Despite what appears to be a three-team race at the Mountain State Athletic Conference wrestling championship, Ripley looks to prove that it has earned its lofty spot in the state rankings.
The Vikings will be one of 15 MSAC squads battling at the MSAC meet starting at 10 a.m. today at Parkersburg High School.
Ripley, which finished second at last year's MSAC meet and third in the state meet, is ranked No. 2 in the latest WVMat.com Class AAA poll, trailing only Parkersburg South. Trailing Ripley in the poll are two other MSAC schools, No. 3 Huntington and No. 4 Parkersburg.
"I think we have progressed very well so far this season," said Ripley coach Matt Smith. "We've had a lot of guys step up over the season. We're doing more than what most people have expected from us and it's been pretty rewarding this season."
It does not hurt the Vikings to have three individual state champions returning from last season's team. Jarrod Simpkins (113 pounds), Adam Bicak (170) and David Hicks (220) all won their respective classes last season and currently lead those classes in the WVMat.com Class AAA individual rankings, as does Ripley freshman Jake Martin the 120- pound class.
Smith, however, credits his entire team for where it is now.
"I hate to single anybody out, but we have a good group and a solid lineup," said Smith. "I feel pretty good seeing how we're going to stack up against both Huntington and Parkersburg. They're pretty tough teams, but it's a chance for us to continue to achieve our goals for this season."
Huntington features Justin Arthur, No. 1 at 138 pounds in the WVMat.com rankings, and three wrestlers ranked No. 2 in the state - Logan Grass (106), Billy Waldeck (132) and Nigale Cabell (220).
Parkersburg is led by 182-pound class leader Jared Haught. Despite being bit by the injury bug, the Big Reds have kept on with their momentum.
"We haven't had a full lineup since December because of injuries and illness," said Parkersburg coach Chris Way. "We've been working hard and trying to gel back together as a team and looking to hit our peak toward the end of the season."
George Washington looks to make up ground at the tournament. The unranked Patriots are led by Jake Smith, ranked No. 1 in the 145-pound weight class, and Marvin Kirk, third at 138.
Reach Dave Miller at 304-348-1749 or davemill...@gmail.com.