HUNTINGTON — About the only drama to be decided during Saturday night’s championship finals at the state wrestling tournament was the battle for individual titles.
And in that venture, the Kanawha Valley’s four combatants went 3-1 on Saturday night as the tournament wrapped up at Big Sandy Superstore Arena In Huntington.
With bouts starting in the 138-pound weight class, Winfield’s Jamie Ward registered the first title for the Valley at 152 pounds in Class AA-A in a 5-3 decision over Braxton County’s Gavin Triplett. St. Albans’ Isaiha Casto took down Jalen King of Parkersburg 12-5 at 170 pounds in Class AAA just two classes after Ward’s triumph. Finally, in the night’s next-to-last weight class, the Red Dragons’ Brandon Holt closed out his prep career with a 10-4 win over Washington’s Hunter Locke at 126 pounds in AAA.
“I was not going to lose the last match of my high school career, it wasn’t an option,” Holt said.
All seniors, it was the third title for Holt and the second title for Ward. Holt became just the fifth Kanawha Valley grappler to win three championships in the process.
But it was the first for Casto, who finished fifth as a junior, and while the other two had tasted championship glory before, it was something brand new for the Red Dragons’ 170-pounder.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this and there was nobody that was going to stop me about it,” Casto said. “I won my last match of my high school career and I’m really excited that it went that way.”
Riverside’s Austin Chapman lost a narrow 2-1 decision to Parkersburg South’s Loudon Haga in a heavyweight bout. Haga was awarded the tie-breaking point in the third period on a fleeing call against Chapman.
Team races were pretty well decided before the finals held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
South marched to a fifth straight Class AAA championship, scoring 248 points to blow past second-place Wheeling Park (175) and third-place Huntington (154).
While South won a fifth straight, Point Pleasant put a stop to Independence’s run of Class AA crowns at five by piling up 203 points. Independence was in second, but miles behind with 120 points. East Fairmont was in third with 1101/2 points.
Greenbrier West seized control of the Class A race early and was still well clear of the field with 95 points to outdistance second-place Wirt County (74) and third-place Madonna (501/2).
Titles for Casto and Holt gave St. Albans a last shot of momentum with the Red Dragons finishing sixth in Class AAA with 98 points.
Along the way, St. Albans put four wrestlers on the podium (first-through-sixth-place finishes), tied with the most of any Valley school with Herbert Hoover.
“We’ll take two state champs all day long,” St. Albans coach Darren Gilfilen said. “All of our seniors placed, we’ll take it all day.
“Isaiha has worked since he was six and for him to come out here tonight — he’d have had to have broke his neck before he lost this matched. Brandon too. He hasn’t lost in this building in three years. [The seniors] were around when the kids were coming up so everybody that’s coming in, they’re seeing what they have to step up to.”
Saturday night’s events didn’t much matter to Hoover as the Huskies were done scoring during Saturday’s early session of two consolation rounds.
Hoover didn’t place anyone in the finals, but did register the highest Class AA finish among Kanawha Valley schools, scoring 56 points in finishing eighth.
With just one senior and one junior among nine qualified wrestlers, Hoover coach Richard Harper viewed the entire tournament as a learning experience.
“We got on a roll there in the blood round and got four out of five in,” Harper said. “Being young and the kids that got in wrestled about as good as they could wrestle and I couldn’t be happier.
“I had a senior and he was in a blood round and he won that match and I felt like he just won a state title. Zach Spencer is my only senior, he’s been here four years, he’s done everything right and to get here his senior year and get on the podium, that’s what it’s all about. For the future, that’s what I look at it as — we’re setting the tone. I’m already excited about getting things started for next year.”
A total of 15 Kanawha Valley wrestlers earned podium finishes over the weekend.
Outside of the four in Saturday’s championship matches, the Kanawha Valley earned a pair of third places in Izak Petry of Riverside (145) and Noah Bailey of St. Albans (152). The Red Dragons’ Austin Adkins added a fourth-place finish at 145 pounds in Class AAA while Herbert Hoover’s Tyler Teel (120) and Ben Kee (170) as well as Winfield’s J.D. McCallister (195) also finished fourth in their respective weight classes in Class AA-A.
Riverside’s Josh Slack (106) and George Washington’s Hayden Stone (160) finished sixth in Class AAA classes with Hoover’s Mason Atkinson (195) and Spencer (220) as well as Nitro’s Will Frampton (285) finishing sixth in Class AA-A.
Parkersburg South’s Braxton Amos (220) and John Marshall’s Anthony Carman split Class AAA’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award. Fairmont Senior heavyweight Zack Frazier took home the honor in Class AA with Madonna’s Garrett Cook (220) winning the Class A award.
The Class AAA Coach of the Year award went to Brian Leggett of Wheeling Park, with Point Pleasant’s John Bonecutter winning the Class AA award and Jeremy Tincher of Greenbrier West taking home the Class A honor.
The Register-Herald’s Gary Fauber took home media person of the year honors.