HUNTINGTON – Putnam County is starting to put itself on the state wrestling map.
Hurricane qualified seven wrestlers for Thursday’s state tournament at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena while Winfield brought six. The 65th annual event continues today through Saturday. (See below for individual and team results.)
Redskins seniors Kaelin Randolph (106-pound weight class), Michael Fruth (113) and Michael Klug (170) finished runner-up in the Region 4 meet and Hurricane also qualified sophomore Jeremy Francis (fourth, 138), junior Chris Rollyson (fourth, 145), junior Zach Cooper (fourth, 152) and sophomore Kadin Steadman (fourth, 182).
Klug won his opening match at the state meet Thursday, a narrow 6-5 decision.
The other Hurricane grapplers weren’t as fortunate as Randolph (1-0 decision), Fruth (pin), Francis (19-6 major decision), Rollyson (pin), Cooper (15-0 technical fall) and Steadman (pin) all lost.
Winfield freshman Bryce Humphreys (120) and junior Seth Lewis (195) turned in runner-up finishes at the regional while sophomore Chris Cochran (third, 106), junior Issac Reed (third, 132), sophomore Jimmy Clark (third, 160) and junior A.J. Covert (fourth, 220) also qualified for states.
Humphreys opened with a pin in the first minute of the second period in his match Thursday, but he was the only Generals wrestler with a victory. Cochran (10-6 decision), Reed (8-6 decision), Clark (pin), Lewis (5-3 decision) and Cover (pin) all lost.
Point Pleasant, the two-time defending state champion in AA-A, qualified wrestlers in all 14 classes and had 11 winners Thursday, earning the Big Blacks a 131/2-point lead after the first day of competition.
Point compiled 36 points and was followed by Wirt County (23/12), Greenbrier West and Clay County (221/2 each) and Independence (21).
Clay had seven winners out of 11 qualifiers, Independence was victorious in seven of 13 and Wirt had six winners out of nine.
“Some guys wrestled well and others I’m not too happy,” said third-year Point coach John Bonecutter. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to fix real quick.
“[Today’s] a big point round. The quarterfinals will go a long way in determining where we’re at. We gave points away in the matches we lost. We should have gotten pins and we let the guys hang around. You’ve got to have every point.”
Parkersburg South, the three-time defending state titlist in Class AAA, held a four-point edge over Ripley. The Patriots compiled 42 points followed by the Vikings (38), Huntington (311/2), Washington (261/2) and Wheeling Park (21).
South posted 12 victories in the 13 classes in which it had grapplers qualified while Ripley won 11 of 12 and Huntington had nine winners out of 10.
While Hurricane first-year coach Lee Cummings and fourth-year coach Mike Cochran concede their teams still have a ways to go, they each believe their teams are on the right track.
“I think the kids finally believed in themselves this past weekend,” said Cummings of last weekend’s regionals. “I’ve been their biggest fan, knowing it’s in there somewhere. That was probably our best tournament we’ve wrestled all year long. We wrestled tough when we should have and when we needed to. The guys that we qualified, out of the seven, five [of them], this is their first time.”
“Our goal was to bring seven and I thought we had a good shot at eight,” added Cochran. The six we have are good wrestlers.”
Cummings was the Hurricane Middle School coach the past five years prior to this season. He credited assistant coach Jeremy Taylor, who guided the Redskins for 10 seasons before handing it over to Cummings, with getting the program on solid footing. Hurricane sent six grapplers to states last year.
“I’m happy with where our program’s headed,” he said. “I’m a wrestling fan first and I used to coach football, but I’ve gotten totally away from that and just focused on wrestling.”
Randolph said Hurricane’s success starts with confidence.
“We’re getting better and better,” he said. “We have more coaches in the [practice] room so they watch us.
“We work harder than we normally would. They’re watching us at all times. We’ve all had one or two matches that we’ve won that has given us confidence and we believe in ourselves.”
Cummings, who competed at Roane County High School, said the wrestling tradition is starting to take hold in the community. He said the youth league has helped the high school program immensely.
“I’m hoping we’re going to keep building interest in the Hurricane area because you’re only as good as your feeder system,” said Cummings. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.
Cochran said Winfield is only scratching the surface.
“One thing that helps, we have middle-school wrestling so guys are getting exposed earlier than they used to be. When I got here there was no middle-school wrestling. The next thing we want to try and get a midget league program.
“We’ve got people who are willing to get involved, I’ve got a place to have it, I have people who want to have their kids in it we just don’t have a mat we can spare for it yet. That’s one thing we’re working on. Once kids get exposed early on that just helps it build to the higher levels later on.”
Cochran said Winfield is beginning to gain some recognition around the state.
“I think now people know we have some talent and they don’t overlook us as much as they used to,” he said. “Our goal is to start chipping away little by little.”
The Kanawha Valley had several wrestlers win their opening matches Thursday, including four from George Washington – junior Jensen Lorea (126), senior Marvin Kirk (138), senior Jake Smith (145) and senior Grant Cokeley (220). Capital junior Dylan Marker won at 132.
Herbert Hoover senior Josh Mack, ranked No. 1 in AA-A at 160, won his opening match in dominating fashion with by pin about halfway through the second period. Huskies senior Zane Weese moved into the winners bracket at 195 with a pin.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.