PARKERSBURG - A nine-team field will take to the mats starting at approximately 10:30 a.m. Saturday for the 33rd annual Calhoun County wrestling invitational as Clay County will be looking for a three-peat in Mt. Zion.
The defending Little Kanawha Conference champion Panthers, ranked No. 5 in the latest Class AA/A poll, narrowly defeated Greenbrier West last year - 186 to 179.5. However, the second-ranked Cavaliers aren't in the field this season. No. 3 Wirt County, the last team not named Clay County to win this tournament, is coming off a runner-up finish at the Braxton County Invitational where the orange and black finished just seven points behind Greenbrier West.
"It's going to be the battle we saw the last couple of weekends," said Calhoun County head coach Mike Stump, whose Red Devils checked in at No. 8 in the poll. "We've seen a lot of the teams at Braxton County.
"The field was more spread out and stronger with Greenbrier West and Independence there, but you are still going to have your LKC teams. We haven't seen Ritchie this year and I'm hearing they are much improved. It's your typical Little Kanawha Conference battle."
Also in the field are No. 9 Braxton County along with the Rebels from Ellenboro, St. Marys, Webster County, Fayetteville and Poca.
Last weekend, both Clay County's Justin Triplett (30-1) and Calhoun County's Houston McCune (19-1) suffered their first setbacks of the campaign when they lost to 113-pound champion Cody Goff of Grafton.
Aside from 113, several other classes could be more than interesting to watch. Wirt County's Hagan Root (19-3) and Panther Alex Suite (20-1) finished second and third, respectively, last weekend at 132. Also, 145-pounder Ricky Hammons (23-1) of Braxton County won on his home mats when he pinned Red Devil Johnny Taylor (27-7).
Wirt County teammates Jon Cain (120, 16-1) and Jake Linville (138, 24-1) also won titles last Saturday night at Braxton County as did Calhoun County's Casey Ritchie (126, 32-0) and Clay County 160-pounder Tyler Stewart (29-4).
"We've got a young group that's working hard in practice and they are eager and they battle," coach Stump added of his Red Devils.
"We still have no 106-pounder, but we've been able to fill every weight class. I'm not sure how it's going to go Saturday because the flu bug has hit our school and I've had kids in and out of the lineup this week."
Admission at the gate is $6 for an all-day pass.