No Gambler’s Fallacy for the Patriots’ Louden Haga

South heavyweight takes nothing for granted

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg South’s Louden Haga commands Parkersburg High’s Matt McClanahan during the heavyweight match of the South/PHS dual Wednesday at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center. Haga pinned McClanahan and enters this week as the top wrestler in the class. He is chasing an elusive state title, but takes nothing for granted on the journey back to Hungtingon.

PARKERSBURG — Wrestling stood as an activity Parkersburg South heavyweight Louden Haga picked up to get out of class in sixth grade.

His 21-21 effort reflected this nonchalant attitude toward the sport. And yet his .500 winning percentage also signaled a possible proclivity for the activity.

“I said I was just going to ride this out through the year and am not going to do it anymore,” he said. “Then I decided I might as well keep doing it at the end of the season. I thought I could do better if I just kept wrestling.”

Well. to quote an M.C. Hammer song, it turns out Haga was “2 Legit 2 Quit.”

The senior NCAA Division I Lehigh-commit now stands on the brink of his fourth trip to the state tournament in as many seasons at the high-school level. He currently ranks as the top 285-pounder in West Virginia with only one opponent as a serious threat in Riverside’s Austin Chapman.

Not only does a fourth trip to Huntington’s Big Sandy Superstore Arena stand in sight, but a long-awaited individual title appears in his grasp.

Do not believe for a minute he is taking the opportunity lightly. Three straight trips to the final match of the season haven’t produced in his mind a Gamblers Fallacy. Overconfidence in an appeareance automatically occurring due to past successes is simply nonexistent.

His thoughts after being pinned by Spring Valley’s Owen Porter 11 seconds before the end of the final last season reflected this belief.

“Honestly I was thinking ‘Wow, way to go you idiot,” he said on his takedown attempt that Porter escaped shortly before the pin, the closest he had come in three years to the elusive championship. “I am extremely hard on myself most of the time.”

Grandfather David Jeffrey, a Patriots’ assistant for more than 30 years, won’t let him take a day off either.

“He is tough on me,” said Haga. “He tells me I am not big enough and he has definitely been the driving force behind pretty much every decision I have made in wrestling. He organizes events for me to go to and pushes me in conditioning. He knows what makes me tic as I have been lifting weights with him since I was in the fifth grade.”

The style and weight class of his sparring partners in practice also gives him the knowledge to handle many different situations. Until 2018 Class AAA 220-lbs state champion Braxton Amos became healthy last year following a knee injury, the closest opponents in terms of weight class were four-time state champion 195-pounder Justin Allman and Divison I Liberty wrestler Shaun Smith, his high school coach.

“It was extremely frustrating to prepare,” said Haga of facing Allman each day in practice. “He wasn’t a bad sparring partner but he wasn’t going to take it easy on a youngster … It was rough.”

No one would hear those complaints as he internalized a lot of them. He continued to answer the call no matter the challenge. Trusting everything he worked on to improve would only help him get better in the long run.

“It has been awesome,” said Smith on having Haga on the team. “From the moment he came up as a freshman we weren’t sure how good he was going to be, but he progressed a lot throughout his entire career. It is crazy how much better he has become.

“It is awesome to have a kid like that you can always bank on is going to do well in a tournament.”

So far this season, Chapman has been the only in-state wrestler close to an undefefated in-state Haga. The Warrior pushed the Patriot to four overtimes before falling 4-2 Jan 5 at the South Classic Dual Tournament. The pair likely won’t meet again until the state final as the top two seeds.

Out-of-state, Haga advanced to the semi-finals of the 2018 Walsh Jesuit Ironman tournament unseeded, then finished runner-up at the Powerade after a 4-1 decision to Erie Prep’s Kawaun Deboe.

Results only motivating Haga to reach higher heights. Heights he can share with his teammats with another state championship after three days of grappling in late February at the state tournament.

While the runner-up finishes irk him, he is proud to be a part of a Patriots team capable of Class AAA history.

One more state title win marks South as the first school in the classification to win five straight championships.

“I hope both happen,” said Haga if he would rather have an individual state championship or the other. “If I had to choose I want the individual title because I have come some close the last three seasons.”