HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Things stayed the same, but they have changed.
The Wahama wrestling program is still in search of its elusive first state champion, but the White Falcons earned even more respect throughout the state this weekend at the 65th annual Class AA-A WVSSAC Wrestling Championships held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Cabell County.
The White Falcons had high hopes for an individual title this weekend, all of which fell apart Friday night in a pair of semifinal matches involving seniors Jacob Bennett and Kane Roush.
Bennett suffered a pinfall loss to eventual champion Jacob Hart of Independence in the 126 weight class, while Roush dropped a 4-3 decision to eventual champion Marquis Frazier of Greenbrier West in the 170-pound division.
Both grapplers rebounded nicely on Saturday, however, as Roush went 2-0 to finish third overall and Bennett went 1-1 to place fifth. Roush and Bennett ended the weekend with respective records of 4-1 and 3-2.
Senior Randale Robie also battled back from an early loss in the 132-pound weight class to finish third overall with a 5-1 record. Robie’s lone setback - a 6-4 decision - came to eventual runner-up Dustin Yoakum of Greenbrier West.
A fourth qualifier — junior Demetrius Serevicz — also went 2-2 in the 195 division, helping the White Falcons to a 14-6 overall team record. WHS also finished 12th in the final AA-A standings with 61 points.
After an up-and-down three days of work, Wahama coach Ryan Russell acknowledged both the frustration and the satisfaction that this state tournament ended up becoming.
“We were hoping for a state champion this weekend, but some times things just aren’t meant to be,” Russell said. “With that, I really cannot complain after the way our three seniors bounced back. Two placed third and another was fifth, and our underclassman was one match away from the podium. That’s pretty good for a team with five wrestlers.”
Independence captured the Class AA-A crown with a winning tally of 181 points, while Oak Glen (118.5) edged out Greenbrier West (118) for second place by one-half of a point.
Clay County (98.5) was fourth out of 42 scoring teams, while Fairmont Senior and Calhoun County tied for fifth with 95.5 points.
Wahama had its best finish at the state level a year ago when it placed 10th overall with 67 points. The White Falcons also had four top-six efforts at that event.
Roush becomes the first four-time state qualifier and four-time podium finisher in program history, as well as the only WHS grappler to compete in a state championship match. Roush placed second at 152 pounds during the 2012 tournament.
Robie and Bennett complete their third and second trips to the state meet, respectively, while Serevicz also wrapped up his second trip to the state meet. Robie also placed fifth a year ago at 126 pounds.
It’s tough to watch such an instrumental group of wrestlers complete their prep careers, but he also notes that their impact will benefit the future of the program.
“When we go places to compete, people know who Wahama is now. That’s a big start,” Russell said. “We are best known for football and baseball, but we are starting to show people that we can get it done on the mat too.
“As always, it’s tough to say goodbye to seniors — especially these guys. Hopefully they go on do big things and come back some day to take my job and guide us to even better things as a program.”
Dalton George (132) of Williamstown was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the 2014 Class AA-A tournament.
Complete results of the 2014 WVSSAC Wrestling Championships are available on the web at wvmat.com