W.VA. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS THREE-WEEK PERIOD: Patriots begin run for sixth straight Class AAA title

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg South 120-pounder Brayden Johnson tries to control Parkersburg’s Garret Donahue during the annual city dual this past January at Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

PARKERSBURG–Three weeks of hard work starting in June could go a long way in propelling the Parkersburg South Patriot grapplers to their sixth consecutive Class AAA state title in February. That is the mindset of the Patriots as they gear up for a summer ripe with expectations. Right now, South is hard at work with conditioning and training underway for the next few weeks.

Coach Shaun Smith’s squad lost a couple 2018-19 state champions in two-time 160 winner Zane Hinzman and 385-pound, four-time All-American Louden Haga, but this team isn’t about rebuilding, it’s about reloading. Although they lost other stalwarts in Tucker Winland, Dalton Fullerton, Mikey Shamblin and Wyatt Linder, Smith’s veteran wrestlers are primed to pick up where those seniors left off.

“The biggest thing I look for in this three-week period is leadership from our upperclassmen,” Smith said following a Tuesday morning practice session. “To just kind of take the reigns and establish a leadership role as far as showing things to our underclassmen.”

Returning for South are a slew of mat technicians who have experience wrestling on the biggest of stages, including a trio of wrestlers going for their third individual championships. Braxton Amos enters his senior year having won the Robert Dutton Award a year ago and his second championship at 220. Another senior standout is Brayden Roberts. He stood victorious at 126 as a sophomore and again last year at 145. His goal of winning in a heavier weight class was achieved after a tense 2-0 decision over his opponent in Huntington.

Gavin Quiocho triumped at 132 as a freshman and at 138 to finish his sophomore campaign with a tight 4-3 win over Parkersburg’s Bo Moler. Now, he’s back to try and repeat the process once more. The final returning 2018-19 champion is Brayden Johnson. He capped off his sophomore year atop the mountain with his first state title by defeating PHS’s Garret Donahue in an 8-2 decision at 120.

Sophomore Easton Martin fell short in his quest of capturing the 113 title in a 12-7 loss. Easton, just like plenty of other matmen, look to improve and help bring home the school’s 24th state wrestling championship.

“We only had one freshman starter last year (Jude Childers), but I look for good things out of Jude Childers,” Smith said. “I look for him to kind of progress a lot. Our two seniors that were state champions for us last year (Amos and Roberts), I obviously expect big things from them. There’s our two-time champ, Gavin Quiocho. We’ve already seen a lot of progress out of him, so we’re expecting him to step up even more.”

While Smith and his staff are seeing to it the underclassmen buy into a winning tradition at PSHS, there is still work to be done.

“We need to see what our underclassmen have to offer,” Smith remarked. “We need to see what it is they need to work on.”

On the topic of that potential sixth state championship in a row, coach Smith addressed the need to stay focused on the tasks currently at hand.

“It’s definitely not going to be easy,” he said of his team’s chance to win again. “I don’t think any of the seasons are easy. There’s always something that happens throughout the season that could either hinder or help the team. That’s why we have these practices with the underclassmen and upperclassmen. We need to show these upperclassmen how much we depend on them.”

Smith added that his wrestlers are told they “don’t want to be a part of the team that doesn’t win” and they “want to be a part of the team that keeps it going.”