Walsh Jesuit Ironman major test for South wrestlers
PARKERSBURG — The Walsh Jesuit Ironman can be a humbling experience or perhaps a defining moment for the Parkersburg South wrestlers, who begin their quest against the elite programs and individuals this part of the country has to offer. The two-day meet begins Friday at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The field consists of more than 100 schools and 500-plus wrestlers.
“This tournament is a big deal because right now they are only inviting the best teams and the best individuals, so it’s an honor to get to wrestle irregardless how the situation may go,” South coach Shaun Smith said.
Eight wrestlers will represent the Patriots, including Gage Wright, who is West Virginia’s defending state champ at 145 pounds. In a home quad meet last week, the sophomore won his three matches at 170 pounds. And even though the Ironman forecasters have Wright absent from nationally ranked wrestlers yet mentioned as a notable, coach Smith wouldn’t be the least surprised to see Wright run the table.
“Gage has a good group of kids ranked ahead of him, but he is not an easy out for anyone,” Smith said. “He is a special talent. I can see him doing some amazing things this weekend.”
Because of last season’s COVID restrictions preventing West Virginia schools from competing against out-of-state programs, South did not participate in the Ironman. As a result, Wright and several of his teammates are entering unchartered territory.
“I hear the Ironman is the real deal and one of the hardest tournaments around,” Wright said. “There are going to be some tough animals there. I am really looking forward to it. I want to see where I stand and see if I am one of the top people in the country.
“I just have to wrestle the best way I know how and not be nervous.”
Among South wrestlers making the trip, captain Trenton Jones at 138 pounds recalls his only previous experience at Ironman, which resulted in two losses in as many matches two years ago as a freshman.
“They are really tough up there, so you just have to keep wrestling then come back to the practice room and work your butt off,” Jones said. “The goal is to win at least one more than the last time I went up there. I need to stay physical, stay aggressive.”
Another pair of South captains — Ayden Edwards at 182 pounds and Brent Bosley at 120 pounds — are making their debut in their respective weight class. Edwards is a second-year member of the Patriot program after transferring from crosstown Parkersburg High School.
“This is the best competition we will see all year,” Edwards said. “It’s a pretty good prep for anything we will see down the road.”
In the three Ironman events prior to last season, South placed seventh in 2018 and 11th twice (2017, 2019).
Regardless if South wrestlers place on the podium, the long-term effects of competing against wrestlers on a scale of this magnitude will prove beneficial.
“We need to learn from our mistakes then come back here in the practice room and start fixing it,” Bosley said. “We can get better every day and by the time the state tournament rolls around, we can prove what we learned.”
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