54TH WEST VIRGINIA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING TOURNEY OPENS - Huntington Herald Dispath

(02/23/2001)

Wrestling Event Devoid Of Mystery

By DAVID WALSH - The Herald-Dispatch
dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com

HUNTINGTON -- Its that time of year again. The 54th West Virginia High School wrestling tournament begins Thursday night at the Huntington Civic Arena and coaches across the state are pondering what can be done to keep Parkersburg South and Oak Glen from repeating as champions.

Coaches Ernie Sparks of Cabell Midland, Bill Archer of Huntington High, Jack Cullen of Point Pleasant and Steve White of Nitro admit there may not be an answer to that question. Parkersburg South is their main focus since the Patriots are defending champions in Class AAA.

"Theyre disciplined, technicians and they have the desire to win," Sparks said Saturday during a break at the Region III Tournament at George Washington High School. "Put those together and theyre tough to beat. They expect to win. They dont give matches away."

Cabell Midland opened the 2000-2001 season with a dual at Parkersburg South. The Patriots blitzed the young Knights, 70-12. The South Patriots have not lost to a West Virginia team this season. They have been ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll all season long.

Outside the state, Parkersburg South placed fifth overall in the Ironman Invitational held at Walsh Jesuit in Stow, Ohio, and had its first individual champion in Casey Daggett, who went 5-0 to win the 160-pound class. The Patriots went 3-2 in the Virginia Duals held Jan. 12-13 in Hampton, Va. They lost to St. Marks, the No. 1 team in Delaware, in the quarterfinals.

In the big dual against city rival Parkersburg, the Patriots thumped the Big Reds, 55-12. Parkersburg South stormed to the Region I title last Saturday, racking up 277.5 points to 165.5 for runner-up Wheeling Park. The Patriots had eight champions, two runners-up and 14 in all qualify for the state.

Since 1988, Parkersburg South has won the Class AAA title seven times and Parkersburg five. North Marion of Region II interrupted the run in 1998. Oak Glen has prevailed in Class AA-A four straight years since dropping down to that class.

Success such as this, Archer said, begins at a young age.

"They have the best feeder program and the best support from the community in the state," said Archer, whose Highlanders rallied to win the Region III title. "Oak Glens the same way. Wrestling to them is that important."

Both schools see wrestlers start in youth programs. Future Patriots further their skills in middle school either at Blennerhassett or Edison. Blennerhassett has won the junior high title the past two years in the WSAZ Invitational in Huntington.

"Youth programs and tradition," Cullen said. "You have dads and granddads who say when I was your age I did this. We have a youth program, but its not as established. We battle hard to keep our head above water."

"You have a junior program with 200 to 400 kids, thats quite a start," Sparks said. "Theres some attrition. Those that survive are tough. Thats their sport."

Cabell Midland and Nitro tied for most regional champions with five each. Huntington High had four. Two of Nitros wrestlers, Chris Johnson at 125 and Robbie Ripley at 140, are unbeaten. At 103, Jacob Frerichs has one loss and Matt Easter at 112 has two.

White said the days of schools fearing Region I wrestlers are over, but passing Parkersburg South is another issue.

"They have a great feeder program," White said. "They have depth. Theyll bring 14 and get lots of placers.

"Weve beaten some good kids. We have some good kids in Region III, but two, three and four we dont have. Were not afraid of Region I anymore. It used to be bad."


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