HUNTINGTON -- In a season of firsts for Huntington High wrestling, the program has chalked up another one - even though the season ended three weeks ago.
Justin Arthur, Class AAA state champion at 145 pounds for the Highlanders, is the recipient of the 2013 Robert Dutton Award, which goes to the top high school wrestler in West Virginia. It's the first time a Huntington High (old/new school) wrestler has won the award named in honor of the legendary Parkersburg coach. He coached the Big Reds from 1957 to 1976.
Arthur finished ahead of Parkersburg's Jared Haught and George Washington's Jake Smith in voting by a statewide panel for the 29th award. Arthur, who will continue his wrestling career at Clarion University, will receive the award at the Victory Awards Dinner scheduled May 5 in Clarksburg.
"He's a heck of a kid. He set the tone for us all season," Huntington High coach Rob Archer said. "The way he works, the way he learns. It's not an act. What you see is what you get from him every day."
Arthur finished 30-2 this season with both losses coming against Chris Vassar of Cedar Cliff (Pa.) at the Powerade Invitational. Arthur placed fourth overall. Vassar went on to finish runner-up at 145 in Class AAA in the PIAA state tournament in Hershey, Pa.
Huntington High started the 2012-13 ranked No. 1 in the West Virginia Coaches Association poll and stayed there. The Highlanders beat four-time defending state champion Parkersburg South in a dual on Feb. 7 at Huntington High. Two weeks later, the Highlanders went through the Class AAA opposition again and won the state title for the first time in school history. Arthur shared Outstanding Wrestler in Class AAA with Ripley's Jake Martin, champion at 138.
"I thought it was a dream come true at the end of the state [tournament]," Arthur said. "This is a great wakeup call to remember what I did and what the team did."
Arthur, a three-time state champion, entered his senior season on a personal roll. Last March, he won the title at 138 in the National High School Championships in Virginia Beach, Va. In May, he won the Greco title and placed fourth in freestyle at 152 at the USA Wrestling Northeast Region Championships in Bloomsburg, Pa. He capped off the big offseason in July at the USA Wrestling Cadet/Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. Competing at 138, he finished sixth in Junior freestyle to earn All-America honors.