Huntington's Toney Kitts (left) won twice Friday at 285 pounds, including this 5-2 win over GW's Jack Skidmore.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - George Washington senior Jake Smith is right on track and so too are a couple other Kanawha Valley wrestlers after victories Friday at the 66th annual state high school wrestling tournament at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.Only three grapplers from the Kanawha Valley advanced to tonight's championship finals - Smith (160), Winfield's Bryce Humphreys (126) in Class AAA and Herbert Hoover's Zane Weese (220) in AA-A - with several still vying for place-winner finishes.Huntington, though, put itself in position to capture its first team championship after getting so close the past few years. The Highlanders, No. 1 in this week's final state coaches association-wvmat.com poll, held a 16-point lead over Parkersburg (1521/2-1361/2), which has won 21 state titles but none since back-to-back crowns in 2007-08. Ripley was third with 1151/2 followed by four-time AAA defending champion Parkersburg South (102) and Washington (881/2).Point Pleasant, which won the last three AA-A state championships before moving up a class, checked in seventh with 76 points. Winfield is eying a top-10 finish, sitting at No. 10 with 53 points.
In AA-A, No. 1 Greenbrier West takes a 20-point lead into the final day over Independence (1151/2-951/2). East Fairmont was third with 941/2 points followed by Wirt County (74) and North Marion (73).GW's Smith, who was a state titlist at 145 last year, opened Friday's quarterfinals with a 10-0 major decision over Musselman's Danny Arndt then had to work for a 3-1 decision against Parkersburg South's Briar Shively in the semifinals."I'm kind of star-struck that I get to wrestle again in the finals,'' said Smith, who has signed with Cleveland State. "It's a pretty amazing feeling. I'm psyched."We'll see what happens. I'm pretty confident in my training. To go out on top would be phenomenal. That was my goal and I'm not going to quit until I achieve it.''Humphreys took out GW's Jensen Lorea in the semis with a 6-4 decision. Lorea dropped into the consolation round, but still has a chance to finish as high as third or as low as sixth. Hoover's Weese advanced to the finals with a pin of Ritchie County's Josh Hart in the quarters then eked out a 1-0 decision over Bluefield's Julius Thomas in the semis.Huntington has four in the AAA finals, which start at 6 p.m. - Logan Grass (106-pound weight class), Jordan Allen (113), Johnathan Spence (120) and Justin Arthur (145) - while Parkersburg moved four - Trapper Hays (132), Skyler Terrell (138), Jared Haught (182) and Tyler Riddle (220) - into the championship round. The two teams, though, have no matches against each other.Consolation rounds start at 10:45 a.m."I think the kids wrestled really well in a big bonus-point round,'' said Huntington coach Rob Archer, who was recently named winner of the National Federation Coaches Association active award."This is where you either make or break and they did a good job. They weren't nervous and were just aggressive and fighting. They were just calm and did their job. It was fun to watch.''Archer said the work is far from over moving into today.
"We call Saturday morning the money round,'' said the Huntington coach, who has guided the Highlanders to third last year, second in 2011 and third in 2010. "It's a grind now. Kids are coming through and don't want to wrestle. They're mad where they are and they're kind of sore. It's just going to be guts.''Greenbrier West advanced four into the AA-A finals - Dustin Yoakum (132), Malik Boatwright (152), Marquise Frazier (160) and Tyler Parker (170) - while Independence has just two in Colton Ward (132) and Chris Clark (138). There is one head-to-head meeting pitting Ward and Yoakum at 132.Also falling to the consolations from the Kanawha Valley were GW's Sam Moore (106), who fought back with two victories after falling in Friday's quarters, Winfield's Isaac Reed (145), who fell in the semis, and Zach Richardson (182), who won thrice after losing in Thursday's opening round, and Nitro's David Smith (285), who lost 4-1 in the semifinals.In AA-A, Buffalo's Ryan White (220) was still alive in the consolations, winning twice after losing in the quarters, and Hoover's Richard Woods (285) also won three times to remain in the hunt.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.