BECKLEY — When it comes to regional time in prep wrestling, there is much more emphasis on getting individuals qualified for the state tournament than there is on team success.
But in watching his team accomplish something it hadn’t in his nine years at the helm, St. Albans coach Darren Gilfilen was able to achieve both on Saturday afternoon.
St. Albans qualified 12 of its 13 grapplers for the state tournament and in the process, pointed its way to a team title at the Class AA Region 3 wrestling tournament at Woodrow Wilson High School.
The top four finishers in each of the 14 weight classes earned berths into the state tournament at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington in two weeks. Wrestlers will be seeded in their order of finish in their respective regionals.
The Red Dragons scored 2051/2 points and came from behind to eclipse Greenbrier East, which finished with 186 points. George Washington (156), Riverside (145) and Woodrow Wilson (117) rounded out the top five.
“I’d have taken that all day,” Gilfilen said. “Anytime you can even get nine or 10 is good. We’ve only got 13 kids on the team so getting 12 in is really good.
“Every year we usually lose it to Greenbrier East by a couple of points. We always seem to lose a few matches we weren’t expected to lose, but that’s why you wrestle. But Greenbrier East has a solid team — Riverside, GW — they’ve all got solid teams.”
Three Red Dragons walked away with individual regional championships, with Brandon Holt claiming the 126-pound crown, Noah Bailey winning at 152 pounds and Isaiha Casto topping the 170-pound class.
Greenbrier East and Woodrow each finished with three champions as well, but while the Spartans had five second-place finishers compared to two for St. Albans, the Red Dragons had six win consolation matches to finish third while East had none, making the most difference in team scoring.
St. Albans entered the tournament ranked fifth in the latest poll on wvmat.com, the highest among Region 3 teams, with Riverside ranked ninth and GW 10th. Gilfilen guessed it was the Red Dragons’ first regional wrestling title ever, but verified it was the first under his command.
While the success of Saturday was a plus, regional tournaments are often more a relief than anything once the day is through. St. Albans escaped with no one missing weight, no one being disqualified and, most importantly, no one getting injured.
“The last three days we tried to do mainly drills, cut weight and run,” Gilfilen said. “You just want to take it easy and get all the kids through you can, place as high as you can to help in states.”
Riverside meanwhile, continued what has been a strong second half of the season by getting four individual champions — Josh Slack at 106, Kaleb Ramirez at 120, Izak Petry at 145 and Austin Chapman at 285 — the most of any school in the region. The Warriors also advanced a high percentage of their grapplers, qualifying seven of their nine participants for the state tournament.
“Great day, four champions, I’m tickled to death,” coach Mark Scites said. “With nine kids, we did excellent — I’m happy.
“We’ve worked hard and I’m excited for states. I’m going to work them hard, it won’t be a week off. We want to do good in states. We’re not just there to show up, we want to be good.”
For Greenbrier East, Steve Martinez (113), Zach Mullins (132) and Cayden Hoover (138) each won titles, with Woodrow Wilson doing its damage in the higher weight classes as Avente Burnett (182), Colton Wright (195) and Ryan Williams (220) winning consecutive championship bouts.
George Washington’s Hayden Stone won the 160-pound weight class to complete the list of champions.
In other regions Saturday:
Class AAA Region 4: Parkersburg South took another step toward a fifth straight title as it qualified a wrestler in each weight class, claimed seven individual titles and cruised to a Region 4 championship at Parkersburg High School.
The region is home to four of the top 10 teams in the state and three of the top four with South at No. 1, Parkersburg at No. 2, Huntington at No. 4 and Cabell Midland at No. 8. The Big Reds, Highlanders and Knights all qualified 10 grapplers for the state tournament.
Hurricane, the lone Kanawha Valley representative in the region, got two grapplers through with Treven Taylor finishing third at 145 pounds and Damion Saunders third at 285.
Class AA Region 4: Point Pleasant, the No. 1 team in Class AA, also qualified 14 wrestlers, had nine individual champions and piled up 321.5 points to blow away the field at Williamstown High School.
Winfield finished second with 1501/2 points and also had three champions with Jamie Ward winning at 152, Chance Dixon at 170 and J.D. McCallister at 195.
Sissonville qualified five grapplers and Nitro will send two to states including Will Frampton, who won the heavyweight regional championship on Saturday.