Today begins the final three-day journey of the season as the 65th annual West Virginia state wrestling tournament gets under way this evening inside Huntington's Big Sandy Super Store Arena.
Not that we've actually had much of any winter this season, but usually this time on the calendar marks the celebration of looking toward a warm spring and crowning the best of the best when it comes to wrestling in the Mountain State.
There's little question when it comes to the Class AAA level, the best of the best the past three years has been Parkersburg South, which is trying to put together a four-peat this weekend. If the Patriots of head man Paul Jackson can do that, they will tie their own Class AAA record when they won it every year from 1999 to 2002.
Although the coaches from across the state do a great job taking the time and effort to rank wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes throughout the campaign, the great thing about this sport is the margin of error for a vast majority of wrestlers isn't a lot. That means the proverbial "upsets" are going to happen and that's one of the reasons many fans, including myself, enjoy the sport so much.
As far as Class AAA goes, it appears the Mid-Ohio Valley should be well represented in the state finals come Saturday night, at least in the lower weight classes. Patriot Lance Hill (103), Ripley teammates Jarred Simpkins (113) and Jake Martin (120) as well as Parkersburg South's David Jeffrey (126) are expected to win state championships. Toss in Ripley 170-pounder Adam Bicak and Viking 220-pounder David Hicks along with Parkersburg's Jared Haught at 182 and the coaches believe seven area grapplers will finish at the top of the podium.
In the past decade, the wrestlers from the MOV have had pretty good success in terms of winning state crowns. The lowest number of state champions for our area in Class AAA was four back in both 2007 and 2008. The most in the last 10 years came back in 2004 when eight champions where crowned and that included capping Saturday night off with titles from then Big Reds Lou Thomas at 215 and heavyweight Ryan Dearman, who is currently an assistant coach at University High School.
Five other grapplers in triple-A enter the tournament ranked third in their respective weight class, according to the latest rankings. Three wrestlers - Big Red Trapper Hays at 120, Patriot 182-pounder Steven Brogle and Ripley heavyweight Daryl Hicks - enter the final weekend of the season ranked second.
The news isn't nearly as good for the Class AA/A division, which is expected to bring Point Pleasant a third successive state title. The Big Blacks are supposed to have four champions alone while the only expected winners from the MOV are Clay's Justin Triplett (106), Wirt heavyweight Eric Young and Roane County teammates Dylan Cottrell (145) and Sam Whiting (152).
One thing is for sure, there shouldn't be a lack of excitement on the mats in the next few days.
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org