NITRO, W.Va. -- It was a tournament filled with surprises in terms of the team standings, and perhaps the coach of the winning team was the most shocked of all.
By virtue of placing seven wrestlers in championship matches on Saturday, Johnson Central, Ky., was able to cruise to a team title at the 44th Pat Vance Invitational at Nitro High School.
Johnson Central rolled up 218 points to best second-place Riverside (156.5) and third-place St. Albans (153), despite missing two of its best wrestlers due to a funeral.
Coach Jim Matney said his young squad impressed the entire coaching staff on Saturday.
"We're a little bit younger this year than we've been and we didn't know what to expect," Matney said. "We didn't expect this really, they probably wrestled a bit better than we thought they would. We made a heck of a run through the semifinals and won some big matches. Sometimes it just goes your way."
While the invaders from the southwest were claiming team hardware, 10 Kanawha Valley grapplers claimed individual titles, including three from the upstart Red Dragons.
Despite leaving several weight classes vacant, St. Albans finished third, mostly because of the efforts of freshmen Micah Crewdson, Trey Harmon and Michael Milam, who claimed wins in the 120-pound, 138-pound and 145-pound divisions, respectively.
"Things are taking off," said Red Dragons coach Gary Bennet. "The guys have been working hard and it's finally paying off for them. It's nice to have some kids that not only have a good work ethic but their excellent academics as well, so I don't have to worry about losing half my squad when grade cards come out.
"All three of our kids in the finals are freshman so that's great. That foretells a great future."
It was a different kind of day for pre-tournament favorite Winfield, as the Generals managed just 146 points and settled for fifth in the team standings, one point behind Hurricane.
Bryce Humphreys, the defending state champion in the 126-pound division, did his part by winning the 132 trophy by knocking off Johnson Central's Geordan Blanton 11-3.
The senior, who improved to 24-0 on the season, said a long layover may have cost his team on Saturday.