Buffalo getting serious
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Buffalo junior Kyle Frazier readily admits that the focus three years ago was on just having fun.
Now it's the Bison opponents who aren't finding their resurgence a laughing matter. Buffalo, which only has 10 wrestlers, has three ranked in the top 10 in Class AA-A and four overall who earned seeds at Friday's WSAZ Invitational at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Buffalo advanced four wrestlers out of eight to today's quarterfinals in senior Alex Arthur, who competes in the 126-pound weight class, Frazier (195), senior Ryan White (220) and junior Jacob Moore (285). Frazier and White went undefeated Friday with 2-0 records while Arthur and Moore went 2-1.
"At the beginning we were very unexperienced,'' said Frazier, who was one of the first two state qualifiers in Buffalo history last year. "We joked around at meets. We still do some, but not as much. We know what to expect. I think we know what we need to accomplish as a team and individually. It's to have some state champions.''
Huntington, which was No. 1 in AAA in this week's state coaches association-wvmat.com poll, led the way after Friday's matches with 771/5 points, followed by AA-A No. 2 Greenbrier West (66), AAA No. 8 Shady Spring (60), Meade County (59) and Woodrow Wilson (58).
Winfield was the only school in the top 10 among the Kanawha Valley contingent, tied for sixth with AA No. 4 Independence at 541/2 points. (See Page 2B for results.)
George Washington's Jake Smith, who was the only Valley grappler to earn a top seed at 160 and a bye in the opening round, advanced to today's quarterfinals with a dominating 20-4 major decision over North Marion's Anthony Tiano to move on. Smith is No. 1 in his weight class in the AAA individual rankings.
Point Pleasant, the two-time defending WSAZ champion and winner of four of the last five overall team titles, had a scheduling conflict and didn't compete. The Big Blacks, who moved up to AAA this year after winning three straight AA-A state titles, were instead taking part in the ASICS Top Gun tournament in Alliance, Ohio.
The WSAZ, which features 31 high school and 50 junior high/middle school teams, resumes at 9:45 a.m. today in both divisions. Consolation semifinals and place-winner matches pick up at 6 p.m. in both divisions with the championship finals set for 8:15 p.m. More information is available at the tournament's new website (wsazwrestling.com).
Buffalo's progress may not seem noteworthy when compared to some of the powerhouse programs in Huntington this weekend, but the Bison have traveled a long road. Buffalo revived wrestling just three years ago, and last year had its first two state qualifiers.
"My goal this year was to get one ranked and we got three,'' said Buffalo coach Cliff Parsons. "It's pretty good. Just hard work and hard practice. It's all we do.
"A couple of them go to Ken Chertow camps. Offseason, they're in the weight room. Those guys with the experiences in the camps, they're bringing it back to the guys not able to go.''
Frazier, who was a state qualifier last year at 182, moved up to 195 this season, where he is ranked fifth in AA-A. Bison senior Mack Williams is ranked No. 10 at 120 but is out for the year after a knee injury, and Arthur is No. 10 at 126.
"We've got to focus on the here and now,'' Frazier said. ""We need to fill up our weight classes. We know we'll lose three people next year, but we'll have some good freshmen coming up who will be experienced.''
The WSAZ Invitational is a good proving ground since all schools compete in the same division.
"It just prepares you for the state tournament,'' Parsons said. "This is the biggest show that you can go to during the season for us.''
"We know to expect the unexpected,'' added Fraizer. "Just go out there level-headed and do work.''
Parsons said Buffalo now has a midget league, which is in its second year, and a first-year middle-school program to help grow the sport in the area.
"We're on track,'' said the Buffalo coach. "It hasn't helped us yet, but it will in the future. Next year I'll have seven guys coming from the middle school. Hopefully, they'll come up and make an impact.''
Parsons, who is 40, said he hopes to keep taking a step each year with the Bison.
"I'm hoping we'll be in the top 10 in double-A/single-A,'' he said of future goals. "I hope we have four or five qualify for states this year. I feel we'll have six or seven. I think we're heading in the right direction with the program.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.