HUNTINGTON — Friday night’s semifinals painted a clearer picture of just who would be competing for state championships on Saturday.
As a byproduct, it also brought team races into focus.
Pre-tournament favorites Parkersburg South (Class AAA) and Point Pleasant (AA) both pulled out to commanding leads with Greenbrier West holding a 15-point lead over Wirt County in Class A.
The Patriots have racked up a whopping 2121/2 points through Friday’s matches to lead Wheeling Park by 621/2. Parkersburg (1161/2), Huntington (105/2) and John Marshall (84) rounded out the top five.
St. Albans sits in seventh place after the second full day with 761/2 points, just behind Cabell Midland. The Red Dragons entered Friday night’s semis with four grapplers left in the championship bracket and will send two to title matches on Saturday: Brandon Holt at 126 pounds and Isaiah Casto at 170 pounds.
Championship dreams were halted for Noah Bailey at 152 pounds and Austin Adkins at 145, but those two can still score valuable points on Saturday as the Red Dragons try to inch their way into the top five.
Those four are all seniors and the only upperclassmen St. Albans has. Coach Darren Gilfilen said Saturday will bring a fitting sendoff.
“We’ve got four seniors and they’re all placing tomorrow,” coach Darren Gilfilen said. “They came together great today, they did.
“All four of our seniors worked hard all season and they’ve been there for each other and for them to be the leaders of our team and be the ones still in this the next day, it’s just tremendous. I’m very proud.”
Holt will look for his third state championship while Casto will chase his first. Holt cruised through his semifinal, scoring a major decision win over Tucker Winland of Parkersburg South by a score of 10-1.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Holt said. “We’ve wrestled in high school a few times. I wish that would’ve been possibly a finals match — the kid’s a monster. He’s good.”
Holt will take on Washington sophomore Hunter Locke for the 126-pound crown on Saturday. Casto, who defeated Huntington’s Clayton Stewart in a narrow 3-2 decision on Friday, will wrestle Parkersburg’s Jalen King for a title.
Riverside’s Austin Chapman is the lone other Kanawha Valley wrestler who will compete for a championship in Class AAA on Saturday. Chapman scored a 1-0 win over Ben Lambert of Hampshire on Friday night and will square off against South’s Louden Haga on Saturday.
For Chapman, it’s a chance to gain some redemption against Haga, who knocked Chapman out of the tournament a year ago in the semifinals.
“It’s revenge,” Chapman said. “He beat me 3-2 earlier in the year, last year he beat me in semis here. But to get past where I got last year, it feels great.
“Go big or go home. If I get second, I won’t be happy with it.”
In Class AA, Point Pleasant racked up 164 points to position itself 71 points ahead of Independence. East Fairmont (911/2), Oak Glen (53) and Braxton County (50) rounded out the top five.
Winfield and Herbert Hoover were knotted in a tie for ninth with 37 points at the conclusion of Friday. While consolation matches on Saturday morning will likely decide much of what happens in terms of team points, the Generals’ Jamie Ward at 152 pounds is the only Kanawha Valley grappler with a chance to win a Class AA-A state title. It would mark the second championship for Ward after winning the 145-pound division a year ago.
For Hoover, the week has continued to be a learning experience for a team that put nine grapplers into the state tournament, with seven of them being either freshmen or sophomores.
“Our freshmen are happy to be here,” coach Richard Harper said. “That’s what they have to look forward to. Just getting some experience down here.
“Down here you never count on anything, you just wrestle and see what happens.”
Madonna (421/2), Wahama (31) and South Harrison (241/2) round out the top five in Class A.
The tournament will resume at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning with fifth and third-place matches in the consolation bracket. Championship finals are slated to begin at 6 p.m.