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South eyes seventh state title in a row

Photo by Josh Hughes Parkersburg South’s Gage Wright competes in regional wrestling action earlier this season at PHS Memorial Fieldhouse.

PARKERSBURG — Suffice it to say there’s some lofty expectations for the Parkersburg South wrestling program of head coach Shaun Smith.

The Patriots are expected to roll to a seventh straight Class AAA state title once the final two days of the season get underway beginning Monday inside Huntington’s Mountain Health Arena.

Sophomore Brady Roberts already owns a state title at 106 and he’ll be out to defend that crown and continue his dream of becoming a four-time state champ.

Patriot 160-pound senior Gavin Quiocho is hoping to cap off his career with a fourth consecutive mat title and he goes in as the favorite.

“It’s gone by really fast,” Quiocho admitted. “Usually, they say that when you’re a freshman ‘oh, it’s going to go by fast’ but it does. I’ll tell you that, especially with this season having, what, two months. It’s already here, already over. It’s been different. Every year I’m used to getting to wrestle like top, top athletes and ranked in the top 10s and this year, sadly, couldn’t do that, but still working hard and doing the same stuff.”

When it comes to his final state tournament, Quiocho said there’s nothing to change.

“Same thing as every year. Be dominant. Be dominant and already know that we are going to win by the time we come to finals like we have been,” Quiocho added. “That’s the best thing to feel.”

What wasn’t the best feeling was losing a tight match to Point Pleasant’s Justin Bartee.

“I was pretty upset not to get another wrestling match with him, but what can you do,” added the Patriot.

“Every loss that I have I got past it and work on getting better. That’s all you can do.”

Senior 120-pounder Devin Easton, who will join Quiocho at Glenville State College to compete with the Pioneers of head coach Dylan Cottrell, is leaving nothing to chance as this is his last opportunity to claim a state title.

“That’s kind of the plan, just take it slow. Take it one match at a time. Don’t do like anything stupid and get to the finals and get it over with,” said Easton, who goes in ranked No. 1.

“I think it gives me more confidence because I know I’m better than everyone. Like in my mind I can beat everyone. In a way it does give me confidence, but also it doesn’t really mean much. The seeding don’t mean anything.”

Easton enters the fray with one setback, which came against Saige Wells of George Washington.

“It was like first match of the year and I kind of blanked and I wrestled him again at WSAZ and I beat him. We’ll wrestle in the semis,” Easton added.

Despite it being anything but a normal year, Easton is looking forward to his final days as a Patriot and finally getting that state crown.

“I’ve learned that really you need to be focused,” he said. “You can’t lose track of what you want if you are going to go and win everything.

“You just can’t go out, slack off and not really put in the effort to get better and learn something new.”

Effort is something Patriot 138-pound senior Brayden Johnson knows all about. He’s hoping to finish off his career in style with a third title to join father Jason as a three-time state champion.

“That’s what I’ve been working so hard for,” said Johnson, whose only loss was to University sophomore Dom Parker. “I had a little bit of a setback at the WSAZ and ever since then I’ve just been working really hard and I’ve got to get this title. It means a lot to me and I don’t want to let anybody take that away from me. That match (a 4-3 loss to Parker) was not me. It was not me.

“I think it was pretty clear by the way I wrestled, but I can guarantee you it’s not going to be like that this time. I’ve been in the finals before and I know what it’s like and I know how I got to prepare myself. I’ve always put out when it comes to the state tournament so I’m not going to let anybody take anything away from me because they definitely don’t deserve it. I think I work twice as hard as anybody who steps on the mat with me.”

Johnson, who is off to West Liberty to wrestle, said he was looking forward to wrestling in the national tournaments like the Ironman and Powerade.

“It’s a shame, but it doesn’t burden me too much,” admitted Johnson. “You know, there was a point in time I didn’t think we were going to have a season and everything and it was a shame and when they said we’re having a season, you know, I was like ‘oh great, practice’ but I was thankful to be able to get in a season, be able to wrestle my senior year and be able to have a chance to get my third straight title.”

The only undefeated Patriot is freshman 145-pounder Gage Wright, who is 20-0.

Quiocho said of his teammate “Gage is really, really good and I know for a fact he can be a four-timer.”

First things first, Wright is just looking to finish on top and get the first one under his belt.

“Hopefully finishing unbeaten,” he said. “I think it’s going pretty good. I’m happy that I’m undefeated, but I really wanted to go to Ironman and see where I stood and everything but COVID hit and just took it away.”

A standout on the football team, Wright didn’t have many issues moving into the practice room.

“We just get in, bust our butt basically, get what we need to get done and then go out there and kick everybody’s butt,” he said. “I’m just trying to focus on myself and make sure I’m ready and prepared to go to the finals and win it.”

Wright is 2-0 versus Point Pleasant’s Derek Raike, the top-ranked 145-pounder in Class AA/A.

“He’s been one of my toughest matches,” Wright added. “I’ve pinned and tech falled everybody else, but he’s been my hardest.”

When it comes to the state tournament the freshman added “hopefully, we beat everybody as a team and hopefully everybody comes out prepared to wrestle and everything. Just come with their ‘A’ game and we should come out with the title.”

If things go as planned, Wright would become a four-time state champ and there also would be the chance the Patriots could run their consecutive state title streak to 10 if they continue to best the field during Wright’s final three seasons.

“It scares me a little bit to see like who all is going to come up from middle school, but we have a good coach with coach Smith and with his technique and everything and us hard drilling we should keep it going.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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