Highlanders tied for first
HUNTINGTON -- Historic or more of the same.
Right now it's still up in the air after the first round of the 66th West Virginia High School Wrestling Tournament at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Huntington High, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA all season in the West Virginia Coaches Association poll and seeking its first state title in school history, had a 9-5 round Thursday night to total 34 points and share first place with Parkersburg. The Big Reds won nine matches, seven by pin.
Parkersburg South, which came into the tournament ranked No. 2, won nine of 12 matches and finished with 33 points to hold down third. The Patriots are seeking a record fifth straight Class AAA state title.
Parkersburg, ranked No. 3 in the final poll, has won 21 state championships. Rival Parkersburg South has 18.
"Solid overall," Huntington coach Rob Archer said. "There'll be back and forth, ups and downs. You've got to realize it's one round at a time. You have to get the guy who you've got. Names don't matter."
For Huntington, the night ended in disappointment when Brooke's Preston Wise rallied to defeat Toney Kitts, 10-8, in overtime. Parkersburg South and Parkersburg wrestlers stayed around to watch the conclusion and it's obvious who they were rooting for.
"That's the way it goes," Archer said. "You get used to it."
"I love it," said Justin Arthur, senior for the Highlanders who won by pin at 145 and is seeking a third state title. "They try to get on us. It goes both ways. It's fun. It fuels the fire. Hey it (state title) is still theirs (Parkersburg South)."
In Class AA/A, Wirt County leads with 28 points. Independence and Clay share second with 24.5 and North Marion and Greenbrier West are deadlocked for fourth with 24 points apiece.
The tournament continues Friday with two sessions. Times are 11:30 a.m. for quarterfinals and the start of consolations. The second is 7:30 p.m. for semifinals. On Saturday, times are 10:45 a.m. for consolations through placements and 6 p.m. for the championship round.
Parkersburg coach Chris Way said his team arrived focused.
"I told the kids take care of individual matches and the team thing will take care of itself," he said. "Huntington ... you could see the kids come through the youth programs. You knew they were going to have a strong program. I'm not surprised."
Donna Dixon is in her first year as Parkersburg South coach. On Feb. 7, the Highlanders beat the Patriots in a dual, 37-24, at Huntington High. She knew her team would return with added incentive.
"More fire in the belly," she said after night one ended. "We had a nice meeting before we left. When kids walked by, they acknowledged no one. They know is is it."
Having as many as six teams in the mix for the team title is OK with Dixon.
"It makes it more fun," she said. "You can't count anybody out."
Nick Boone, Cabell Midland senior and Region IV champion, won his first match by pin.
In Class AA/A, Greenbrier West came to town ranked No. 1 in the final coaches poll. Cavaliers coach Jeremy Tincher downplayed that big school moment.
"We treat this like any other tournament," he said. "It's nice for the program. You're recognized by your peers. There's been a buzz in the community."
Class AA/A has its usual challengers in Wirt, Independence and Clay. This year, though, you have to factor in Marion County newcomers North Marion, East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior. They had been Class AAA until this season. There will be a new team champion since Point Pleasant, which had won the last three, has moved up to Class AAA.
"Everybody's good or they wouldn't be here," Tincher said. "It's tougher than it has been in a long time. It's very thick."