Barnette joins seven other wrestlers who will return next year to defend their titles, with six of them gunning for three or four championships by the time they’re seniors. So get ready to get the record books out as we’ll be busy over the next three years adding names to the list of West Virginia’s best AA/A wrestlers. Best of luck to everyone!
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