West Virginia Mat Lines
by Jenny Sullivan
AAA State Tournament Wrapup for March 13, 2008
Although the individuals got the job done, the unit known as the Parkersburg Big Red wrestling team overcame injury and adversity to gel together and take home their second consecutive WVSSAC AAA State Wrestling Championship.
Scheny Schenerlein’s troops proved that you can’t keep a good team down. The Big Reds found people around the state doubting their chances of repeating as state champions after they were edged out by Huntington at the MSAC Tournament, and then lost both a dual and the Region 1 Tournament to Wheeling Park.
Parkersburg, however, is known for peaking when the time is right, and the time was right at last weekend’s state tournament. They didn’t bring the most wrestlers to Huntington, but the wrestlers they did bring certainly made some noise. Seven Big Reds made it to the championship finals, with four claiming individual titles. And the other four wrestlers all contributed to the overall effort by winning at least one match apiece. Coach Schenerlein was also rewarded for the state championship effort by being selected as the 2008 Rod Oldham AAA Coach of the Year.
Runner-up Wheeling Park had a phenomenal year under first-year head coach Sean Doyle. The Patriots faced some adversity of their own and had gone on a bit of a roller coaster ride by the time the 2008 season had come to an end. They won the tough OVAC tournament, but not without a price. Top-ranked senior Jason Waugh suffered an injury at the tournament that was serious enough to end his high school wrestling career. But things were looking good again when Nick Taylor bumped up a weight to replace Waugh and claimed an individual regional title at 125, helping Park secure the regional team championship. At the state tournament, they suffered some tough breaks in Friday’s action, but came right back out fighting on Saturday. A stellar consolation round on Saturday morning put them in a comfortable second place and with an outside chance of claiming the team title.
But those hopes were dashed when East Fairmont, playing the role of the spoiler, had a perfect championship round, going four-for-four in the finals. Not only did Hunter Wood’s win at 112 make it impossible for Wheeling Park to catch Parkersburg in the team race, the wins by Wood’s fellow champions Drew Jenkins, Eric Morris, and Mason Bailey gave John Geary’s Bees enough points to surpass Huntington in the team standings to finish in third place.
At the conclusion of the 103-pound championship match, Dirk Bauer had added his name to the history books in more ways than one. The Wheeling Park junior became just the third wrestler (along with Adam Schindler and Brandon Wilson) to win a state title in both the AAA and AA/A divisions. He did so against familiar foe Kyle Bratke of Parkersburg. In his previous two meetings with Bratke, Bauer had narrowly defeated his Big Red counterpart by 1-0 decisions. But he widened the gap a little this time and claimed his second state title with a 5-0 decision, which coincidentally was the score of his 2007 title match.
As stated earlier, Wood ended Wheeling Park’s chances at overcoming Parkersburg with his win over Park’s Aaron Majetich at 112. But that wasn’t the primary goal for the sophomore who was making his second straight appearance in the championship finals. Having finished as the 2007 runner-up, Wood wanted more this year. He got right to business with a quick takedown and had built up an 8-3 lead going into the final seconds of the match when Majetich, refusing to give up, scored a reversal to end the match at 8-5.
The 119-pound final between Parkersburg’s Jordon Nolan and Parkersburg South’s Tyler Green started off with all the makings of a battle for the title, but then came the blood. The wrestlers fought through a scoreless first period, but the match had to be delayed multiple times to try to stop Green’s nose from bleeding. Nolan, who was losing momentum and growing more frustrated with each delay, scored the only points in the match in the second period thanks to a takedown and two stalling points, winning his second state title by a 4-0 decision.
In what was probably AAA’s most competitive weight class, it was anyone’s guess at the beginning of the tournament as to who would become the eventual 125-pound state champion. Throughout the year there had been no clear frontrunner, as several wrestlers had traded wins over each other. However, Wheeling Park’s Nick Taylor had every intention of returning to the championship finals on Saturday night and proving that his name deserved to be at the top of the list. The 2007 runner-up had lost in the regular season to Parkersburg’s Chad Morrison but avenged the loss in the regional tournament. Taylor scored the first points in the second period of the rubber match, thanks to a stalling point and an escape. He never surrendered the lead, and sealed the deal with a final late takedown to win the match 6-1.
East Fairmont junior Drew Jenkins held the distinction of being the only wrestler in either division to win all of his state tournament matches by pin. Jenkins finally realized his dream of a state title when he pinned Riverside’s Alex Buckley to take the crown at 130. Leading 7-2 heading into the second period, he quickly reversed Buckley for the pin just 16 seconds into the period. While Jenkins was making his third appearance in the finals, Buckley was making his first and was also representing Riverside High School in the finals for the first time in history.
Brooke’s James McFarland has had quite the successful career at Brooke, and capped it off with a coveted state title, winning 3-1 over Huntington’s Robert Westmoreland. With the final win of his career, he tied Daniel Felton’s all-time win record at Brooke. I talked to Jim after the semifinals and he mentioned that he could have possibly broken Felton’s record had he wrestled in the consolations, but he smilingly acknowledged that he’d settle for a tie any day if it meant winning the state championship.
The 140-pound championship final between University’s Jon Waldron and Parkersburg’s Brandon Wilson provided every bit as much excitement as did the regional final. Wilson jumped to an early lead, but Waldron made it 3-2 at the end of the first thanks to an escape and takedown. Wilson tied the match with a second-period escape, and the score remained tied until Waldron got his own escape in the third. Wanting to give himself a little insurance, Waldron got a final takedown with ten seconds remaining and won the match 6-3. At the end of the match when it had just sunk in what he’d accomplished, he exhibited a rare display of emotion, giving a loud shout as his hand was raised in victory.
What more could Nitro’s 145-pounder Seth Easter have wanted for his 18th birthday? As if his first-period pin of North Marion’s Matt Tennant and his fourth straight individual title weren’t enough, Easter received a standing ovation from nearly everyone in attendance at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Easter, who became the fourth AAA wrestler to win four consecutive state titles, is used to being interviewed every year at the state tournament. However, the media flocked to him even more so this year. I happened to glance over near the awards area later and saw three television cameras in Easter’s face, where he was politely obliging the press, all the while sporting a big smile.
Eric Morris’ win at 152 was doubly sweet for the East Fairmont fans as it assured the Bees of a third place finish. Wrestling in the finals for the second time in three years, Morris built up a comfortable lead over Riverside’s Andrew Pearson thanks to a couple of takedowns scored late in each of the first two periods. Going into the third period up 7-2, Morris surrendered an escape to Pearson, but Morris made his lead stick, thus continuing the perfect run in the finals for the Bees.
Not only was the pressure now on for Morris’ teammate Mason Bailey to join his fellow teammates as champions, but he had to face his longtime friend Erick Hinerman of North Marion, with whom he had split two one-point decisions. But Bailey won his first title by a more comfortable margin this time with a 6-3 decision. His win gave the Bees a total of four individual champions, the highest ever for East Fairmont.
Jefferson’s Dylan Nick kept the Region 2 onslaught going with his win over Huntington’s Luke Canterbury, but he had to fight hard to do so. Just as it appeared that Nick would win the match by a 4-3 margin, a flurry of points scored in the last 20 seconds of the match produced two back points by Canterbury and a quick reversal just a couple of seconds later by Nick. Nick hung on for life to Canterbury’s leg as the clock wound down, and came out on top 6-5, giving fans from the Eastern Panhandle reason to stand up and cheer.
Those same fans were on their feet cheering for Musselman’s Jared Weatherholtz, who was aiming to stop Parkersburg’s Andy Thomas from winning his fourth individual title. Hampered by an injury that limited him to just 19 matches prior to the finals, Thomas didn’t seem as invincible as he had in years past. After taking the lead 3-2 in the third with an escape, Thomas had to fight off a late charge by Weatherholtz, but held on to become the second wrestler from Parkersburg High to claim four consecutive individual state titles. Ever one to pay respect to his opponents, Thomas had nothing but praise for Weatherholtz in a television interview. And in newspaper interviews he praised Wheeling Park and touted Seth Easter – his chief competition for this year’s Dutton Award – as the wrestler most deserving of the state’s top wrestling honor.
Seeing his friend and teammate (Thomas) win provided some incentive for Parkersburg’s Matt Lindamood, but perhaps not as much as avenging his regional finals loss to Wheeling Park’s Allen Earnest. Like Thomas, Lindamood had seen limited mat time this year. After building up a 3-0 lead, he slowed down in the second and gave up an escape to Earnest after being hit with a stalling call. Earnest came within one thanks to a third-period escape and might have even won the match if he’d had just a few more seconds. A late shot was just a little too late and time ran out with Lindamood winning his first title 3-2.
Parkersburg’s Zach Nolan had certainly been enjoying himself during the finals. He’d celebrated as little brother Jordon won his second-straight title, and then again when fellow seniors Thomas and Lindamood won their respective titles. Now all that had to be done was ice the proverbial cake and win the final match of his high school career. His opponent, Josh Bruce of St. Albans, took the first lead in the match with a second-period escape, but Nolan pulled ahead in the third thanks to an escape and two stalling points. Although the two point lead would be all he needed, he grabbed one final takedown with five seconds remaining in the match to take the 5-1 decision.
The 2008 AAA finals have etched a permanent place in the history books with two four-time state champions being crowned just about an hour apart. And while this feat may not be repeated for a few (or even several) years, and only one (Nolan) has the chance to become a four-time state champ, there are five juniors and two other sophomores who will be more than happy to come back next year and “settle” for repeat performances.
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