West Virginia wrestlers prep for upcoming state tourney
WHEELING — Seventy-six Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestlers will be going for gold when the 73rd-annual West Virginia state wrestling tournament begins Thursday night inside Big Sandy Super Store Arena in Huntington.
The three-day event starts at 6:30 p.m. with first-round matches in Class A-AA and Class AAA. It continues through Saturday night’s championship finals, which get underway at 6 p.m.
Forty-two of the matmen are from upper Ohio Valley schools (Brooke, Cameron, John Marshall, Magnolia, Oak Glen, Weir, Weirton Madonna and Wheeling Park), with the remaining 34 from Morgantown, Parkersburg South and University.
Locally, the Ohio County Patriots lead the way with a dozen qualifiers from Region I where they claimed the team title with 248 points.
Eight Wheeling Park grapplers stood atop the podium as champions. They were freshman Quinton Velas (106), sophomore Cody Taggart (113), sophomore Nate Shelek (120), senior Andrew Shelek (138), junior Stevie Mitchell (145), senior Canon Welker (160), freshman Erick Brothers (182) and junior Charlie Tamburin (220).
Of those eight, Nate Shelek is a returning state champion at 113. He is currently ranked No. 1 and has compiled a 27-7 record. Four other Patriots reached the podium last year, including OVAC champion Andrew Shelek (32-7) who was a runnerup at 145 and is seeking his third trip to the finals; Mitchell (37-8) who was third at 138; and Taggart (34-7), Gooch (34-12) and Welker (26-7) who all finished fifth at 106, 152 and 132, respectively. Velas is 30-9.
Also qualifying for Wheeling Park were freshman Bradyn Lucas (126), freshman Adam Angel (170) and senior Garret Parsons (195).
“This season we wrestled an extremely difficult schedule to prepare us for this weekend. Everything is coming together for us in the postseason as we are primed to peak in Huntington,” second-year Wheeling Park head coach Brian Leggett, the reigning Class AAA Coach of the Year, said. “We were able to qualify 12 wrestlers for the state tournament and came away with eight regional champs.
“This is a great group of kids who have all bought into a system of investment. 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 ready to make a name for themselves,” he added.
“At this point in the season we have done all the work and now we are focusing on being mentally prepared. Every one of our wrestlers is capable of placing this weekend,” Leggett stressed. “Our coaching staff could not be more excited to watch our guys perform. I have been telling them all week that they don’t have to do anything special this weekend, just go out there and perform like you know how, let it all hang out, and the results will take care of themselves.”
The Monarchs have seven qualifiers for first-year head coach Ryan Asbury, who won a state title while competing at Oak Glen in 2008.
They are paced by seniors Ethan Gray (120) who is 32-9 and Dakoyta Thatcher (138) who is 34-8. Both were Region I runnerups.
Four sophomores will make the trip south. They include Carl Cochran (113) who is 29-5; Gabe Carman (132) who is 35-9; Ben McCardle (145) who is 21-20 and Kaden Shriner (160) who is 20-22.
The other JM representative is freshman Ethan Cook (106) who is 33-12.
Cochran took third last year at 106 and Carman was fifth at 113. Thatcher was a state qualifier.
The Bruins have four qualifiers in freshman Xzander Eltringham (106) and seniors Daniel Yost (113), Max Camilletti (170) and Austin Williams (220).
Camilletti will be making his fourth trip to state. This will be Yost’s third.
The Wood County Patriots, who have made the state tournament their own little playground for the past half-decade, qualified all 14 of their individuals. They are led by two-time state champion and, pound-for-pound, the best wrestler in the nation in Braxton Amos (220). The senior has committed to the University of Wisconsin. He did not compete as a freshman due to a knee injury. South also has defending state champs in junior Brayden Johnson (132), junior Gavin Quiocho (138) and senior Brayden Roberts (152).
The city of Morgantown will be well-represented as 11 Mohigans and nine Hawks are headed to Huntington.
The Golden Bears made some noise by winning the Region I Tournament at Fairmont by a narrow margin over East Fairmont. They had three regional titlists in seniors Jonathan Creese (145) and Peyton Hall (152); and junior Kyler O’Connor (182).
The nationally ranked Hall, a West Virginia University recruit, is seeking his fourth state title. He has won at 120, 132 and 138. He is 45-2 and set the school record for most wins earlier this season.
“I’ve never met an athlete before Peyton that has put as much time and effort into their sport like he has,” Oak Glen head coach Patrick McGillian praised. “He controls every aspect of his matches and seems to be several moves ahead of his opponents. All the great things he that he has achieved were earned. He has an incredible work ethic.”
This will be Creese’s third trip to state. He finished third at 145 last year. He is 30-11. K. O’Connor checks in at 33-7.
Other Golden Bear qualifiers are senior Camden Barr (106); junior Clayton Lamb (120); junior Kaden Lundy (126); sophomore Camden O’Connor (138); and senior Caiden Adams (195). Lamb was a regional runnerup. Barr, 32-15, is a four-time state qualifier and Lamb, 26-13, a two-timer. Lundy is 30-17; C. O’Connor 28-20; and Adams 23-16.
The Dragons are led by sophomore Ian Bush (170) who is a sparkling 42-2 and an OVAC champion in only his second season of competition. He is a two-time Region I champion and, according to head coach Tim Jones, is a favorite to win a state title this weekend.
“No one works harder in season and out of season,” Jones said of Bush.
Also headed to Huntington are junior Deacan Carmichael (182) and freshman Payton Neely (126). Carmichael is 24-18 while Neely, a former OVC and W.Va. Junior High state titlist, is 20-8.
The Blue Eagles have three representatives in seniors Mikey Hamrick (285) and James Stillwagoner (195), along with junior Jason Beisel (138).
Hamrick, a three-time state qualifier, placed fourth last year and is currently 28-7. He is fourth on Magnolia’s all-time wins list with 106.
Stillwagoner is a two-time state qualifier. His record stands at 33-4.
Beisel is 32-5 and was the champion at the W.Va. Class A Challenge.
The Red Riders have a three-wrestler contingent headed southward as senior Wyatt Conley (132) returns for a second straight season. He is 23-9 after finishing second in the Region I Tournament. He also has 106 career victories.
Junior Jordan Brueck (285) is also back for his second time. However, he missed all of last season due to an injury after placing fifth in 2018 as an alternate. He is 27-8 this season. He was a regional runnerup.
Junior Logan Walters (182) has had, according to head coach Tom Taylor, a “break-out” season. He is 26-11.
The Blue Dons’ Evan Daniels (170) is 33-12 after placing third in the regional.
“Evan has worked very hard this year. He has set goals and has been accomplishing them,” Madonna head coach Jamie Lesho said. “He works hard every day in the wrestling room improving on his losses and wanting to get better every week.
“I could not ask anymore out of this young man.”
Madonna was the 2018 Class A state champion. Lesho was the Class A Coach of the Year that season.