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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for March 22, 2005:

The 2005 state wrestling tournament was a little nostalgic for me as it marked 30 years since I started attending the annual tournament. I think that’s longer than some of today’s coaches have been alive!

I was an eighth-grade student at Edison Junior High School when I first set foot in the Woody Williams Armory in Fairmont for the 1975 state tournament. Since the tournament has outgrown the Armory, it had been a while since I’d been back. When I attended the Winners Choice/Rotary Invitational Tournament a couple of years ago, I sat in the same section of bleachers that my family and I had occupied 23 years earlier. It’s amazing how much bigger the place looked then, but sitting there brought all the memories back. The state tournament is as exciting for me today as it was back in 1975.

Looking back, so many things have changed, some things have stayed the same, and some things have even gone full circle (like the return of long hair, for instance!). Admittedly, when I went to my first state tournament, wrestling wasn’t my first priority. My family had gone to support Jim Duncan (father of former state champion John Duncan). Jim worked on the farm for us and was like a son to my parents and like a brother that we three girls never had. Before I got to the tournament I can remember being more excited about my outfit that I was going to wear (bell bottoms, of course, and a really cool shirt with a beaded peacock on it) and the fact that the new ’75 Topps baseball cards (you know – the ultra colorful set) had just hit G. C. Murphy’s in the Middletown Mall. (By the way, I still have the baseball cards, but the outfit is long gone.) However, after a couple of rounds of wrestling, something changed. By the time the championship finals were well under way, I’d forgotten all about those baseball cards. I had become hooked on wrestling and I haven’t looked back since!

Back then John Marshall had established themselves as the team to beat as they were trying to win an unprecedented fourth state title. There was only one division, and the top two wrestlers from each of the eight regions earned a berth in the state tournament. The tournament of course was much smaller, and was held over two days instead of three.

Back then there was no Cabell Midland, North Marion, Preston, Ritchie County, Riverside, Roane County, Spring Valley, Tyler Consolidated, Wheeling Park, or Wyoming East. Huntington still had two high schools. The small school powers were Mannington, Warwood, and Triadelphia before they were forced into consolidation. Oak Glen qualified two wrestlers for the state tournament while Man High School qualified five. Parkersburg South won the state tournament with a whopping 81.5 points! I have an entry in my program book listing “E. Sparks (Barboursville)” as placing 6th that year. Hmmm, that name sounds familiar.

It was unheard of to wear a wrestling uniform without tights. And who else remembers those fuscia-striped uniforms worn by the George Washington wrestlers? To the guys wrestling for GW now, be glad you aren’t forced to wear those things anymore!!

Since 1975 I have only missed three state tournaments. For some reason Dad wouldn’t take us back in ’76, and then in the fall of 1986 I met some guy named Larry Sullivan who had (and still has) no interest in sports outside of hunting and fishing. After missing the ’87 and ’88 tournaments I decided that two years was too long to go without my state tournament fix, so Larry or no Larry, I was going back to the state tournament. Even the birth of my nephew Lane Burton during the ’97 state tournament didn’t keep me away. My nieces Lauryn and Rachel and I piled in the car that Friday morning after we got the call that Lane had been born, drove home to see him, said our congratulations, took a few pictures, and then made it back to Huntington for the semis.

The tournament has grown quite a bit over the past 30 years. I read a few days ago on the forum about the overcrowding at the Parkersburg Junior State Tournament. I remember sitting in one of the upper rows at the Parkersburg Memorial Fieldhouse during the 1977 state tournament barely being able to move because it was so crowded. Thankfully, the WVSSAC moved the tournament to Huntington in 1978, where it’s been held 23 times. Wheeling has played host to the state tournament five times if I’m not mistaken.

When I was leafing through old newspaper clippings verifying the results from the 1988 and 1995 state tournaments, it sent me on a trip down memory lane and I got a little sidetracked and started pulling out old copies of the “West Virginia Wrestler”. For those of you who don’t remember life without the Internet, the “West Virginia Wrestler” was a wrestling newspaper published by Coach Bill Archer back in the 70’s and 80’s. They always printed pictures of the placers and champions at the state tournament. It’s pretty fun to look at those old pictures and see familiar names (sometimes the faces are a little hard to recognize) of wrestlers who are now dads, coaches, and/or officials.

But now as we return to the present, our 2005 state tournament is quickly becoming a memory. I want to make mention of a couple of items.

I stated in the last article that Independence state champion Adam Barnette is only 14 years old. His dad Alan sent me an e-mail telling me that Adam is actually 15 now. He’s still the youngest wrestler ever to win a title, regardless, and it’s a huge accomplishment for a freshman!

Anthony and Seth Easter of Nitro, and Ronell and Ron Green of Wheeling Park all claimed individual championships this year. If my research is correct, this is the second time that two sets of brothers have won titles in the same year. According to newspaper accounts, brothers Frank and John Crain and Bill and Jeff Hughart all won individual titles in 1986. Anthony Easter, however, has a unique claim to fame in that he’s the only wrestler to have been a part of two separate brother sets, as he won in 2003 with older brother Matt and now in 2005 with younger brother Seth.

After each state tournament comes to a close, I spend a good amount of time compiling some miscellaneous statistics, partly because I’m a statistics geek, and partly because it’s another way to make the season last a little longer!

Those who contribute to the West Virginia Coaches Association/wvmat.com team and individual polls took their share of the heat for the rankings during the season, but when all the dust settled, the pollsters fared quite well this year. The pollsters correctly picked 12 of 14 wrestlers in both divisions to win individual championships, which amounts to an 86% success rate. They also correctly predicted 10 of the top 12 teams in both divisions, an 83% success rate.

Of the 84 AA/A placers, 67 entered the tournament ranked in the top six, and 34 of those wrestlers finished exactly where they had been ranked. In AAA, the pollsters correctly predicted 65 of 84 placers, and ranked 36 wrestlers exactly the way they finished.

Had the polls been conducted on the actual first day of the state tournament, two wrestlers who were withdrawn from the tournament would have been replaced by 7th-ranked wrestlers. Those wrestlers (Jaron Sampson of Calhoun County and Billy Barrett of Musselman) just happened to place in the top six in their respective weight classes.

Six of this year’s senior wrestlers placed in their fourth straight tournament. Anthony Easter (Nitro), Chance Litton, Josh Neal, and Brandon Rader (all of Parkersburg), Mitch Smith (Ripley), and Derek Scarbro (Shady Spring) all closed out their senior seasons with an appearance in the finals.

Five seniors who were also in the championship finals found themselves among the top six for the very first time. Robert Conner (Martinsburg), Anthony Murphy (Gilbert), Justin Price (Calhoun County), Bryan Teter (Parkersburg South), and Randy Waugh (Berkeley Springs) all finished second in their respective weight classes. Murphy and Waugh didn’t pay any attention to the polls as neither wrestler was picked to place in the top six. Waugh came into the tournament ranked seventh, and Murphy wasn’t even ranked!

And speaking of unranked, both Berkeley Springs (AA/A) and Hedgesville (AAA) didn’t crack the top 12 in the pre-tournament team poll, but both teams left Huntington with top ten finishes as the Indians finished 9th in AA/A while the Eagles finished 7th in AAA.

Now that another wrestling season is history, we can take a look at what to expect for the 2005-2006 season.

Individually, eight underclassmen will be back next year to defend their AA/A titles as will seven in AAA. In addition, of the 167 wrestlers who placed this year, 55 in AA/A and 46 in AAA will be back to see if they can stand on the podium again next year.

Here’s a look at some team statistics:

Top Ten Teams According to Returning Points:


Teams Returning Seven or More of Their State Qualifiers

AA/A AAA Teams Returning 100% of Their 2005 Qualifiers
AA/A AAA I want to congratulate all the wrestlers who’ve done such a great job this year. Your dedication is unparalleled, as is the appreciation of those who enjoy watching you. To those of you who will return next year, work hard and believe in yourselves.

I want to thank Doc Miller for being so unselfish in providing us with our wintertime addiction we’ve come to know and love as WV-Mat. And I also want to thank him for preserving a bit of wrestling history by posting the various pictures of tournament champions.

Perhaps some day several years from now someone will be looking at the pictures on WV-Mat, get a little sidetracked, and take his or her own trip down memory lane.

Good night, Red R. Neck, wherever you are.

Contact Jenny Sullivan at sullivj2@ohio.edu

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Updated March 22, 2005