South’s mat coach Shaun Smith wins Van Meter Award
PARKERSBURG –Shaun Smith, Parkersburg South head wrestling coach and architect of the Patriots’ grappling dynasty, has another accolade to his name. The West Virginia Sports Writers Association named Smith the 2021 recipient of the Van Meter Award. Named after legendary coach Jerome Van Meter, the award is annually given to West Virginia’s top high school coach. Fresh off PSHS’s seventh consecutive state championship (and Smith’s sixth as head coach), the Patriots are already preparing for an equally successful 2022.
Smith nearly received the honor in 2019, but he lost out to Webster County boys’ basketball coach, Michael Gray. Now, he’s at the top of the list having bested Parkersburg Catholic girls’ basketball coach, Marty Vierheller (3rd) and Pendelton County boys’ basketball coach, Ryan Lambert (2nd). The honor is a culmination of all the hard work put in by Smith and the very wrestlers who secured another state championship along the way. Seniors Gavin Quiocho and Brayden Johnson went back to their winning ways, as Quiocho captured his fourth individual state crown. Johnson won his third. That senior leadership made a difference for the group, and the continued emergence of senior Noah Buckalew (19-4) gave the Patriots added depth and experience. As did the 120-pound Devin Easton. On the other end of this roster, South’s Gage Wright finished his first year unbeaten as a state champion at 145. With such a varied and talented bunch, Smith gave his roster all the credit and said the seventh consecutive state title meant the world to him.
“I’m blown away. I’m a little more excited about the state title, but this is cool,” Smith said. “I’m not saying that wrestling doesn’t get the notoriety or recognition, but it doesn’t get that same attention behind it like football or basketball. I’m excited, and it just feels like, collectively, everyone puts in a lot of work. It’s cool to reach that accomplishment.”
During his time at the helm of the PSHS program, wrestlers have ended seasons with some of the best win-loss records in the state, and this season was no exception. Quiocho ended his time at South winning OVAC wrestler of the year honors and a 22-1 mark at 160 pounds. Wright ended his freshman campaign at 24-0, while Johnson won his 138 title with a 23-1 record. Others include Easton at 23-2, 106-pounder Brady Roberts at 21-2, 113-pounder Brent Bosley at 20-3, Trenton Jones ended his sophomore year at 132 with a 23-3 record. Robert Shockey and Jude Childers held identical 20-4 records, and Aydan Edwards finished similarly at 195 at 20-3.
Smith said his roster went above and beyond in ensuring victory when it mattered most.
“The seniors are part of an exceptional group, and it goes without saying. You hate to lose any of them,” he said. “Noah didn’t get a chance to wrestle as a freshman, but the other three they’ve started every year. They’re an integral part of our team. They’ve placed every year. They’re not only exceptional wrestlers, but exceptional people, too.”
On top of those remarks, Smith said similar things about his underclassmen and the work they all put in. From the student-athletes to the parents and coaches, Smith was appreciative of them for making the 2021 season another one to remember. That framework built by Smith and the program gives him hope for the near and distant future. Smith will be presented with the Van Meter Award on May 23 during the 74th annual victory awards dinner at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
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