HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — George Washington's Jensen Lorea has one more shot and he isn't about to waste it.The senior captured his first individual championship at the 37th-annual WSAZ Invitational, defeating Independence's Colton Ward 5-4 in the 138-pound weight class Saturday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.Winfield's Bryce Humphreys and Noah Julian also brought titles to the Kanawha Valley.Humphreys earned a 4-2 decision over Williamstown's Dalton George at 132 and Julian edged out Logan Dilliner of Parkersburg South 3-2 at 2:20."I'm excited,'' said Lorea, whose best finish at the WSAZ Invitational was runner-up during his sophomore season. "I've got four weeks left in the season and I'm ready to make it count. [The title] is definitely good motivation."It gives me an idea of where I'm at and what I need to do. There's some things I need to work on before the state tournament. Every time I go out there, it's the last time. Last time at WSAZs and last time I'll be at states. Being a senior gives you a different perspective on a lot of things.''Huntington, the defending Class AAA state champion and top-ranked team in the West Virginia Coaches poll, held a comfortable lead after 12 of the 14 finals Saturday night. The Highlanders amassed 245 points with one more wrestler in a title match while Independence, No. 1 in Class AA-A, was second with 215 points. (Final results were not available at press time).Parkersburg South, second in AAA and an 18-time state title winner, was third with 204 points followed by GW (1721/2) and Greenbrier West (1621/2), the defending state champion in AA-A. Winfield finished eighth with 1301/2 points.The 32-team WSAZ Invitational, one of the biggest regular-season events, tosses the state's top AAA and AA-A grapplers into the same bracket, which doesn't happen too often during the regular season. (See Page 2D for results.)Independence's Ward, who was runner-up at 132 in last year's Class AA-A state meet, is ranked No. 1 in the state at 138.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match, but that's why you wrestle,'' said GW coach Richard Harper of Lorea's victory. "Jensen's always been tough. He's hard on top and he fights. He works hard. He had a good weekend.''Lorea, who is ranked third in AAA at 138, turned in his highest showing at the state tournament last year, finishing third at 126. He finished fifth at states two years ago.Lorea tried to move up to 132 this year before settling in at a much higher class at 138."I just couldn't make the weight at 132,'' he said. "Too much of a struggle. I'm one of the biggest guys at 138. It's not bothering me that much.'' GW turned in quite a weekend with seven grapplers placing sixth or better, including two in the finals. The Patriots were seventh in this week's state coaches poll.
"I think our kids are starting to believe in what we're doing,'' Harper said. "The state tournament is going to be interesting. Of course Huntington and [Parkersburg] South are the favorites. There's some teams out there that, if some things go their way, that will be rocking the boat a little bit.''Humphreys, who is No. 1 in AAA at 132, won the state title at 126 last year and is the lone returning defending state champ from the Kanawha Valley.Zane Weese, who was runner-up at 220 at last year's state meet and the state's top-ranked wrestler at that weight, was upset in Saturday's quarterfinals by Winfield's Noah Julian 4-1. Weese, though, battled back through the consolation semifinals to finish third.Other WSAZ individual champions included Huntington's Logan Grass (106), Jordan Allen (120) and Ryan Mills; Roane County's Cam Moore (113); Chris Beeler (126) of Meade County in Kentucky; Independence's Cody Clifton (145); University's Ryan Lopez (152); Greenbrier West's Malik Boatwright (160) and Marquis Frazier (170) and Meade County's Jonah Shacklett (182). Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org