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Parkersburg South starts its journey toward another state mat title at regionals

Parkersburg South’s Brayden Johnson, right, ties up with George Washington’s Thomas Hartley during last year’s Class AAA 132-pound state title match. Johnson has the top seed in today’s 138-pound Region IV tournament and is seeking a third career state mat crown. (Photo by Jay W. Bennett)

PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg South’s march toward a seventh Class AAA state wrestling championship begins in earnest at 11 a.m. today when head coach Shaun Smith’s Patriots invade Memorial Fieldhouse for the Region IV tournament.

The Patriots are expected to crown nine regional champions and qualify 13 members as sophomore heavyweight Demetrius Gearheart is the only grappler not seeded in the top four.

“The kid he has first he only lost to 8-6 a month ago,” admitted coach Smith. “He’s made progress and I think, honestly, he’s got a good shot. I know as a sixth seed you don’t typically feel that confident, but he had opportunities where we could’ve scored and not give up points.

“It’s just fixing little things and hopefully what we’ve worked on since then he’ll be ready. Sometimes those heavyweights are tricky. If you fall on someone right it’s hard to get up. He’s got the potential to get through as a six seed.”

PSHS boasts nine top seeds in Brady Roberts (106), Brent Bosley (113), Devin Easton (120), Trent Jones (132), Brayden Johnson (138), 18-0 Gage Wright (145), Robert Shockey (152), Gavin Quiocho (160) and 220-pounder Noah Buckalew.

“They are an exceptional group. Gavin has three titles, Brayden has two and Devin has been painfully close to getting one and I think right now he’s in a very good position of finishing on top this season. Noah came into the season banged up,” coach Smith said of his quartet of seniors.

“He’s kind of worked himself through it and he’s done really well for himself and I’m hopeful he’ll continue to do that. It’s been an enjoyable four years for this group and hopefully they’ll all end up where I think they should.”

Wright, who has the only undefeated record, and Shockey are the lone freshmen in the starting lineup.

“He came in with a lot to be expected I guess,” coach Smith said of Wright. “It’s just unfortunate the whole team in general didn’t get to wrestle the bigger tournaments. Hopefully, things are better next year and he’ll get that opportunity.

“I think he’s more than ready for this next week and half. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s proven it beating (Point Pleasant’s Derek) Raike twice this year. He’s proven he’s ready and he’s going to be very, very difficult for anyone who comes across.”

Aside from Easton, four of the Patriots’ first five spots are occupied by sophomores, which includes third-seeded Nathan Ford at 126.

“They are a very exceptional sophomore group. In a different situation Bosley would’ve been starting last year,” said the coach. “He was good enough to start last year.”

“It just so happened he was behind Brady. He had a good season for us last year even though he wasn’t full on varsity.

“The other three are returning and are in tough weight classes, but I think it’s who shows up on that day. Just got to take one match at a time and be ready to wrestle and do your best. That’s all you can really ask for. They are young kids and we expect a lot out of them, but we couldn’t do that if we didn’t think they could carry it out.”

Coach Smith also expressed of Shockey, “he’s a hard worker, competitive, very laid back wrestler and when it comes time to wrestle he shows up. He has put himself in a good situation. He’s lost a few matches, but I don’t think that’s deterred him from working hard. I think he’ll have a good regional and state tournament.”

Jude Childers, the Patriots’ 170-pound two seed, is joined in the starting lineup by the only other PSHS junior — 195-pound third seed Ayden Edwards.

“Those two have improved a lot. Neither one of them has placed at the state tournament, but I’m more than confident that’s definitely going to change,” said coach Smith. “They’ve really worked hard. They’ve just kind of, I think, taken that next step you need to take in order to put yourself in an even better position to be successful.

“They’ve improved drastically. It’s fun to see when your kids improve and that’s probably the most rewarding part of it all. Winning is fun, but to see them improve the way they have and everything that’s awesome. They really push each other with some of the other kids in the room. They want to be successful as much as the coaches do and that’s important as well.”

Joining Ford and Edwards as a No. 3 seed is Patriot 182-pounder Braedon Hamilton.

“He’s wrestled well and put on some weight for us,” noted his coach. “I think he’ll be ready, too. He’s anxious and seems to really want it. Hopefully, things work out and we’ll get him through to score points for us at state.”

Suffice it to say, the Patriot mat boss and his squad are more than ready to start the postseason.

“Just anxious to get back on the mat and wrestle some competition. I think they are over wrestling each other,” he said.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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