PARKERSBURG - Huntington High School will be looking for a three-peat when the Mountain State Athletic Conference wrestling tournament gets under way at 10 a.m. today inside Parkersburg's Memorial Fieldhouse.
The Class AAA top-ranked Highlanders of head coach Rob Archer have seven top seeds and that includes two-time MSAC Most Outstanding Wrestler Justin Arthur, who will carry a 27-2 record into the 145-pound class as the No. 1 seed. Arthur is the only wrestler trying to win his third MSAC crown.
Last year, Ripley challenged the Highlanders and came up just short, falling 225.5 to 215.
"I think we can give them a pretty good run and I think Parkersburg can give them a pretty good run," said Viking head coach Matt Smith, whose squad will be without the services of second ranked 126-pound freshman Lucas Simpkins due to illness.
"He's been sick all week and he's not any better. I was hoping he'd get better over the week. It's been pretty rough, but he should be OK. It's one of those bugs that's been flying around."
Host Parkersburg and head man Chris Way has top seeds in 120-pounder Jason West and 182-pounder Jared Haught, who is 40-0. The only other unbeaten grappler competing today will be 160-pound top seed Jake Smith (29-0) of George Washington, whose toughest competition is expected to come from No. 2 seed Dylan Richards of PHS.
Ripley teammates Greg Medina (195) and Daryl Hicks (285) are expected to win their respective weight classes and if that happens they will become two-time MSAC champions. Also vying for their second career MSAC titles are Haught, Smith and Huntington's Logan Grass, the top seed at 106.
Huntington's other No. 1 seeds are Jordan Allen (113), Chase Childers (126), Billy Waldeck (138), Paden Christian (152) and 220-pounder Nigale Cabell, who could square off in the finals versus No. 2 seed Tyler Riddle of PHS.
"There are two solid teams ahead of us in Huntington and Ripley," Way noted. "It makes for good competition. It's a good opportunity to wrestle at home.
"You want to take advantage of this and put on a good show for the fans. We are looking to have a good showing. This starts the championship part of our season with the regional and state right after."
Aside from Medina and Hicks, the Vikings also are expected to crown champions at 132 with Austin Hileman and at 170 with Nate Starkey, who got the No. 1 seed over Cabell Midland's Nick Boone. Boone, an MSAC runner-up at 160 last year, suffered his first setback of the season Wednesday night to Parkersburg South's Drake Mills.
Parkersburg's only other No. 2 seed is 106-pounder Austin Spears. The red and white also have seeded grapplers with Nick Johnson (No. 3, 113), Trapper Hays (No. 3, 132), Skyler Terrell (No. 3, 138) and Codie Barrows (No. 3, 145).
The Vikings have a pair of second seeds in Jake Martin at 138 and Preston Martin at 152 while teammate Antonio Jones is a No. 3 seed at 120.