Strong OVAC representation in W.Va. state mat tourney

WHEELING — The “Road to Huntington” and the 72nd annual West Virginia State Wrestling Tournament has been paved for 67 individuals from the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference. Action begins at 6 p.m.Thursday from inside Big Sandy Superstore Arena and continues throughout Saturday night’s championship finals where the top six wrestlers in each weight class will earn all-state laurels.

Of the OVAC contingent, 43 grapplers are from the immediate area and 25 of them compete in Class AAA. Region One kingpin Wheeling Park leads the way with 13 qualifiers. John Marshall, the Region One runnerup, checks in with 10, while Brooke will send a pair. Perennial state power Parkersburg South is sending all 14 of its team members, while University has 10 qualifiers and Morgantown four.

Five OVAC wrestlers are back to defend state titles, those being University’s Jake Staud (126); and the Parkersburg South quartet of Brayden Roberts (120), Gavin Quiocho (138), Zane Hinzman (160) and Braxton Amos (220).

Eighteen qualifiers are entered in Class A/AA as Region One runnerup Oak Glen has six, including two-time state champion Peyton Hall (138). The junior, who has verballed to WVU, is currently 39-3. Weir has a trio of entrants while Cameron, defending Class A state champion Madonna and Magnolia all have two each. One of the Blue Dons is defending state champion senior Alec Cook (145) who is 45-2. He is ranked second in the state this year and is headed to NCAA Division I Clarion.

There are a total of 15 defending state champions seeking repeat titles.

Class AAA

The Patriots, who do not field a 126-pounder, have six regional champions in freshman Nate Shelek (113), sophomores Stevie Mitchell (145) and Billy Gooch (160), junior Andrew Shelek (152) and seniors Jermain Snodgrass (195) and Dylan Wood (220). Shelek is ranked No. 1 in the state. Gooch was third last year at 132 and is ranked fifth, while Mitchell finished fourth at 138 and is ranked No. 3. Andrew Shelek was a state runnerup at 145 and is ranked second, while Snodgrass is ranked eighth and Wood, who was third last winter, is No. 3.

“Nate is an extremely talented freshman who is still getting better every time he steps on the mat,” first-year Wheeling Park coach Brian Leggett said. “He has been working really hard in the (wrestling) room and I am ready to see it pay off this weekend.

“Stevie has such a high ceiling. Don’t be surprised if you see him wrestling for a state championship on Saturday. Billy is really growing into 152. He is an intelligent wrestler who keeps getting better and better.

“Andrew is a staple in our lineup. He is capable of racking up bonus-point wins. Andrew has one goal in mind this weekend and he is more than capable of achieving it.

“As a senior wrestling in his first state tournament, Jermain has the drive to place high this weekend.

“I don’t have to say much about Dylan, his wrestling speaks for itself. He is mentally and physically prepared to put in his best performance as a senior.”

Freshman Cody Taggart (106), seniors Maison Richardson (120) and Jeremiah Timberlake (170) and sophomore Charlie Tamburin (182) were regional runners. Richardson placed sixth at the same weight last season and is ranked No. 3. Taggart is ranked seventh, Timberlake sixth and Tamburin 10th.

“Cody is a well-rounded freshman who has proven himself this year. I look for him to have a successful tournament,” Leggett said. “Maison has the ability and the experience as a multiple state-placer to make a big run this weekend.

“Moving up to 170 has paid huge dividends for JT. He wrestles better and feels more comfortable. I look for him to go out and have a successful senior state tournament. Charlie has been in and out of the lineup this year due to injuries. He is feeling good and ready for his first state tournament.”

Taking third at the regionals was junior Canon Welker (132) and senior Calvin McGaha (285). Welker is ranked No. 8 and McGaha fourth.

“Canon has wrestled well for us all year. I am looking for him to really turn in on this weekend and reach that next level,” Leggett said.. “Calvin is a senior who got a taste of what it is like to wrestle in the state tournament last season. I look for him to break through and find a place on the podium this year.”

Freshman Hunter Nixon (160) finished fourth in the regional. He is ranked seventh.

“Hunter is a freshman who has seen some success this year while still improving,” Leggett said. “He is one of those wrestlers who could really make a name for himself this weekend.”

As far as the team goes, Leggett is excited about what could transpire.

“We have been preparing all season to peak at the end of the year. Everything is coming together for us in the postseason. We were able to qualify all 13 wrestlers entered for the state tournament and came away with six regional champs,” he said. “We have a really good mix of wrestlers this year from experienced guys who have wrestled in the state tournament and performed well to freshmen who are prepared to make a name for themselves.

“At this point in the season we are focusing on being mentally prepared. Every one of our wrestlers are capable of placing this weekend. Our coaching staff is really excited to watch our guys perform. If everyone goes out there and wrestlers to the best of their abilities we will make a run for the team title this year.”

John Marshall is led by Region One champions freshman Carl Cochran (106) and seniors Jacob Berisford (170), Anthony Carman (182) and Brady Williams (285). Cochran is currently ranked second in the state. Berisford, ranked No. 5, and second-ranked Carman, who has committed to WVU, were state runnersup last year. Williams finished fifth and is ranked third.

“Carl is very quick and explosive. He is always looking for bonus points,” John Marshall coach Ted Zervos said. “Jacob is extremely good on his feet. He has the self-confidence to feel that he is the best wrestler every time he steps on the mat. Anthony is a very skilled, powerful and punishing wrestler that loves to wrestle. He thrives on competing against the best in the state, valley and country. Brady is our captain and leader that has high expectations for himself and the team. He is one of the hardest workers and least selfish wrestlers on the team.”

Region One runnersup were freshman Gabe Carman (113), senior Austin Love (132) and junior Bradlee Clark (220). Love was fourth at 132 a season ago. Carman is ranked seventh, Love ninth and Clark fourth.

“Gabe’s technique and skill level are very good, but what I like best about him is his competitive spirit,” Zervos said. “Austin’s physical in-your-face style of wrestling wears down opponents until they break. Bradlee is a very dangerous wrestler that is never out of a match. He has that crustiness and grit that separates him from a lot of other good wrestlers.”

Juniors Ethan Gray (120) and Dakoyta Thatcher (138) both were third-place finishers. Gray was fifth at 113 last winter and is ranked seventh.

“Ethan has competed and beaten some of the best kids in the state. He always saves his best for the state tournament,” Zervos said. “Dakoyta has quietly put together a very good season and has shown great improvement throughout the year.”

Taking fourth was freshman Ben McCardle (152).

“Ben has very good skills and competes hard for the entire match,” Zervos said.

“Our goal, as a team, at the state tournament this year is the same as it is every year. We are going to Huntington with 10 qualifiers and will work hard to have 10 kids on the podium Saturday evening. If the wrestlers reach their goals individually, the team will meet its goal.

“We can only control the preparation that we put forward into peaking at the right time and having the best state tournament possible.”

Brooke’s representatives are senior Arch Newman (152) and junior Max Camilletti (160). Both were regional runnersup. Newman is ranked No. 9 and Camilletti sixth.

Class A/AA

In addition to Hall, who is No. 1 ranked, Oak Glen is also sending senior Shawn Moore (113); juniors Camden Barr (106) and Jonathan Creese (145); sophomore Kyler O’Connor (195); and freshman Clayton Lamb (120). Moore is also top-ranked, while Creese is third, Barr eighth and O’Connor 10th.

Moore, a defending state runnerup at 113, was a Region One champion. Creese and O’Connor were runnersup, while Barr and Lamb each finished third.

The Weir contingent includes seniors Garret Hostuttler (152) and Reese Wills (160), along with junior Chase Wills (132).

Representing Cameron are senior Hayden Hoge (285) and freshman Ian Bush (170), while Magnolia will be led by juniors James Stillwagoner (182) and Mikey Hamrick (285).

Bush is ranked No. 3, Stillwagoner eighth and Hamrick fifth.

Madonna senior Garret Cook (220) carries a perfect 43-0 mark into the tournament. He finished third at 182 last season and is top-ranked this year.