Highlanders set to defend
HUNTINGTON -- When a school wins its first state championship, the time will come for that school to defend said title for the first time.
That moment has arrived for Huntington High's wrestling team.
The Highlanders ended Parkersburg South's four-year run as Class AAA champion in 2013 and now try to start a streak of their own when the 67th West Virginia High School Championships begin Thursday at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
"We don't want it to be a one and done deal," Huntington High coach Rob Archer said. "We didn't build the program that way."
Parkersburg and Parkersburg South have a good bit of experience at defending state wrestling titles. Parkersburg has won the trophy 21 times and Parkersburg South has taken the trophy home 18 times.
Archer knows those two schools weren't happy the championship trophy stayed in the River City for the first time in tournament history. The Highlanders topped the field with 200 points. Parkersburg was second with 160.5 and Parkersburg South third with 138 and no wrestlers in the championship round.
"They were mad," Archer said. "We have to do it twice to prove it wasn't a fluke. We're being chased now. We have to keep the kids hungry. We've won one, but we can't be satisfied."
Huntington High won the Region IV title on Saturday to extend its streak to five years. Parkersburg South won Region I, Musselman and Washington tied for first in Region II and George Washington won Region III.
"We missed some little details," Archer said, referring to the Highlanders seeing tournament action just once in a month. "We've got to set the world on fire this week. Anything less won't be enough."
On the individual side, Huntington High's Logan Grass (23-5) is seeking his second title at 106 pounds and Jordan Allen (21-4) is going for his third title, this time at 120. Both are juniors. Grass comes in nationally ranked as well.
"They've got bigger targets on their backs," Archer said.
"I'll go in and give the same effort I do every match," Grass said. "We were a little rusty at regional. We're glad to get the rust off. We know we can't to that again."
If Allen goes the distance, he'll be the third three-time champion in school history. The other two were Justin Riggs and Justin Arthur.
"The regional shows we have some improvements to make," Allen said. "We know we can clear the hurdle again. The goal is to be consistent."
Huntington High got a big contribution in the regional from freshman Ryan Mills at 195. He got a late wrestling start because the football team made it to the Class AAA championship game. Mills, who went unbeaten in eighth grade at Beverly Hills, saw his first action Dec. 7 against Parkersburg. He had the edge on Max Chefran of the Big Reds when he made a tactical error and Chefran scored a pin.
"There's a big difference," Mills said of going from middle school to high school. "These guys are a lot stronger. Here everybody is good. You can't overpower anyone. Against Parkersburg, I wasn't in shape yet, tried a move I shouldn't have and paid for it. I've got some things to work on and my conditioning has to be the best it's ever been."
Senior Nigale Cabell finished third at 220 for the Highlanders a year ago. After his return from football, he started at heavyweight and stayed there all season. He's at 250 right now. In the past he'd dropped back to 220.
"The guys are stronger," Cabell said of moving up in weight. "They get tired easier, too. You've got to be in shape."
Cabell said repeating as state champion would be the best way to end his career and make a statement as well.
"We want people to worry about us," he said.
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