CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wrestlers from around the state today will begin punching their tickets for the state tournament.
Capital, George Washington, Greenbrier East, Oak Hill, Princeton, Ripley, Riverside, Shady Spring, South Charleston and Woodrow Wilson are competing in Class AAA Region 3 beginning at 10 a.m. in Ripley. The top four grapplers in each of the 14 weight classes advance to states, which will take place Thursday through next Saturday at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
Ripley is fourth in this week's state coaches association-wvmat.com poll and has claimed the region title six straight years. Shady Spring, ranked No. 9, was thrown into the mix this year after moving up from AA.
"Ripley's got a tough team, Shady Spring is a solid program, then you've got us and Woodrow Wilson has some good kids and Greenbrier East looks pretty good,'' said GW coach Richard Harper. "It's anybody's tournament to win, but there's a lot of good kids there from the other teams. The way we've aligned the regions this year it really spreads out the good teams. It's probably more balanced now than it's ever been.''
GW 145-pound senior Jake Smith is the team's only top-ranked grappler. He won a state title last year at 138. The Patriots also feature Sam Moore (No. 9, 106), David Pancake (No. 9, 120), Jensen Lorea (No. 7, 126), Hunter Jones (No. 9, 170) and Jake Skidmore (No. 7, 285).
"I think we're right where we need to be,'' said Harper, whose team won last week's Kanawha County championship. "You hope to think that everybody's ready to go. They all know the importance of it.
"Just let it go and see what happens. It's going to be tough. I've got 11 kids going, we're missing three weight classes, that hurts you a little bit but the kids have been like that all year. I've got a few kids I feel have some real good chances. We've got a good group of kids that's going to fight.''
Ripley, which finished state runner-up last year, features Daryl Hicks, the No. 1 wrestler at 285. The Vikings are also deep with Antonio Jones (No. 10, 120), Lucas Simpkins (No. 2, 126), Austin Hileman (No. 3, 132), Jake Martin (No. 2, 138), Preston Martin (No. 3, 152), Nate Starkey (No. 4, 170), Greg Medina (No. 4, 195). Martin was a state titlist at 120 last year while Hicks was runner-up. (See Page 2B for regional seedings.)
Winfield looks to put a stamp on one of the Putnam County's school most successful seasons on the mat.
Winfield along with host Cabell Midland, Huntington, Hurricane, Lincoln County, Logan, Nitro, Point Pleasant, Spring Valley and St. Albans will lock up in AAA Region 4 at 10 a.m. Huntington, which has finished third, second and third the past three years at states, is No. 1 in AAA. Point, which was fifth, moved up from AA where it won three straight AA-A state titles and into Region 4.
The Generals have several state-ranked wrestlers in Chris Cochran (No. 7, 113), Bryce Humphreys (No. 4, 126), Isaac Reed (No. 5, 145) and Jimmy Clark (No. 5, 160). Evan Fairchild (132) and Zack Richardson (182) also have a shot at making the top four while Tyler Grimm (170) and Noah Julian (195) are in the mix.
"We have a chance to be one of the best wrestling teams Winfield has had, but we can't afford any letdowns,'' said Winfield coach Mike Cochran.