ALBRIGHT: Another trip into the record book for South wrestling

History again.

One year after becoming the first team to pass rival PHS for most state team titles, Parkersburg South’s wrestling bunch put its mark on the sport once more Saturday inside Huntington’s Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Coach Shaun Smith’s group became the first Class AAA school to win five straight team titles with its 248-175 win over runner-up Wheeling Park. Tucker Windland’s 3-0 decision over University’s Jake Staud in the 126-pound consolation match, coupled with two Wheeling Park losses in the morning session of the final day officially sealed the deal for #demsouthboyz.

Unofficially, the southside group followed the tradition of the past two years when it clinched the title before the end of Day 2 on Friday.

The Patriots join Class AA powerhouses Oak Glen (who won 13 straight Class AA titles from 1997-2009) and Independence (who captured its fifth straight last season) in an exclusive club of success.

It is an achievement immediately becoming the most impressive in the long and highly decorated successful story of high school wrestling in the city of Parkersburg. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Yes, PHS, this includes 1948. Winning eight individual state titles impresses only when one does not dig a little deeper. Two teams, Parkersburg and Beckley, were the only participants in the state tournament 71 years ago.

Come see me when you go through what the Patriots have consistently endured the last five years.

South found sustained success in a county where wrestling stands as one of the kings of sport and a state where 27 other teams now exist. Guarantees were few and far between as Matt Littleton and Ryan Scott have solid programs at Parkersburg High and Williamstown. Transferring talent easily could have joined the Big Reds or Yellowjackets so they could wrestle right away.

Have the Patriots benefited from some of the greatest influxes of wrestling talent to the school the past few years? Sure. But each young person had to recognize their talents, harness their abilities, then go out and perform at a superior level.

Success did not merely form out of thin air.

Argue if you want about the Patriots being top heavy with guys like Louden Haga, Brayden Roberts, Braxton Amos, Mikey Shamblin, Zane Hinzman, Gavin Quiocho, Brayden Johnson and Windland. All 14 grapplers on the varsity roster had to do their jobs until they couldn’t anymore.

Tasks including a trip through the toughest region in the state since Huntington joined Region IV three years ago. A seven-school regional responsible for the production of more than 50 percent of individual state champions in the same amount of time; not to mention the top three teams in the state in 2018 and top two in 2017.

Weight-class changes and the introduction of newcomers to the lineup also posed challenges to the dynasty.

Shamblin had to regain his mental edge after a shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire 2018 season. Hinzman, Roberts and Johnson adjusted to new weight classes. Samantha Miller at 106 had to learn an entirely new list of opponents as did Devin Easton, Noah Buckalew, Dalton Fullerton -who took over for Dutton Award winner Josh Humphreys at 195 – Jude Childers, and Wyatt Linder.

Windland and Haga were forced to come to grips with the reality of their final chance to win a state title after each fell short the last three seasons. Amos carried with him the monumental burden that people already had named him the first underclassman recipient of the Robert Dutton Award, presented annually to the state’s most outstanding wrestler. His undefeated status also meant everyone was going to give him their best when he wrestled an opponent.

Quiocho probably had a smile on his face and was cracking jokes to help the team relax. He was marked as well after having his hand raised after a 4-3 decision of Parkersburg’s Bo Moler in the state title match last season.

All hurdles cleared as all 14 Patriots qualified for the state tournament, the second season in a row South accomplished the feat by the way.

“From the bottom with Sam to all the way to the top with Braxton and Louden it has been a phenomenal season,” said Smith, who handled the added assignment of being a father for the first time. “It is overwhelming sometimes to look at the team and just see all the great assets that we have.”

Overwhelming certainly describes the feat the Patriots accomplished Saturday night, winning their 23rd state team title. I have said it before and I will say it again – success at the highest levels can lead to complacency and/or laziness.

There were none of either at any point this year for the South grapplers.

It is a big reason they once again stand alone in the Class AAA record books.

The Patriots simply blazed a path through the hottest flames and reached the ultimate goal.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.


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