HUNTINGTON — Safe to say the 2017 wrestling season has been a successful one for St. Albans
In one evening the Red Dragons doubled the number of names on the program’s list of state champions, with sophomore Brandon Holt winning the Class AAA 106-pound title and freshman Caleb Haynes coming out on top at 138.
Prior to Saturday, there had been two Red Dragons to win an individual title in program history.
Haynes was tasked with getting through two wrestlers that had beaten him earlier this season in Huntington’s Will Jeffers and Parkersburg’s Jared Donahue in his semifinal and championship bouts.
Haynes got past Jeffers in Friday’s semifinal round and narrowly defeated Donahue on Saturday to claim the 138-pound state championship.
“I’ve been wrestling these kids,” Haynes said. “I trained hard and did everything I could do. I put my sweat, blood and tears out here and came out and beat them.”
The title match was stopped for blood four times. Haynes took an early 4-0 lead on points that he held until the third and final period. That’s when Donahue closed the gap, but Haynes was able to hang on for a 5-4 win against last season’s 132-pound state champion.
“That’s what he does, he beats kids,” Red Dragons coach Daren Gilfilen said. “If the right kid steps on the mat and has the right mentality, he can beat anybody. For him to come in as a freshman and dominate like that is awesome.”
Holt, who beat University sophomore Matthew Simpson in his championship match, ended his season unbeaten against West Virginia competition.
“It’s been crazy winning WSAZs and now this,” Holt said. “At the beginning of the season I talked to myself and said I was going to be a state champ, but the words didn’t have meaning to them yet. Now it means something and it feels great.”
The Red Dragons nearly had a third state champion in senior Michael Milam, who suffered his first loss of the season against a West Virginia opponent against Washington’s Cameron Pine in the 160-pound title match.
In addition to those three, the Red Dragons have three wrestlers — including Gazette-Mail Kanawha Valley Wrestler of the Year Josh Humphreys — slated to compete next month in Fairmont as part of the rescheduled 145-, 152- and 170-pound weight classes.
For other Kanawha Valley schools, Saturday’s championship round was not as kind.
Riverside senior Steven Slack lost the AAA 126 championship bout against Parkersburg South’s Luke Martin while teammate and fellow senior Brice Pomeroy saw his title hopes dashed in the final seconds of the 220-pound match against Spring Valley’s Owen Porter. Nitro’s Paul Frampton fell in the AA/A 195 bout while Sissonville’s Austin Cook could not get past Fairmont Senior freshman Zach Frazier in the AA/A 285 match.
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The Kanawha Valley, however, was well represented among the state place-winners prior to Saturday’s championship finals at the state wrestling tournament in Huntington.
In Class AAA, George Washington Jack Lorea took third at 126 pounds while Riverside’s Darrell Holstien finished third at 285.
Herbert Hoover had four among the Class AA/A place-winners. Justin Stover (fifth, 113), Chase Stover (fourth, 120), Colten Rollyson (fifth, 170) and Peyton Carey (third, 285) each made the podium for the Huskies. Winfield’s Jay Hall placed sixth at 152 and Nitro’s Vincent Devaney finished third at 160.
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Independence did what Independence does on Saturday.
Independence cruised to the Class AA team title after winning the combined AA/A team titles the previous three seasons. Two staples of those teams — seniors Jacob Hart and Noah Adams — did what they have so often done in the past for the Patriots, they won.
Hart took the 182-pound title to become a rare four-time West Virginia state champion. Adams, who was named AA’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, won his third state title, taking the 220-pound crown.
“Not a whole lot of [four-time champions],” Independence coach Cliff Warden said. “For [Hart] to start at 126 and win his last one at 182, that’s pretty impressive.”
Adams, who took third as a sophomore in addition to his three state titles, is headed to Morgantown next year to wrestle for West Virginia University.
“The more you win, the more people want to wrestle and beat you,” Adams said. “It’s been a heck of a ride and I loved every minute of it. I’ll probably take a couple of weeks off then train for the big level.”
Parkersburg South senior Justin Allman also won the fourth state title of his career Saturday, beating Wheeling Park’s Austin Loew for the AAA 195-pound championship.
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Wirt County won the first-ever Class A title, beating runner-up Magnolia. The Blue Eagles’ Caleb Nice, the AA/A 195-pound champion, was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. No team championship or individual awards were given in Class AAA. Those will be handed out after the rescheduled 145-, 152- and 170-pound weight classes wrestle next month in Fairmont.
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After more than 24 hours in limbo, the Class AAA 145-, 152- and 170-pound weight classes are back on.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission tweeted Saturday morning that the three weight classes will compete on Monday, March 13 and Tuesday, March 14 at the Fairmont Armory.
The SSAC temporarily suspended all three classes from this weekend’s state tournament in Huntington due to the threat of a herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) infection coming out of last week’s Region 4 tournament at Parkersburg South.
The championship rounds for all other weight classes were held Saturday at Huntington’s Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
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Longtime Fairmont Senior coach Mark Delligatti said he has at least one more year in him in charge of the Polar Bears.
Delligatti, the 1980 Class AAA state champion at 167 pounds, as coached 19 individual champs at Fairmont Senior entering this season.
“Maybe one more [season] after this one,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with this group. We’ve got some young kids coming up in the program and we’ve had a lot of injuries this year too, so I have some mixed emotions. Maybe one more year then we’ll see how it goes.”
Delligatti has had a familiar face in his corner this weekend — his son Vincent. The younger Delligatti is one of the Polar Bears’ 19 title winners under his father, taking the Class AA/A honors at 220 in 2014
“Vincent is a coach’s coach,” Mark Delligatti said. “When he wrestled for me he was a coach. He’s very smart on technique and very smart with the big guys. He’s really helped prepare Zach [Frazier, the Polar Bears’ 285-pounder wrestling in Saturday’s late championship round] for this.”