CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a year of firsts for Winfield's athletic program, this is a pretty big step.The Generals will compete in their first Mountain State Athletic Conference wrestling tournament Saturday at Parkersburg High School, knocking heads with what should be a powerful field."Kind of anxious and exciting and a little bit nervous,'' said Winfield coach Mike Cochran, "because there's a lot of good competition up there, some really good wrestlers. We've got some good guys, too, but this is a good chance to measure where we stand with all those elite guys.''Two of the state's top three Class AAA teams head the field for the MSAC meet - No. 1 Huntington and No. 3 Ripley. Winfield and Cabell Midland have also been ranked this season, while George Washington and Parkersburg also sport some of best individual talent in West Virginia. The Highlanders are the defending conference champions.Cochran said the MSAC meet allows coaches like himself to formulate a game plan for the regional meets, which are set for the weekend of Feb. 15-16 around the state."That's exactly it,'' Cochran said. "We've wrestled the Huntington guys twice for the most part, but we've not wrestled Ripley or Parkersburg and they'll be there, and those are two very tough teams. It's a good chance to see where we fit in the mix. Parkersburg and Ripley aren't in our region, but it's a good measuring stick for us.''GW coach Richard Harper pointed out that some of the weight classes in the MSACs tell wrestlers a lot about their postseason chances.His 126-pounder, Jensen Lorea, is ranked No. 7 by the West Virginia Wrestling Coaches Association/wvmat.com, and three of the athletes ahead of him in the rankings should also be participating in Parkersburg - No. 2 Lucas Simpkins (Ripley), No. 4 Bryce Humphreys (Winfield) and No. 5 Chase Childers (Huntington).
"We've got a good kid there,'' Harper said, "but so do a lot of other teams. We can see where we're at and get ready for the regionals."The MSAC's a tough tournament. It's stiff competition - one of the toughest conferences out there. Hopefully all the teams will show up and bring everybody. At this point in time, a lot of kids can get hurt or sick. Sometimes you don't get to see everybody you'd like to because of that reason.''Half of the state's top-ranked wrestlers in the AAA weight classes are scheduled to compete - Huntington's Logan Grass (106), Jordan Allen (113) and Justin Arthur (145), GW's Jake Smith (160), Midland's Nick Boone (170), Parkersburg's Jared Haught (182) and Ripley's Daryl Hicks (heavyweight).Harper looks forward to wrestling against some teams the Patriots haven't seen much of this season, like Ripley and Woodrow Wilson - teams that are now in Region 3 with GW following some realignment within the state's four regions."We'll see how we line up with those guys,'' Harper said. "People are starting to find out that since the realignment, all four regions now have balanced themselves out pretty good. Shady Spring and Ripley are in Region 3 with us, and GW and Woodrow have been right on the outskirts of the top 10.''GW, which has placed fourth in the last two MSAC meets, was idle last weekend, missing out on the chance to compete in the West Virginia Duals in Parkersburg because classes at Kanawha County schools were let out early last Friday because of snow."We had to make a positive out of a negative,'' Harper said. "We got a break and we got some rest. Maybe we'll be little hungrier because we didn't wrestle.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.