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Point Pleasant takes big jump in class

Feb. 20, 2013 @ 12:04 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Point Pleasant's Noah Searls knew the moment was coming. Now it's here.

The Black Knights will have a shorter walk for their matches in the West Virginia State High School Wrestling Tournament this week at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Instead of being at the far end of the arena, they'll be just in front of the scoreboard for Class AAA competition.

Point Pleasant had won three straight Class AA/A state titles, but the move up a class this year signaled an end to that run.

"It was a heck of a run. Awesome," said Searls, who won the Region IV title at 138 pounds with a 9-5 win over Huntington High's Billy Waldeck. "Everybody's equal now. Our schedule's been the same. That gets us ready for state."

Searls had been ranked No. 1 at 138 in the West Virginia Coaches Association ratings most of the season, but he found himself at No. 3 going into the regional at Cabell Midland. It was their first meeting of the season between the two -- Searls missed the dual between the teams.

"Attack. That's what we preach," Searls said. "You have to be smart about it, too. Nothing crazy.

"There's a big target on your chest (when you're No. 1). The key is how you handle it. I'm nervous a bit off the mat. On it I'm ready."

Searls won the state at 132 a year ago to wrap up a 48-1 season. He's 29-4 going into the 2013 state tournament.

"I look forward to this. The key is to stay humble," Searls said.

The Black Knights, who have been as high as No. 2 in the Class AAA poll, entered the regional at No. 5. Huntington High has been No. 1 since the preseason poll.

Searls knows he could see Waldeck again at the state.

"We both learned something," he said. "We'll study the tape and be ready if it happens again."

Point Pleasant had 12 wrestlers qualify for the state tournament. The Black Knights had three champs and six runners-up in the regional.

"The main thing is to qualify," Point Pleasant coach John Bonecutter said. "We got 12. That's about what I thought we'd take."

Bonecutter said Searls is a team leader in a quiet sort of way.

"He's a great young man. The guys rally around him," Bonecutter said.

Bonecutter knows the Black Knights will face a challenge in their new environment. In addition to Huntington High, they've got to deal with Parkersburg South, Parkersburg, Ripley, Washington, etc. Parkersburg South is seeking a record fifth straight team championship.

"It's going to be tough," Bonecutter said. "There's a lot of quality and depth there. You've got to be on your 'A' game. We've got a lot of stuff to fix this week."