Team titles still up for grabs as University, Point Pleasant and Wheeling Central enter final day with lead

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The standings tightened up Friday night after the fourth round in the WVSSAC State High School Wrestling Tournament at Marshall Health Network Arena.

University moved into the lead in Class AAA with 159.5 points and defending champion Parkersburg South second with 148. Beckley is third with 132.

“Still a lot of wrestling to do,” University coach Ken Maisel said. “We had a better night.”

Eleven of the Hawks’ 12 wrestlers will score. Three are in the finals. They are Pepper Martin at 106, Luca Felix at 165 and unbeaten Brock Kehler at 285.

Maisel knows Parkersburg South and Beckley will be in hot pursuit Saturday. The finals start at 6 p.m. Consolation matches begin at 10:30 a.m.

Girls also take the mat for the first time in this setting Saturday morning. They’ll do all rounds to determine finalists. Starting weights at 106 for boys and 100 for girls.

“Beckley’s got a great team,” Maisel said. “We’ve got to go out and do it.”

Parkersburg South has three in the finals and Beckley has four. Patriots going for titles are Nathan Murphy at 144, Gage Wright at 175 and Ayden Morris at 215. Eagles in the running are Garrett Johnson at 113, Tyler Roark at 132, Jimmie Bailes at 138 and Vance Neal at 157.

Point Pleasant leads Class AA with 166 points and defending champion Fairmont Senior follows closely with 158. The Big Blacks have nine wrestlers who’ll score and five in the finals. They are Carter Price at 113, Nathan Wood at 126, Gunner Andrick at 138, Josh Woyan at 165 and Kolton Weaver at 285. Fairmont Senior has six wrestlers going for titles. They are Bryce Nichols at 106, Jason Walker at 126, Maximus Fortier at 144, Hunter Spurlock at 150 and Gavin Michael at 175.

“One more day,” Point Pleasant coach John Bonecutter said.

In Class A, Wheeling Central moved to the top with 84.5 points. Ravenswood is second with 53. Wheeling Central has four finalists. They are Braxton Burch at 120, Eli Tedrow at 157, Wyatt Brady at 165 and Isaac Martin at 215.

Saturday morning features consolation matches and the girls stepping onto the mats for the first time in this setting. They will wrestle all their matches during the day to set up the finals that night. Action will start at 106 for boys and 100 for girls.

Three Class AAA finalists have personal connections to the finals.

Huntington High’s Joe Riggs won twice at 144 to get his first shot at a state title.

Riggs, a senior, beat Collin Schaffner of Martinsburg in the morning quarterfinals, then ousted Troy Harris of Beckley in the semifinal round at Marshall Health Network Arena. He beat Harris, 5-0.

“Stayed in control and rode him out good,” Riggs said.

Riggs got beat in overtime in the semifinal round a year ago.

“No way we’re going to overtime again,” Highlanders coach John Dempsey said. “He came out shooting and got it done.”

Riggs will see a familiar face in the championship round in Murphy He beat Murphy in the Region 4 Tournament.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Riggs said. “You don’t overlook anyone. I’ve done all the work to prepare. Just got to go out and do it.”

Another feel good story belongs to George Washington’s Benjamin McComas at 126. He defeated Huntington’s Ben Barrett in the semifinals.

What makes his story moving is McComas won his semifinal match last year, passed out after it and had to default in the finals.

“I was nervous,” McComas said. “It means a lot to get to the finals and be able to compete.  I got off to a good start, he chipped away and I was able to get a takedown at the end.”

“He’s motivated,” GW coach Alex Neal said. “He’s put in all the work. You don’t forget what happened last year.”

Moses Eads of St. Albans is back in the finals at 150. He’ll face Landon Herndon of Spring Mills. He’s going for another state title. He won his freshman year, but came up short the next two.

“Two solid matches,” Eads said. “I’m motivated. Got to leave in a good way.”

The Red Dragons saw Matt McAfee get beat by Jacob Perry of Spring Mills, 3-1.

Cabell Midland’s finalist is Robert Shockey at 190. He beat Wheeling Park’s Malaki Washington in the semifinals to get a fourth chance at a state title.

“Not a clean match for sure,” said Shockey, a transfer from Parkersburg South. “Not proud of how I wrestled especially now. But I won and that’s what matters.”

Shockey got some motivation when he got pinned by a Staunton River (Va.) wrestler in the finals at the WSAZ Invitational.

“I knew he was good,” Shockey said. “That Monday I had the worst practice of my life.”

Until this year, Shockey had been part of championship teams at Parkersburg South. The Patriots are in the hunt again to repeat. He lost in the finals the past three years.

“That would’ve been a dream scenario,” Shockey said. “This is my last chance.”

Hurricane’s Saige Walls at 157 and Owen Duffy at 285 lost in the semifinals.

In Class AA-A, Nichols beat Sissonville’s Devin Fowler at 106. Fowler’s teammate, Austin High, lost to Hunter Spitznogle of Fairmont Senior at 150. And Woyan defeated Herbert Hoover’s Jake Eden at 165.

Huntington’s Garrett Arthur bowed out at 138.

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