HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - George Washington senior Jake Smith is right on track and so too are a couple other Kanawha Valley wrestlers after victories Friday at the 66th annual state high school wrestling tournament at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Only three grapplers from the Kanawha Valley advanced to tonight's championship finals - Smith (160), Winfield's Bryce Humphreys (126) in Class AAA and Herbert Hoover's Zane Weese (220) in AA-A - with several still vying for place-winner finishes.
Huntington, though, put itself in position to capture its first team championship after getting so close the past few years. The Highlanders, No. 1 in this week's final state coaches association-wvmat.com poll, held a 16-point lead over Parkersburg (1521/2-1361/2), which has won 21 state titles but none since back-to-back crowns in 2007-08. Ripley was third with 1151/2 followed by four-time AAA defending champion Parkersburg South (102) and Washington (881/2).
Point Pleasant, which won the last three AA-A state championships before moving up a class, checked in seventh with 76 points. Winfield is eying a top-10 finish, sitting at No. 10 with 53 points.
In AA-A, No. 1 Greenbrier West takes a 20-point lead into the final day over Independence (1151/2-951/2). East Fairmont was third with 941/2 points followed by Wirt County (74) and North Marion (73).
GW's Smith, who was a state titlist at 145 last year, opened Friday's quarterfinals with a 10-0 major decision over Musselman's Danny Arndt then had to work for a 3-1 decision against Parkersburg South's Briar Shively in the semifinals.
"I'm kind of star-struck that I get to wrestle again in the finals,'' said Smith, who has signed with Cleveland State. "It's a pretty amazing feeling. I'm psyched.
"We'll see what happens. I'm pretty confident in my training. To go out on top would be phenomenal. That was my goal and I'm not going to quit until I achieve it.''
Humphreys took out GW's Jensen Lorea in the semis with a 6-4 decision. Lorea dropped into the consolation round, but still has a chance to finish as high as third or as low as sixth.
Hoover's Weese advanced to the finals with a pin of Ritchie County's Josh Hart in the quarters then eked out a 1-0 decision over Bluefield's Julius Thomas in the semis.
Huntington has four in the AAA finals, which start at 6 p.m. - Logan Grass (106-pound weight class), Jordan Allen (113), Johnathan Spence (120) and Justin Arthur (145) - while Parkersburg moved four - Trapper Hays (132), Skyler Terrell (138), Jared Haught (182) and Tyler Riddle (220) - into the championship round. The two teams, though, have no matches against each other.