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Class AA/A grapplers ready for state tournament

Photo by Jay W. Bennett St. Marys’ Wiley Houser reacts after winning a state championship wrestling match in Charleston. Houser is back after winning a Region I title at 145 pounds.

PARKERSBURG — When the Class AA/A portion of the 74th annual West Virginia state wrestling tournament begins Wednesday inside Huntington’s Mountain Health Arena, the Cavaliers of Greenbrier West will be out for a single-A three-peat.

The Cavs are favored on paper, but both second-ranked Wirt County and No. 3 St. Marys, which added a seventh grappler on Monday when freshman heavyweight Ben Wagstaff was placed in the bracket, are hoping to have something to say about it.

“Coach (Jeremy) Tincher has done a great job down there and Danny (Life) has done a great job down at Wirt,” admitted Blue Devil head coach Jay D. Smith, who watched 145-pounder Wiley Houser and 220-pound brother Cody Houser nab Region I crowns. “We tried to wrestle Greenbrier West this year but couldn’t because of COVID.

“We had them scheduled and they had us scheduled. It just didn’t work out and we didn’t wrestle Wirt this year either. How often does one LKC team not see each other during a season. Danny and I talked several times and it just never worked out. It will be interesting. I think our kids are excited about it. We’re in the same boat as everyone else, trying to keep our kids bubbled up because of COVID.”

The Tigers were unable to secure a Region IV champ as Point Pleasant won a dozen of those titles. The only local victor was Williamstown 182-pound senior Caleb Stansberry, who will join 152-pound senior and regional runner-up Colton Slagle along with 106-pound junior Ashton Wasmer as the lone ‘Jackets competing for head coach Tyler George.

Wirt County had regional runner-up efforts from Kolton Parsons (138), AJ Garrett (145) and 160-pounder Logan Powell.

“I think single-A is probably a four to five team race,” admitted coach Life, who along with St. Marys will be pushed by No. 4 Moorefield and fifth-ranked Doddridge County, which got a Region II title from 152-pounder Reese Burnside and a runner-up at 170 by Dylan Knight.

Ritchie County had a trio of Region II winners — Brady Layman (113), Kodi Camp (126) and Tristen Ginanni (132) — and that threesome will be the Rebels’ representatives.

“I told my boys the other day if we put three in the finals and three in the consolation finals we’ll win it,” added coach Life. “I’m really looking forward to three in the finals versus Point and three in the consolations. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. It could happen.”

The top LKC program, which includes Class AA members Braxton County and Clay County, that has the best state finish will be crowned the conference champion.

“I wanted it because Logan was going for his third LKC championship,” coach Life added of the LKC not taking place due to COIVD-19 fear. “Parsons was going for his second and he’s only a junior and AJ Garrett was going for his second.”

In Region I, Tyler Consolidated teammates Sean Winfrey (152) and Trenton Huffman (160) finished second.

“We told our kids, and they know that every point matters,” stressed coach Smith. “If you can get the fall, get the fall. If you can get the major, get the major. Every kid has to score as many points as they can, and I think they know that it’s going to be tight.

“I think triple-A everyone knows who is going to win and double-A everyone knows who is going to win. Single-A is going to be a tossup. It’s fun even being included in the mix of it.”

Currently, there are a quartet of opening round matches expected to pit area grapplers versus one another and three of those come in the 132-pound division — Braxton County’s Tyee Ellyson versus Wahama’s Kase Stewart, the Rebel Ginanni versus Ravenswood’s Wyatt Milhoan and Webster County’s Darren Barnette taking on Magnolia’s Jason Beisel. The other all local match will be at heavyweight with Ravenswood’s Ethan Lane squaring off against Clay County’s Colton Casto.

“I feel for the boys,” added coach Life of the shortened season and everything teams have missed out on, especially all the seniors.

“These years are supposed to be cherished for them and adults have just ruined their high school years. It’s just a shame adults take away from these kids.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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