PARKERSBURG - Host Wirt County will be looking to derail two-time defending Little Kanawha Conference champion Clay County when action at the annual conference tournament gets under way at 10 a.m. Saturday in Elizabeth.
The Panthers narrowly defended their team crown last year, besting the Tigers 179.5-175.5 at Tyler Consolidated. The year before in Ravenswood, the Panthers captured the school's first LKC championship.
Come Saturday, the fifth-ranked Class AA/A Panthers will be trying to earn a three-peat, which also is the case for 113-pound top seed Justin Triplett.
The Clay County senior is the only LKC wrestler going for a third title. In 2011, Triplett won it all at 103 and topped the field last winter at 106.
In all, six of the top dozen wrestling programs in the Mountain State in the small school division will be on hand Saturday. Wirt County is ranked third while Calhoun County and Braxton County checked in at eighth and 10th, respectively, in the latest wvmat.com/coaches' wrestling poll. Also, Williamstown was 11th and Roane County, which beat Calhoun County at the West Virginia Duals, was 12th.
"It's going to be interesting," said Wirt County head coach Kenny Dye.
Little Kanawha Conference
At Wirt County High School
Start time: 10 a.m. Saturday
- Last year: Clay County beat Wirt
County, 179.5-175.5 for LKC Title
- Returning champions: Clay County's Justin Triplett is seeking his third LKC title
- Four-time LKC placers: Five wrestlers have a shot at accomplishing this feat
The Tigers have two (Jon Cain/Hagan Root) of the five wrestlers trying to become four-time LKC placers. The other three are fellow seniors Levi Gordon of Calhoun County at 132, Williamstown 120-pounder Bret MacIver and Clay County 138-pounder Mitchell Schoolcraft. Last year, Root won a title at 138 and Cain captured the 120-pound crown. Cain is the expected winner at 120 and Root has the No. 2 seed behind Clay County's Alex Suite at 132.
Of note, not only did Suite win it all at 126 last year with Root capturing 138, but the No. 3 seed at 132 on Saturday is Gordon and the fourth seed is Braxton County's James Acord, who won an LKC title at 132 last year.
Williamstown's Dalton George, the No. 2 seed at 126 behind expected victor Casey Ritchie of Calhoun County, will be seeking his second LKC title after standing atop the podium at 113 in 2012. Also trying to become a two-time LKC champion are Wirt County teammates Jake Linville, the No. 1 seed at 138, as well as Tyler Cheuvront, the third seed at 126. Linville and Cheuvront won LKC crowns in 2011 at 130 and 112, respectively.
Also expected to top their respective weight class as No. 1 seeds are Ritchie County's Jacob Monn (106) and Brad Riddle (182), Braxton County's Ricky Hammon (145), Wirt County's Austin Cottrell (152) and Dylan Pickrell (220), Clay County's Tyler Stewart (160), Williamstown's David Hastings (170), Roane County's Scott Gibson (195) and Calhoun County heavyweight Andrew Satterfield.
Coach Dye said they plan to take minimal breaks at the tournament and want to wrestle the consolation and championship finals separately.
"That's the plan right now," Dye added. "I'll tell you what, there are probably three or four teams who could win this. It's not going to be a walk in the park for any of us.
"We've got a shot. We had a shot last year and should've won it, but things happen. We've had some kids out sick and we're hoping they get healed up and are ready to go."