GW's Jake Smith (left) won the 169-pound final over Montgomery County's Gabe McIlrath.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Jake Smith and the WSAZ Invitational have quite a history.Smith, a George Washington senior, added to that Saturday night with a dominating performance in the championship finals, earning a 15-0 technical fall over Gabe McIlrath of Montgomery County (Ky.) to claim the 160-pound weight class at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.Smith won titles from the sixth grade through the ninth at the invitational before coming up empty as a sophomore and junior the past two seasons."It's definitely weird that this is my last shot at a WSAZ title,'' said Smith, who was the top-seeded grappler at 160 and the only one from the Kanawha Valley to earn a No. 1 seed.
"I remember in sixth grade coming in and it was a whole other level [at the WSAZ], a whole different ballgame. Then I went to high school and I thought, 'One day I'm not going to be wrestling anymore. I'll be up in the stands watching. I need to bust my butt and get as many titles as I can.'''Huntington, the AAA No. 1 in this week's state coaches association-wvmat.com poll, cruised to the team title with five individual champs and 2711/2 points with AA-A No. 2 Greenbrier West trailing at 1751/2. Shady Spring, No. 8 in AAA, was third with 1621/2 points followed by Johnson Central, Ky. (1531/2) and Meade County, Ky. (144). (See Page 2B for results.)George Washington and Winfield were the only teams from the Kanawha Valley to finish in the top 10. The Patriots accumulated 1201/2 points to finish eighth while the Generals had 1101/2 for No. 10.
Besides Smith, Winfield sophomore Bryce Humphreys captured his second straight individual title at 126 and Nitro's David Smith earned a 3-2 win in overtime for the 285 crown. GW's Sam Moore finished runner-up at 106.Point Pleasant, the two-time defending WSAZ champion and winner of four of the last five overall team titles, had a scheduling conflict and didn't compete this year. The Big Blacks, who moved up to AAA this year after winning three straight AA-A state titles, were instead taking part in the ASICS Top Gun tournament in Alliance, Ohio. The WSAZ features 31 high school and 50 junior high and middle school teams.Cabell Midland was barred from competing at the WSAZ because of concerns team members had been exposed to a form of herpes that manifests in a skin rash, the Huntington Herald Dispatch newspaper reported. The state health department contacted meet officials Friday, the first day of the event, and told them Midland should not be allowed to participate.Smith captured the state title last year at 145 and looks to become a rare two-time champion in a different weight class. He earned a 3-0 record with a 20-4 major decision in the championship second round, a 15-0 shellacking in the quarterfinals and a fall in the semifinals.
"I came out with good performances this weekend,'' he said. "I kind of surprise myself. I think I'm on the right track to be on top of the podium in February [at the state tournament]."I'm just working hard and trying to stay healthy. I'm hitting the weight room even harder. I'm just trying to seal the deal.'' nn
The small schools packed quite a punch at the WSAZ Invitational.Greenbrier West and Independence turned in top 10 performances. The WSAZ format puts the squeeze on the smaller schools since everyone competes in the same division for the same individual and team titles.
West's Malik Boatwright (152) and Tyler Parker (170) claimed individual championships, as did Independence's Colton Ward (132)."We've had a good weekend,'' said Greenbrier West coach Jeremy Tincher. "We've had several good weekends in a row. We've won the last three tournaments. We've been on a nice run and the kids are working hard. Things are going really well right now.''Tincher said he brought West to the WSAZ for the first time since he has been coach."For us it's been a long process [to compete at this level],'' the West coach said. "This group of kids, they've been with us in our youth program since they were all 6 and 7 years old and we're starting nine sophomores."It's been a whole community. It's been the parents, administrators, the volunteer coaches and dads. Selling cupcakes in the concession stand. It's taken about five years to get the program where we want it.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.