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Football standout hits mat

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 03:17 PM

HUNTINGTON -- One minute, Wahama High School wrestling coach Ryan Russell was mystified by what Kane Roush was doing in a match. Before you knew it, Roush turned the tide in his favor and the coach was shaking his head in disbelief.

"Sometimes you think, 'what's he doing?' " Russell said Friday after Roush won his first match at 160 pounds in the 35th WSAZ Invitational at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. "Then you just say go with it. He makes a coach look like a genius."

Roush's style has worked so far. He's unbeaten and ranked No. 1 at 160 pounds in the West Virginia High School Coaches Association rankings for Class AA/A and No. 2 seed in the tournament behind Jake Smith of George Washington.

Roush's wrestling season got off to a late start because of an extended football season. The White Falcons went 14-0 and won the West Virginia Class A state title with a 43-42 win over Madonna on Dec. 1 at Wheeling Island Stadium. Roush played tailback and racked up more than 1,500 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns and made first-team all-state.

"The best feeling ever," Roush said of being on the school's first state championship team.

After getting in the necessary practices, Roush started wrestling on Dec. 14-15 at the Jason Eades Memorial Duals in Point Pleasant. He went 7-0 to win his weight class. He won his weight class at the Jackson County Invitational two weeks ago in Ravenswood. He pinned Matthew Bradley of Liberty Raleigh in the finals. Last weekend, he went unbeaten in the Wahama Duals.

"I was a little concerned about conditioning," Roush said of early-season action on the mat. "I figure the faster I pin someone, the quicker I'm off the mat. I didn't want to get tired."

Roush said he enjoys competing in the WSAZ Invitational because he gets exposed to many styles. The tournament has teams from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky and many are in a higher classification.

"You see the best from all over," Roush said. "The variety helps. It gets you ready for state. You give it all you've got regardless of the opponent."

Roush, who started wrestling in the youth program in Mason County, finished runner-up at 152 pounds in the 2012 State Tournament. He got pinned by unbeaten Sam Whiting of Roane County in the finals.

"I'm happy I made it there," he said. "That loss gives me more drive for this year. If I could win it, it would be a highlight for the school."

Style wise, Roush considers himself a technician of sorts.

"More defensive than offensive," Roush said. "Coach doesn't like that. He wants us to take shots, take charge. He wants the guys to attack and get ahead, not wrestle from behind."

"He's been slow to get started," Russell said. "He hasn't had a lot of matches. It usually shows early in a match. He finds out what's going on and gets going."

Roush edged Huntington High's Stefan Gibbs, 1-0, in a Friday second-round match. Roush got his point in the third period.

"He was good," Roush said of Gibbs. "The first one's out of the way now."

Russell, meanwhile, had some anxious moments in the coaching chair.

"He has to have it mentally," Russell said. "He hasn't been challenged that much. When he is, the light bulb comes on. At JCI, he was down 5-0 (to Bradley) in the third period and won by pin."

Huntington High, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA in West Virginia, is the overall and Class AAA leader after the opening day. The Highlanders have 77.5 points and Greenbrier West, ranked No 2 in Class AA/A, is second overall and No. 1 in its division with 66. Shady Spring is third with 60.

Middle schools competed later Friday night.