Herbert Hoover's Josh Mack pinned Poca's A.J. Ford in their 160-pound match.
POCA - It seems that Herbert Hoover's Josh Mack feels right at home in his new weight class.
The senior earned three more victories, including one over a top-ranked adversary, in the 160-pound weight class in Tuesday's Cardinal Conference championships at Poca High School, a tune-up for next weekend's regionals.
Mack secured two pins and a major decision, which was a 15-3 win over third-ranked Zach Nibert of Point Pleasant. Results for the four-team round-robin format were not available at presstime.
Mack now owns a 39-2 record and came into the Cardinal championships ranked No. 1 in the AA-A 160-pound weight class by wvmat.com. As his prep wrestling career winds down in the next few weeks, culminating with the state tournament Feb. 23-25, Mack's thoughts are turning to a state title.
"To me it's real important,'' said Mack of taking home a championship. "My partner last year [Pat Nary] ended up winning the state tournament and I'd like to follow and get my own title. I've worked a long time. I think the year's gone great. It's been a fun season.''
Mack just missed a state title last year in the 152-pound class, losing by a major decision in the state finals and settling for a runner-up finish and a 46-7 record. He decided to move up to 160 this year so he wouldn't have to worry so much about making weight and the decision has paid off.
"I wanted to still be strong,'' Mack said. "I didn't want to lose my strength. It's a good weight class for me. Some kids are harder to pin and I had to get in really good condition.''
"I don't think he's cutting as much weight this year,'' added Hoover coach Heath Perry. "I think he's more comfortable at 160 than he was at 152. As far as his wrestling goes, I just think being a year older and a year more experienced and he did a lot of offseason wrestling.''
Perry said Mack traveled around the state and region this past spring and summer seeking top competition.
"He wrestled in several open tournaments,'' said the Huskies coach. "He drove to Greenbrier County, Independence, he won a national qualifying tournament in Morgantown and then he went to Pennsylvania and was runner-up. He wrestled at least 15 or 16 matches.''
Perry said Mack's quickness is what sets him apart from the other top-ranked grapplers.
"He is fast,'' Perry said. "He is so quick. He's strong also, but his speed is just ... he's the quickest kid I've seen. He's got a good chance [of winning a state championship].
"He's going to have to go out and wrestle hard. Nobody is going to lie down. He's going to earn it. He's just a good kid. We love him to death. He's a hard worker and I'm glad to be his coach.''
Mack has been encouraged by his results.
"I've wrestled some tough kids and kids who have beaten me in the past and I beat them this year,'' he said.
"I lost to [Tyler Parker of Greenbrier West] early in the season and I've beaten him since then. Those are all good signs. I think I work pretty hard. I have high expectations for myself, and in order to reach those you have to work for it.''
Mack has been one of the bright spots this season for an inexperienced Huskies squad. Sophomore Zane Weese, No. 5 at 195, is the only Hoover wrestler to earn a ranking.
"We're young, which I knew going into the season,'' said Perry, who guided Hoover to an eighth-place finish at last year's AA-A state tournament. "I knew after our first match we were going to be in trouble.
"You get the middle of your lineup and it's all freshmen, you're going to have a tough year. We're coming. They're freshmen this year and they'll be sophomores next year. I have two kids that are doing pretty well and maybe two others that'll go [to the state tournament], but I don't see us getting anywhere near the top 10.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org