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West Virginia Mat Lines

by Jenny Sullivan
2009 AAA State Tournament Wrapup for December 1, 2009

Here’s a recipe for a successful wrestling team: Take a group of wrestling “veterans”, some of whom may be only 14-15 years old but already have 10 years of wrestling behind them. Mix in a band of brothers who, although they may not have the raw talent, have something just as important – a lot of heart and a camaraderie that cannot be matched. Add one seasoned coach who loves the sport and some of the most talented assistant coaches in the state. Top with a dedicated group of parents, fans, and supporters. The result? The 2009 AAA State Champions, Parkersburg South.

Paul Jackson assumed the role of Parkersburg South’s head coach for the second time in his career when he took over in the 2006-07 year after Tim McCartney resigned his head coaching position to take an administrative position at South. He wisely stated that it would take about two to three years before South would be back on top, and he was right. The Patriots were ranked first in the 2008-09 coaches’ poll from wire to wire, and they lived up to the billing at the state tournament, winning the team title by a margin of 105 points over runner-up Wheeling Park.

With their runner-up finish, Wheeling Park ended the season higher than expected, as they spent the majority of the season ranked third and sometimes lower. Only once, early in the season, were they tied for second place.

Ripley’s third place finish was the best in school history, and they return a strong team and plan to challenge for the title in 2010.

Individually, the state saw an unprecedented four freshmen AAA state champions crowned, along with two juniors and one sophomore.

The one sophomore was top-ranked Justin Riggs, who had to live up to his billing the hard way by winning a hard-fought overtime decision over George Washington’s Dakota Vanbibber. Riggs found himself behind 1-0 going into the third, but tied the match in regulation thanks to an escape. A double leg takedown with two seconds remaining in overtime sealed the deal for Riggs. I believe Riggs is the first sophomore from Huntington to win a state title. Regardless, he is now on course to become Huntington’s first three-time state champion.

Parkersburg South’s freshman sensation David Jeffrey faced very few challenges during the course of the season. Dropping his first (and only) two matches of the year during the rugged Walsh Jesuit Ironman Invitational, Jeffrey settled into a groove in December, winning nearly every match he wrestled either by fall or by a comfortable margin. But he knew that he would face a formidable opponent in University sophomore Jesse Schiffbauer. The two battled to a 5-3 decision at the Wheeling Park Duals in a very well-wrestled match, so it was no surprise when they faced off in both the regional and state championship finals at 112. Although Schiffbauer held a 2-0 lead after the first, Jeffrey scored the remainder of the points in the match to win 6-2. The win gave Jeffrey his 50th win on the year, making him the first wrestler in the history of Parkersburg South wrestling to win 50 matches in one season.

In a repeat of the 2008 103-pound final, Wheeling Park’s Dirk Bauer once again squared off with Parkersburg’s Kyle Bratke for the 119-pound championship. Bauer won last year 5-0, and although Bratke closed the gap this year, it still wasn’t quite enough as Bauer won by a 3-0 decision thanks to an escape and takedown in the third period. Bauer was the lone AAA 3-time state champion crowned this year. However, only two of those titles came as a Wheeling Park Patriot. He won a state title wrestling for Wheeling Central his sophomore year

When the Parkersburg South wrestling program books made their debut in December, Adam Metz’s senior tribute page had a note stating “From #1 in racing to hopefully #1 in wrestling”. Metz has made a name for himself in the dirt bike racing circuit, but anyone who has been around wrestling for a while knows that he’s also made a name for himself in wrestling prior to his senior year of high school. After a successful junior high career, Metz wrestled one year as a Patriot, but opted to take his junior season off. He’d had a successful senior season in-state, building up a respectable record heading down the home stretch with just a few more matches left in his high school career. He met up with one of his toughest opponents in one of his last regular season matches when Huntington’s Ronnie Luther defeated him 7-6 in front of an enthusiastic Huntington home crowd. Metz put it all behind him though and refused to be intimidated when he met up with Luther once again in the state championship final match. He put Luther on his back before anyone realized what was happening and got the slap of the official’s hand in a mere 53 seconds - the quickest pin of the championship finals in either division.

Another wrestler who refused to be intimidated was Ripley 130-pound freshman Corey Ratliff, who was facing Wheeling Park’s Nick Taylor. Taylor was not only a senior but a defending state champion as well. Ratliff scored first with an escape in the second but was penalized for stalling. Taylor began the third period on his feet but was unable to secure a takedown, thus sending the match into overtime. Neither wrestler was able to score through the first three overtime periods, and Ratliff was given his choice in the fourth overtime, choosing the top position. The decision paid off as he was able to hold Taylor for the overtime ride-out victory.

Elijah Hull quietly gained the respect of the West Virginia wrestling community over the course of the season. Ranked behind Parkersburg South’s Bo Cooper at 135 during the first two months of the season, the freshman met up with Cooper at the West Virginia Duals and showed the crowd that he was a force with which to be reckoned as he handed Cooper a 10-1 defeat. The rematch was a little closer, however, as Hull took a 4-0 lead into the third period. Cooper escaped, but Hull went on to win the match by a final score of 4-1.

Parkersburg South fans have always had high expectations for their wrestlers. No one knows that fact better than junior 140-pounder Tyler Green. Green began his career at South as one of the state’s top freshmen along with Parkersburg’s Jordon Nolan. After finishing as runner-up to Nolan in the state championship finals two straight years, Green was ready to get the monkey off his back. He’d outgrown Nolan and the two were no longer in the same weight class, but things hadn’t gotten much easier. Enter University’s Victor Panico. The two wrestlers had faced each other twice, with Green taking a 3-1 decision at the Wheeling Park Duals, and Panico claiming the regional title with an 8-4 decision. It appeared as though the outcome of the championship final would be anybody’s guess, as Green scored two takedowns, both of which Panico answered with escapes, giving Green a 4-2 heading into the third. Panico closed the gap with an escape, but neither wrestler was able to score a takedown, and Green won the title with a 4-3 decision.

Perhaps still pumped from celebrating his friends’ (Ratliff and Hull) victories, fellow freshman Adam Bicak wanted a taste of victory for himself. He met up with Parkersburg South senior Danny Fordyce in the 145-pound final match. Bicak had dropped a 2-0 decision to Fordyce earlier in the year at the West Virginia Duals, and it appeared as though the rematch was going to be just as tough, if not tougher. With the score tied 0-0, Bicak chose to begin the second period down and managed to score an escape with just four seconds remaining in the period. He managed to hold Fordyce in the third to win with a tight 1-0 decision, giving Ripley their second champion of the night.

Junior Evan Thompson gave Cabell Midland their first of two championships on the night as he posted a 7-3 win over Parkersburg South senior Andy Church in the 152-pound final. With the win, Thompson is now aiming to become just the second two-time state champion in Cabell Midland history.

In what was one of the most dramatic championship finals of the night, East Fairmont senior Eric Morris successfully defended his state title against fellow senior Billy Forquer of Hedgesville in the 160-pound final. But it didn’t come easily. Forquer, who had been plagued by injuries throughout his high school career, had to default out of the regional final against Morris. However, injury or no injury, he was not about to do the same in the state championship final, and appeared to be on his way to his own state title as he held a 3-0 lead in the third period. But Morris was not to be denied, and thanks to an escape, a stalling point, and a takedown with ten seconds left in the match, he rallied to a 4-3 win to take his second state title.

Morris’ teammate and fellow defending state champion Mason Bailey capped off a stellar senior season with an easy 8-1 decision over Wheeling Park senior Danny Doyle in the 171-pound final. Bailey’s selection as the tournament’s Oustanding Wrestler came as no surprise.

Huntington senior Jake Dempsey denied Washington’s Dylan Nick the chance to become his school’s first state champion. Dempsey held the lead for most of the 189-pound championship final until Nick gained a penalty point on cautions and then took the lead with a takedown. Dempsey knotted the score with an escape and then sealed the deal with a takedown to win the match 6-4. Although Nick did make history as the first wrestler in the championship finals from the new Washington High School, he hopes to take it one step further next year with a state title in his senior year..

Speaking of history, Josh Kay made history himself as he became the first state champion from Capital High School. The 215-pounder had only lost one match during the course of his senior campaign, and that match was a 4-3 overtime loss to Lewis County junior Derek Merritt, whom he was about to face again in the state championship final. In what proved to be another close match, Merritt took the initial lead, but Kay battled back to take the lead in the second and eventually win the match by an 8-6 decision.

The final match of the night was also close until Cabell Midland’s Gabe Hardiman decided to win the final match of his high school career with a pin. Facing Winfield senior Jesse Sigman in the 285-pound championship final, Hardiman scored the first point with an escape in the second. When Sigman chose down to begin the third period, Hardiman capitalized and turned Sigman to his back to get the pin, giving Cabell Midland a perfect championship round

With a record four freshman state champions crowned in 2009, the next three years should prove very exciting as each of those wrestlers embarks on a journey to have his names added to the elite list of four-time state champions. I want to wish the best of luck to them and the three other underclassmen who hope to repeat as champions in 2010.
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