Highlanders set table for state
ONA -- For the Huntington High wrestling team, the effort Saturday was much different than the last time the Highlanders competed on the Cabell Midland mats.
The Highlanders beat the Knights in their annual dual, 43-28, back on Jan. 9. Huntington High coach Rob Archer took exception to his team's performance and practice became a bit more demanding.
Saturday, Huntington High put on the kind of effort that's made the Highlanders No. 1 in the West Virginia Class AAA rankings since preseason. They had 11 wrestlers reach the finals, seven won, 14 placed overall and they piled up 274.50 points to win the Region IV championship for a fourth straight year.
"Yes," Archer said when asked if his team had made strides since the dual with the Knights. "We wrestled well. The intensity was there."
"Ten times better," said Huntington's Cody Shepherd. "He sent a message after that night."
Point Pleasant finished runner-up with 228 points in its return to Class AAA. The Black Knights had won three straight Class AA/A state titles, but that run ended when they moved up in class. Point Pleasant had three regional champs and 12 state qualifiers.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the West Virginia High School Tournament scheduled Thursday through Saturday at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Parkersburg South, No. 2 in the latest Class AAA poll, will be seeking a record fifth straight championship.
With Point Pleasant gone, the Class AA/A race is wide open. Greenbrier West, Wirt County, Independence and Clay County should be among the contenders. East Fairmont, Fairmont Senior and North Marion have dropped to Class AA/A, so that should make for an interesting three days. North Marion won the Region 1 title Saturday, East Fairmont placed second and Fairmont Senior third.
In addition to Shepherd, Huntington's other champs were Logan Grass (106), Jordan Allen (113), Johnathan Spence (120), Justin Arthur (145), Paden Christian (152) and Nigale Cabell (220).
In the finals, Huntington and Point Pleasant had six matchups and the Highlanders went 5-1. Noah Searls (138) got the lone win for the Black Knights, who had a more complete lineup this time than the one they sent out in the dual against the Highlanders on Jan. 24. Huntington won.
"A big step for us," Spence said.
In addition to Searls, Point Pleasant's champs were Brycen Reymond (182) and Jacob Starcher (190).
Cabell Midland had one champ and nine state qualifiers. Senior Nick Boone (170) beat Reno Hill of Point Pleasant, 2-0, in overtime. Boone finished state runner-up last year at 160.
Winfield's two champs were Bryce Humphreys (126) and Jimmy Clark (160).
Nitro heavyweight David Smith won the other regional title.