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Wrestlers prepare for West Virginia tournament with titles on the line

Parkersburg South’s Gavin Quiocho controls his opponent during his regional championship match at PHS Memorial Fieldhouse. (Photo by Josh Hughes)

PARKERSBURG — There will be 28 area grapplers vying for podium finishes when the Class AAA state tournament gets underway today inside Huntington’s Mountain Health Arena.

There are 14 undefeated wrestlers going into the final two days of the season and that includes Parkersburg junior heavyweight Jeffery Jones (19-0) and Parkersburg South 145-pound freshman Gage Wright (20-0).

Jones could face off against current Washington High 12-0 senior Jonathan Lavely in the state semifinals.

Two other regional unbeaten champs are in Wright’s weight class. He has a potential semifinal date with 23-0 Buckhannon-Upshur sophomore Breagan Pearson and could square off with Washington junior Kade Bradbury in Tuesday night’s championship match.

“With Bridgeport being out it gives Jeffery a better look at reaching the state finals,” noted PHS head coach Matt Littleton. “We’ve beat the University kid (Corbin Turney, potential quarterfinal opponent).

“I think (195-pound junior Zach) Howard got a pretty good draw. He has to win his first two to reach the semis and then probably gets the Musselman kid (22-1 junior Parker Bentley) who is looking tough right now.”

Parkersburg South qualified its entire team, but lost heavyweight Demetrius Gearhart to contact tracing. He was replaced by Ripley senior Andrew Manley. The Vikings will bring eight wrestlers to state while the Big Reds have seven.

“I know we didn’t get any top 10 love (in the state mat poll), but I think this team is a top 10 team and we can show that this week,” added Littleton, who along with Howard and Jones also qualified Jacob McCune (220), Michael Owen (182), Bryant Walker (170), Mason Merrifield (160) and Braycon Hedges (120)

“I think we’ll be in the fight to be in the top 10 or a little higher. We’ve all been to the state tournament and seen some crazy things happen down there. Make some noise and break some brackets up a little bit.”

Aside from Manley, the Vikings of head coach Matt Smith also qualified last year’s 120-pound state runner-up Brett Haskins (126) along with regional champ Nate Cox (113), Luke Miller (132), Hunter Brown (152), Isaac Parsons (160), Matt Moore (195) and Dakota Parsons (220).

Wright was one of 10 regional champions for the Patriots — Brady Roberts (106), Devin Easton (120), Nathan Ford (126), Trent Jones (132), Brayden Johnson (138), Robert Shockey (152), Gavin Quiocho (160), Aydan Edwards (195) and Noah Buckalew (220). PSHS also has Brent Bosley at 113, Jude Childers at 170 and Braeden Hamilton at 182.

“How the wrestlers performed at regional I fully expect them to at least wrestle that well or even better,” admitted Patriot boss Shaun Smith.

When asked about the team’s overall pill draw coach Smith replied “it is what it is. I feel like there are better solutions out there. Unfortunately, this is what they kind of do. There were some really good draws for us and some really bad draws for us.

“Things will work out the way they are supposed to be if they do their part and wrestle hard. We have a great group of kids, and we have a really good chance of not only getting a lot of kids to the semifinals and finals, but a lot of kids winning, too.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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