Wrestlers ready for big show

Memories, good or bad, will be made throughout the next three days at the 67th annual West Virginia state wrestling tournament which begins tonight inside the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

There’s nothing better than spending a couple of days in Huntington watching the best grapplers in the Mountain State compete.

As usual, there should be plenty of favorites rolling to titles and along the way maybe a few shocking upsets as well.

One stunner a lot of people in the Mid-Ohio Valley would like to see is Huntington not win the Class AAA state team title. If the Highlanders failed to repeat, there’s a very good chance either Parkersburg South or Parkersburg would bring the championship back to Wood County.

Of course, Highlander head coach Rob Archer is sure hoping his squad doesn’t allow that to happen.

After all, the host city for countless years had to watch winter after winter as Parkersburg South, Parkersburg or on other occasions some other program leave town with the Class AAA team championship.

Finally, that all stopped last winter and the Highlanders don’t plan on giving it back anytime soon.

“It’s raised expectations,” Archer said of last year’s first mat championship in school history. “That’s what we wanted to happen and the kids have responded to that and the whole program has. We want to keep this going. We don’t want to be one-and-done.

“If you build this from the grassroots like we have we want to keep it going. Once you have the success like that it hopefully breeds future success.”

PHS head coach Chris Way’s Big Reds finished as the state runner-up last winter. Even though the task is daunting, the red and white will give it their best shot.

“We’ve got 10 strong guys left and I think all of them are going to contribute in some way at the state tournament,” Way said. “Some, obviously, more than others. Everyone is going to have to contribute if we are going to win a state title.

“That’s the definition of a true state title when everyone is contributing. If they do, I think we can be there to push Huntington or South or whomever is on top. We’ve worked hard, practices have been intense and this is what they’ve been working for all year long.”

Indeed, that is most definitely the case, but sometimes circumstance through no fault of anyone can lead to head scratchers and surprises few figured would take place.

Obviously, that’s one of the great things about taking in the state wrestling tournament each year.

Another aspect which coaches can’t always control is the mental approach and how to prepare the right way off the mat.

“I think our kids are ready,” said Calhoun County head man Mike Stump. “Most are ready physically, but the mental aspect of it. It’s a long three-day process. You just hope your kids are going to peak at the right time and go down there with confidence to wrestle on a big stage.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com