West Virginia Mat Lines
by Jenny Sullivan
AA/A State Tournament Wrapup for March 13, 2008
The dynasty known as Oak Glen continued their domination of class AA/A wrestling in the Mountain State, winning their 12th consecutive team title. The Golden Bears produced the 49th and 50th individual state champions for long-time mentor Larry Shaw, and once again were able to wrap up the team title long before the championship finals were wrestled on Saturday night.
Wrapping up the state title early has become commonplace for Oak Glen. In fact, in the last twelve years since Oak Glen has taken home the team crown, the only year the final team standings were mathematically in question was 2002, when Runner-up Calhoun County had closed the gap to a mere 3.5 points before Steve Flowers clinched the win for his team when he defeated Calhoun’s Jeff Morris in the 140-pond weight class.
Point Pleasant finished as state runner-up for the second year in a row, and actually closed the gap a little compared to their 2007 finish. What a year it was for Coach Jack Cullen and his team! Two state champions, seven state placers (a new school record), and the Dix Manning AA/A Coach of the Year award for Coach Cullen all contributed to one of the finest years in the wrestling history of Point Pleasant.
Perennial top-five team Calhoun County found themselves near the top again as they finished in third place. They were followed by Berkeley Springs, enjoying their finest finish in ten years, and Roane County, whose fifth place finish was the highest since the school’s inception in 1994.
It had been four years since a Roane County wrestler stepped on the mat for the championship finals and eleven years since one took home a state title, so Josh Fisher wanted to make the Raiders’ comeback count. And that he did, with a 6-3 decision over Wheeling Central’s Kyle Bauer at 103. Bauer didn’t make things easy for Fisher when he twice cut the lead to just one point, but Fisher thought a 4-3 lead in the third was just a little too close for comfort, and got the final takedown with 13 seconds remaining. Fisher became just the third wrestler from Roane County to win a state title and now joins Ripley’s Billy Simon and Mitch Smith along with St. Marys’ Brandon Wilson as the only four freshmen to finish the season undefeated.
Fisher’s teammate Brad Hickman wasn’t as fortunate, as he fell 5-1 in his 112-pound final with Point Pleasant freshman Rusty Maness. Leading 2-1 going into the final period, Maness scored an escape and late takedown to become the first Point Pleasant freshman to win a state title. Maness has wrestled all over the country and has worked hard to get where he is. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s gotten a lot of help from Point’s very first champion, Alex Reed, who had his hand raised in victory exactly 10 years ago.
And speaking of Reeds, Berkeley Springs’ 119-pounder Brad Reed added his name to the list of state champions when he faced yet another Roane County wrestler in Joe Maldonado. With a 5-1 lead going into the third, Reed elected to begin the period on his feet, and it paid off as he secured a takedown at the edge of the mat. Maldonado escaped late in the period, but Reed went on to win his first title with a 7-2 decision.
Oak Glen’s Ryan Asbury won his first state title with a close decision over Cameron’s Tevin Hall at 125. Asbury secured a takedown at the buzzer to end the first and was going for a pin in the second as time ran out. Leading 2-0 in the third, Asbury scored an escape with 47 seconds remaining, but then his nose started bleeding. After the match resumed, Hall scored an escape, but the match was stopped just seconds later for another blood timeout for Asbury. When the match resumed again, Hall continued his surge, scoring a reversal, but he was unable to capitalize as Asbury’s nose began bleeding once again. The match was stopped with four seconds remaining - much to the dismay of the Cameron fans - and once action resumed, Asbury held on to win the match 4-3.
Calhoun County’s Cody Clark continued his quest to become a four-time state champion as the sophomore defeated his best friend, Roane County’s Cody Clarkson, in the 130-pound finals. The wrestlers, who were sporting their surnames tattooed across their backs in identical script, fought through two scoreless periods. Clark finally made good on Clarkson’s decision to choose down in the third, and he turned the Raider senior on his back for three back points to win the match 3-0.
John King became only the second wrestler in Philip Barbour history to take home an individual state championship when he defeated Calhoun’s Ben Laughlin 4-2 to take the 135-pound title. King was a runner-up at the same weight last year and didn’t want to settle for second two years in a row. Although he had been ranked all season, he had to wrestle the second half of the season in the shadow of the rivalry between Laughlin and defending state champion David Dennis of Ravenswood. Having already notched a regular-season victory over Laughlin, King edged out Dennis in the semifinals. Finding himself tied with Laughlin 1-1 going into the final period of their championship match, King managed an escape and then a takedown with 47 seconds remaining. He immediately let Laughlin up and almost had another takedown but rolled off the mat with just 10 seconds left, and won his first state title with a 4-2 decision.
Being named the co-recipient of the tournament’s AA/A Outstanding Wrestler Award was icing on the cake for Danny Palmateer. The St. Marys senior had a Cinderella tournament, beating three higher-ranked wrestlers en route to his first state title at 140. Facing Oak Glen’s Paden Potts, Palmateer found himself in a hole heading into the third period. Palmateer quickly escaped, and when he was awarded a penalty point for stalling on Potts, the St. Marys cheering section went nuts. Palmateer took the lead with a takedown, but Potts escaped, and just when it looked like the match would end in a one-point decision, Palmateer scored the final takedown of his high school career with one second left on the clock to win the match 7-4.
Wheeling Central’s Zach Basich had little trouble defending his state title, as he captured the 145-pound championship with a 13-4 major decision over OVAC and Region 1 foe Max Nogay of Weirton Madonna. Watching Basich wrestle in the finals, one wouldn’t believe that a knee injury sustained earlier in the season and aggravated at the OVAC tournament almost kept Basich out of action. Determined to make a comeback, Basich overcame the injury, won the regional title, and stormed through the state tournament with two technical falls and a regular decision before handing Nogay the major decision. In addition, Basich became the all-time career win leader at Wheeling Central.
Oak Glen’s Cody Miller capped off an outstanding senior season with his state title at 152. Facing Herbert Hoover senior Derrick Williams, Miller got the initial takedown, but Williams tied the match with a reversal as the buzzer sounded. Miller pulled ahead in the second with two sets of nearfall points, and then added to that with a late reversal in the third to win the match 8-2. With the win, Miller tied two-time state champion Jessie Mahan’s record for all-time wins at Oak Glen (147). He also became Coach Larry Shaw’s 50th individual state champion.
Perhaps no AA/A wrestler had a bigger list of accomplishments coming out of the state tournament than did Point Pleasant’s Anthony Jeffers. Not only did he successfully defend his 160-pound state title, he was also the co-recipient of the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award. To add to his state accomplishments, Jeffers – who dedicated his senior season to his late mother - also set new school records for career victories and single season victories. Pitted against Oak Glen’s Zack Six in the championship final, Jeffers found himself behind late in the second when Six scored the first point with an escape. But a five-point move with seven seconds to go in the period put Jeffers in the lead for good, and he went on to win the match 7-1 and become just the second Point Pleasant wrestler to win multiple state titles.
Cameron Gallaher is quickly building one of the most impressive wrestling resumes in the history of Grafton wrestling. Capping off his second straight undefeated year, the Bearcat junior has built up a 131-3 career record to date. Gallaher kept his streak of perfection intact with 4-0 decision over Point Pleasant junior Derek Mitchell at 171.
The most anticipated match of Saturday’s finals was the 189-pound match between two undefeated defending state champion seniors, Nick Hylton of Liberty Raleigh and Cody Reed of Berkeley Springs. The match proved to be a classic, with Hylton grabbing the first takedown and Reed escaping just a few seconds later. Hylton followed with another takedown and let Reed up to make the score 4-2 at the end of the first. Reed narrowed the lead with a second-period escape, but Hylton answered in the third with an early escape to make the score 5-3. The two wrestlers struggled for the last 15 seconds of the match to gain control, but no more points were added to the board, and Hylton became the second Raider wrestler to successfully repeat as a state champion.
Calhoun County’s Zac Yeager rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Sissonville’s Jonsen Edens for the title at 215. Yeager scored a takedown with two seconds remaining in the match to send it into overtime. After a scoreless sudden victory period, Yeager scored an escape halfway through the second overtime period. Edens tried hard to break free in the third overtime period, but both wrestlers were covered in sweat and the two ended up going off the mat with seven seconds remaining. Yeager held on for his life and took the title with the 4-3 triple overtime decision.
In another classic overtime match, Liberty Raleigh’s Mike Carpenter defeated Adam Barnette of Independence in three overtimes to take the heavyweight crown. Each wrestler had scored an escape in regulation, and then the overtime periods were almost a carbon copy of the 215-pound final. No points were scored in the first overtime, Carpenter scored in the second overtime, and Barnette was fighting hard to break free in the third overtime when the wrestlers ran off the mat with six seconds remaining. Carpenter held on for the remaining seconds to win his first state title with a 2-1 decision.
While the list of 2008 AA/A state champions didn’t have the historical significance of the AAA list (AAA crowned a rare two 4-time state champions this year), the AA/A defending state champions will have their turn at rewriting history over the next three years. Next year there’s a good chance that two 3-time state champions will be crowned in AA/A, and we’re already on our way to the possible crowning of the next three 4-time state champions. Stay tuned!
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