HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Even with the rain and the rising waters, the Big Blacks can still consider the weekend as the calm before the storm.
The Point Pleasant wrestling program failed to produce a state finalist for the first time in 14 years, but the Big Blacks still earned three podium spots en route to a Class AA-A fourth place finish at the 2018 WVSSAC Wrestling Championships held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Cabell County.
The Big Blacks — who sent 13 qualifiers to the state meet — had only three grapplers make it to the Saturday round of competition, but none of that trio was able to advance to Saturday night’s finale — the fifth session that features 28 competitors battling for 14 individual weight class titles.
Point Pleasant had been a traditional staple in the Saturday night main event, but a treacherous Friday ended a streak that was almost a decade and a half in the making.
PPHS had junior George Smith (120), as well as freshmen Christopher Smith (106) and Mitchell Freeman (126), all competing in championship bracket semifinals on Friday evening, but each of those grapplers were defeated and bumped into Saturday’s fourth session consolation rounds.
Both freshman ended up going unbeaten on Saturday en route to a pair of third place finishes in their respective divisions, while the elder Smith — the 2016 Class AAA champion at 106 pounds and 2017 Class AA-A runner-up at 113 pounds — ended the day with a .500 mark while placing fourth.
Freeman finished the weekend with a 6-1 overall mark and a pinfall win, while Christopher Smith was 4-1 overall with a pinfall, two major decisions and a technical fall. George Smith went 3-2 with a pinfall victory and a technical fall.
The Big Blacks finished the weekend with a 23-24 overall record in individual matches and placed fourth overall with 71.5 points.
Independence repeated as Class AA champions with 237.5 points, with East Fairmont (186.5) and Berkeley Springs (75) both finished ahead of PPHS in the final standings. Petersburg rounded out the top five in the Class AA field.
The Big Blacks did manage to produce at least three all-state grapplers for a 16th consecutive postseason, but ninth-year PPHS coach John Bonecutter acknowledged some of the frustration his program endured over the course of three days — particularly the one in the middle.
But, as Bonecutter also noted, Point Pleasant will have plenty of firepower coming back to improve on this year’s misfortunes.
“We had a rough Friday, both sessions. It wasn’t what we wanted or what we’re used to on the second day, but we weren’t consistent … something that has troubled us all year long,” Bonecutter said. “Then again, that comes with a young team that is primarily made up of freshmen and sophomores. It’s part of the learning process.
“Now, with that said, we had a great Saturday in going 5-1 and landing three all-state wrestlers, including a pair of freshmen placing in the top-three. Our future looks really bright and we have some big expectations over the next few years, and we are really excited about that.”
The Big Blacks entered the weekend with 10 underclassmen out of its 13 state qualifiers, and all five wrestlers that made it into Friday night’s third session came from the lower grades. Freeman and both Smith were a majority of that quintet.
Sophomore Juan Marquez ended up with a 2-2 record at 195 pounds, which included a major decision. Sophomore Jacob Muncy also went 2-2 overall at 285 pounds, including a pinfall win and an overtime decision in the opening round.
Sophomore Justin Cornell and senior Clayton Hill both scored session one victories, but each grappler dropped consecutive decisions on Friday afternoon. Cornell went 1-2 at 113 pounds with a technical fall victory, while Hill was 1-2 at 182 pounds.
Seniors Jacob Roub (160) and Jacob Bryant (170) scored a pair of first round consolation decisions before wrapping up their respective careers with matching 1-2 marks.
Sophomore Zac Samson earned a pinfall win before finishing 1-2 at 145 pounds, while freshman Wyatt Wilson landed a 13-4 major decision in Friday’s opener before finishing 1-2 at 138 pounds.
Sophomores Logan Southall (160) and Wyatt Stanley (220) both went winless in two bouts within their respective weight classes.
Point Pleasant owned only one individual state championship in school history at the end of that 2004 campaign. The Big Blacks have since won 20 individual state titles and Class AA-A team crowns from 2010 through 2012.
The White Falcons — who finish the 2018 state tournament with a 3-8 overall mark — tied for 12th place with South Harrison in the Class A standings with nine points.
Wahama went 2-2 on the opening night, with a pair of underclassmen coming away victorious. Junior Antonio Serevicz (220) and sophomore Trevor Hunt (132) each scored a pinfall win in the first session before dropping a pair of bouts on Friday afternoon.
Senior Ethan Herdman dropped his 152-pound opener on Thursday, but rebounded with a 7-4 decision on Friday morning before bowing out in the second consolation round. Senior Christian Thomas completed his career with a pair of losses at 182 pounds.
Madonna won the Class A title with 64.5 points, followed by Wirt County (56) and Greenbrier West (47). St. Marys (39) and Ritchie County (33) completed the top five positions in the field.
East Fairmont led the Class AA-A field with four individual state champions. Oak Glen, Madonna, Winfield, Berkeley Springs, Independence, Wirt County, Nitro, Petersburg, Oak Hill and Fairmont Senior each came with one individual title apiece.
Parkersburg South won the Class AAA title with 288 points. Huntington was the runner-up with 136 points, while Parkersburg was third with 113.5 points.
Visit wvmat.com for complete results of the 2018 WVSSAC Wrestling Championships held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.