With the current landscape in Class AA/A wrestling, the state championship is Independence's to lose.
Of course, lots of things can happen between now and the state tournament. However, if the Patriots of head man Cliff Warden fail to win the state crown it appears Greenbrier West would be next in line.
Obviously, being in the running to win a state team title in any sport is quite difficult. I believe it's even more of a challenge when it comes to wrestling, particularly for our smaller schools in the Little Kanawha Conference.
Aside from having to try and fill 14 weight classes, smaller single-A programs can't afford to have injuries or any sort of attrition because depth is always a major issue.
Although that honestly has been the case for Williamstown head wrestling coach Ryan Scott this year, the Yellowjackets just continue with business as usual and will let the chips fall where they may when the season concludes in about a month in Huntington.
Wrestling fans definitely want to make the trek Saturday to Williamstown to take in the Bob Zide Rumble since five of the top 10 teams in Class AA/A will be on hand. That includes top-ranked Independence.
Coach Scott's team currently has expected state champions in 132-pounder Dalton George and 195-pounder David Hastings. The 'Jacket teammates are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes in the latest state polls.
At last weekend's WSAZ tournament, George entered the week ranked No. 2 and Hastings was ranked seventh. It just goes to show what a solid weekend of wrestling can do for a grappler in the state rankings.
George knocked off Greenbrier West's Dustin Yoakum (then No. 1) via a 4-1 decision in the semifinals and Hastings edged then top-ranked Trey Williams of Independence, 5-3, in his semifinal. George was doubled up by Winfield's Bryce Humphreys - Class AAA's top-ranked 132-pounder - by a score of 4-2 in the finals. Hastings lost to No. 2 (AAA) Ryan Mills of Huntington via pin.
"We're about where I expected us to be. I figured we would be a fringe top 10 team and that's without having Jake Tracewell all year," coach Scott said. "When you throw Jake in there we are a solid top 10 team."
Tracewell, who had surgery on Dec. 12, is fully recovered and has been working hard in the mat room to prepare for the stretch run of the season.
"It's just baby steps and we are trying to get him back in the groove," Scott said of Tracewell, who was state runner-up at 145 last winter. "He's going to make his debut next week at the Little Kanawha Conference.
"I think the LKC is going to be exciting next week. I can't even tell you who is even going to be the favorite."
The 'Jackets also feature three other ranked grapplers - Dalton Smith (No. 6 at 126), Austin Raines (No. 8 at 145) and Logan Lindsey (No. 9 at 152).
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org