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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
Here's the line for February 21, 2008

I have two "favorite" weeks of the year.

The first is my annual trip to Myrtle Beach with my mom when we go down for "Bike Week". Even though I've only been on two Harleys in my life (and one wasn't even at Myrtle!), I still look forward to getting away, spending time with my mom, soaking up the sun, and of course listening to the roar of the bikes!

And it's probably not too hard to guess what my other favorite week is. The week that begins on the eve of the regional tournaments and closes with the finals of the state tournament is such an exciting time for so many people around the state. Before the dawn of computers I would clip every article that appeared in the paper (enough that I have three plastic totes full, organized by year), and I would study the brackets and make my calculations as to the outcome of the tournament. Before WVMat, I would have to wait for the morning Parkersburg News and evening Parkersburg Sentinel to come out so I could get a twice daily "fix". Now I simply hit the refresh key on my laptop.

As one forum fan put it, it's now Christmastime in the world of high school wrestling. As of this writing, the state tournament is less than 24 hours away and it does have a sort of Christmas Eve feel to it. Coaches, wrestlers, and their parents spend weeks preparing for the regional tournament and ultimately, the state tournament. Fans spend the time enjoying it all and anticipating the final outcome. It seems like it will never arrive, yet once it does it all seems to go by so quickly. And lately, the day after the state wrestling tournament has become even more depressing for me than the day after Christmas.

From a personal perspective, I'm thoroughly enjoying the time leading up to the state tournament this year because "my" team isn't in the hunt for the team championship. Instead of fretting over which pill would be drawn, I just let the cards fall as they may.

It's a pretty safe bet that Oak Glen is going to go home with their 12th straight AA/A title. They stormed through the Region 1 wrestling tournament, falling just three points shy of what I believe was an all-time record of 296.5 points set back in 2005. The only team to qualify 14 wrestlers, not only can the Golden Bears add another title to Coach Larry Shaw's resume, they can put his name at the top of another list. If four of his wrestlers win individual titles, it will tie him with former Parkersburg Coach Joe Handlan for the number of state champions he's coached. And given the fact that nine of his wrestlers won individual regional titles, that feat isn't out of reach at all.

It's always fun to watch the AA/A division to see how the other teams are faring. Grafton and Point Pleasant both won their third straight regional titles and Oak Hill silenced the critics by taking their first-ever regional title. However, Oak Glen and Point Pleasant are the only regional team champions ranked in the top five. Both Grafton and Oak Hill find themselves tied in tenth placed, which is lower in the polls than their regional runners-up, Berkeley Springs and Independence, respectively. It's quite a different playing field once we all come to Huntington, so it's always worth it to keep an eye on how the race for the AA/A top five is going.

I'm very excited about the AAA team race. Being from the southern part of Wood County, one would think I would never tire of the days when either Parkersburg or Parkersburg South was predicted to walk through the tournament. But it makes for a much more interesting tournament when more teams are involved in the title chase. Although Parkersburg High is the favorite to repeat as state champions, I refuse to make any predictions. Prior to last week's AAA Region 1 tournament, I figured out my brackets and determined on paper that there was no way the Big Reds could be beaten. I even declared as much to Steve Shaffer of Wheeling Park and Sam Sedosky, a longtime fan from John Marshall. How wrong I was though. Wheeling Park came into the tournament with a mission to accomplish, and accomplish it they did. Granted, Parkersburg was hurt by seven first-round byes which could actually have turned into 14 bonus points had the Big Reds earned pins in each of those matches, but no one can take anything away from Wheeling Park's performance.

And since my math failed me last weekend, I'm not counting out the likes of East Fairmont, Huntington, and North Marion. It was exactly ten years ago that North Marion came in and loosened the stranglehold that Region 1 had on the state championship.

I take my hat off to those wrestlers who came back and finished fifth in their regions, despite the disappointment of not qualifying for the state tournament. One never knows what can happen, and as a fifth-place finisher a wrestler could step into the tournament at any time if any of the first four placers in his region become unable to wrestle for whatever reason. At the time of this writing, two such fifth-place finishers have stepped in to fill the spot vacated by one of the four original qualifiers. Chuck Williams of Fayetteville and Zack Markley of Bridgeport will now be participating instead of watching from the stands.

One fifth-placer finisher had an inspirational win in the consolation finals at the AAA Region 1 tournament. Parkersburg South's Jacob Layton made his coaches, family, and fans proud when he registered a pin in the final match of his high school career to take fifth in the region. A regional runner-up last year, Layton injured his knee at the WV Duals and was forced to wrestle with a leg brace that limited his mobility. He didn't wallow in defeat, however, and wrestled like a champion although it was obvious he was in pain.

Five wrestlers became four-time regional champions last Saturday. Congratulations to Zach Basich of Wheeling Central, David Dennis of Ravenswood, Seth Easter of Nitro, Randy Ferrill of Greenbrier West, and Andy Thomas of Parkersburg.

In addition to the aforementioned wrestlers, several wrestlers have qualified for the state tournament all four years. Listed by school, they are:

Cody Reed - Berkeley Springs
James McFarland - Brooke
Jeff Goodrich - Calhoun County
Jordan Adkins - Clay County
Morgan Murphy and Pat Murphy - East Fairmont
Ben Snoberger - Frankfort
Delton Webb - Greenbrier East
Kenneth Holland - Greenbrier West
Cody Moore - Herbert Hoover
Taylor Potts - John Marshall
Kyle Pickens - Lewis County
Cruz McIntyre - Liberty Harrison
Nick Hylton and Charlie Scott - Liberty Raleigh
Marcus Evans - Nicholas County
Erick Hinerman - North Marion
Ethan Dray, Cody Miller, and Zack Six - Oak Glen
Matt Littleton and Brandon Wilson - Parkersburg
Anthony Jeffers - Point Pleasant
Logan Martin* and Tyler Riddle - Ripley
Aaron Hinzman and Chase Hyde - Ritchie County
Anthony Owens - Riverside
Cody Clarkson - Roane County
Nicco Niday - Spring Valley
Julian Yost - Tyler Consolidated

*Note: Logan Martin qualified for the state tournament but had to withdraw due to an injury.

There's so much more I could write, but the hour is late so I'll save it for another time. When the day dawns, our three-day wrestling "Christmas" will be here. But in the meantime, I'll be nestled all snug in my bed, with visions of brackets dancing in my head.

Best of luck to all this year's state tournament participants!

Contact Jenny Sullivan at sullivj2@ohio.edu

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