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MOV trio set to join National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Photo provided From left, then Williamstown High School head wrestling coach Bob Pickens stands beside Tyler Westbrook, Yellowjacket assistant coach Jeff Givens and Will Westbrook.

PARKERSBURG — A trio of locals from the Mid-Ohio Valley will be inducted into the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame during a Halloween afternoon banquet at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

Tyler Westbrook, a 2002 graduate of Williamstown High School who died in 2015, will be honored posthumously with the “Outstanding American” award. Joining him as “Lifetime Service to Wrestling” honorees will be his former Yellowjacket coach Jeff Givens as well as longtime area coach and official Dean Moore.

“I’m going to accept the award for him,” said Tyler’s brother Will. “It was pretty cool. It’s a big honor. Jeff was our assistant coach and Dean Moore we knew from wrestling through peewee and everything. I got to set up a display for him down in Charleston.”

After finishing his career with a 116-27 record, which included being a state runner-up at 140 as a junior as well as winning a state championship at 152 pounds as a senior when he went 45-4, Tyler then earned his degree in sports management at West Virginia University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2006 and then enlisted in the U.S. Army the following year.

Tyler, a heavily decorated soldier who was a Green Beret and also excelled as a sniper, served two tours in Iraq. He also was in Africa and was deployed thrice to Germany.

“It’s actually kind of strange. Jeff Givens was actually my third (state champ). He dates clear back to the beginning and Tyler was my last act as wrestling coach,” said former Williamstown head man Bob Pickens. “Tough, tough young man. I know his mother told me when I had the other two boys, and they were older, you wait until you get Tyler. He’s different. He’s really tough and I thought all those boys were tough.

“His mom told me that and as it turned out that was true. When I use the term tough, not just a tough young man, but a mentally tough young man. He was a very tough young man and a good leader. He was focused on everything he did. I’m talking about his grades in school and going through the training he did in the military. You have to be totally focused.”

Coach Pickens, who was inducted into the W.Va. Chapter in 2004 and will watch the area trio be recognized permanently at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma, said he was blessed to coach the Westbrook brothers.

“He was just a great young man to work with. His brothers and his family were always there, always behind him,” coach Pickens added. “He was just a very good young man to have as part of my program. Whenever I had to step out of the room or was going to be a little late going to practice, by the time I got up there he already had them warmed up, ready to go and lined up in their spots.

“The only discipline that needed to be done was taken care of before I got there. He was a fine young man for me to be able to look back, and I’m glad to say that his state finals match was the last match I coached as a wrestling coach.”

Givens, who has been the athletic director and an assistant principal at Williamstown since 2007, was a four-year letterman for coach Pickens and won the 145-pound state title during his senior year of 1981. He wrestled and earned a letter under Hall of Fame coach Vince Monseau at West Liberty before an injury ended his mat career.

After taking over as the head middle school coach, he replaced Pickens in 2003 and was honored at the state tournament as the Dix Manning Class AA-A Coach of the Year.

“I wasn’t really done coaching, but opportunities only present themselves every once in a while,” admitted Givens of going into the administration side. “I wouldn’t have minded coaching another five years or so to be honest with you.”

When asked about being inducted he admitted he was “very humbled. Very humbled. Very honored.”

Pickens recalled Givens having a rough start to his senior year and his wrestler talked to him about possibly hanging it up.

“I said Jeff, you’re going to be all right. You’re trying too hard. You’re putting yourself in a mental situation,” said Pickens, who noted Givens then went to the Jackson County Invite, won his weight class, earned Outstanding Wrestler honors and then capped his career in style.

“He came back as my assistant coach for several years and he was my choice to take over when I retired. He had a chance to move up in the administration and I can’t blame him for that. He’s done a really nice job there.”

Moore was more than stoked to find out he had been inducted for the Class of 2021.

“I thought that was really neat. Really kind of unexpected,” admitted Moore, who just had his 50th high school reunion at Parkersburg South. “Woody (Burns) is the one who recommended me and after I was accepted Diane Archer called and told me. I was, you know, really happy. I think that’s a great honor.”

Moore said he played football for three years at PSHS and got into wrestling when Dave Jeffrey asked him to coach the City Park youth mat team.

“I started studying and watching films and I coached there for three years at Wood County Recreation,” Moore recalled.

After that, he got with Mike Litton and the Parkersburg YMCA Cougars, started officiating and then coached at Franklin Junior High as an assistant to Tim Ross and also later Rich Williams. He then became an assistant at Edison.

Along with coaching the Junior Patriots Club, which won the 1998 Tulsa National team title, he was an unpaid assistant at Parkersburg South for seven years with Paul Jackson as well as a paid assistant for one year under Donna Dixon before giving that up to current head coach Shaun Smith, who started as an assistant.

“It’s kind of surreal. It’s amazing,” coach Smith said of Moore being inducted. “He coached me with the Junior Patriots. He was always kind of like, initially, seemed like this hard-nosed rough person, but the more you were around him the more you realized how just awesome of a person he is.

“He’s done a lot of great things, not just South, but all of southside wrestling. He was a head coach for the Junior Patriots it seems like forever. He never had a kid in it. He was just always there for everyone else. It’s pretty surreal to be able to see his name getting inducted. He definitely deserves it.”

Moore, who also assisted coach Smith, added that once he got the coaching bug “I said I was going to get real serious with this sport. Now that I look back on it after I got started into it, there’s all kinds of coaches I could thank along the way. Mike Litton was really my inspiration. He was 100% into it and he geared me toward being the best and I just kind of fed off that.”

The Sunday, Oct. 31 banquet will start with a social hour at 1 p.m. with dinner following at 1:45 p.m.

Cost to attend the ceremony is $55 and more information can be found online at http://wvmat.com/hallfame/hfreg21.pdf

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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