MASON, W.Va. — Who says you can’t go home?
In serving what will be a decade as members of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division, Wahama High School has decided to head back to its side of the Ohio River after being unanimously accepted into the Little Kanawha Conference on March 25 at the monthly LKC meeting held in Wood County.
The Red and White — who started TVC Hocking play back in the fall of 2010 — will continue on in the Ohio-based, small-school division through the 2019-20 school year, then begin play as full-fledged members of the LKC at the beginning of the 2020 fall campaign.
The Bend Area program will be making its fourth overall appearance in the LKC after prior stints from 1961-73, 1983-90 and again in 1997-99, but the White Falcons and Lady Falcons are heading into otherwise familiar territory for the first time since the turn of the millennium.
Most of the teams that are currently in Wahama’s Class A Region 4, Section 1 bracket are members of the LKC, which will provide at least one opportunity to see every potential tournament foe in the regular season.
It also gives Wahama something that it could never have as a member of the TVC Hocking, a league that is on completely equal footing in regards to state rules and — even more importantly — scheduling.
Dr. Kenny Bond — who currently serves as principal at WHS — admitted that this wasn’t the easiest of decisions to come to, especially in leaving such a competitive league that has led to both peaks and valleys for the White Falcons and Lady Falcons over the last nine years.
But, as Dr. Bond noted, the logistics of this decision should help make things a little smoother for the Red and White in the years to come. And that, more than anything, was why Wahama decided to go ahead and make the move back to the Little Kanawha Conference.
“First, I want to take the opportunity to thank the members of the Tri-Valley Conference for allowing us to be a member of their conference for a decade. We’ve had some wonderful successes and also some struggles as competitors in the TVC, but it’s always been a very competitive league for our kids to participate in,” Bond said. “Being the only West Virginia program in an Ohio league made some things a bit more difficult, rather it be the difference in rules or the difference in seasonal schedules. More times than not, the OHSAA calendars and the WVSSAC calendars did not line up. That’s really why we had a desire to be a member of a West Virginia-based conference again.
“The move to the LKC will not only give us a chance to operate on a similar schedule as our conference opponents, but it also allows us the opportunity to see more of the teams that we’ll face in sectionals and regionals over here. The decision ultimately came down to us having a desire to be in a league located in West Virginia, playing against West Virginia teams on a WVSSAC schedule.”
Wahama participated as an independent athletic program from the fall of 1999 through the spring of 2010 before being accepted into the TVC by a 10-3 vote back in 2009.
The White Falcons managed to win three consecutive league titles in football during their first three seasons as TVC Hocking members, plus capped that string of titles with the 2012 Class A football championship.
Wahama has also collectively won numerous TVC Hocking titles in baseball, boys basketball and softball during its tenure in the nine-team league, as well as produced state championships in track and field and back-to-back titles in baseball (2015-16).
One of the main reasons for joining the TVC was simply to assure that each sport at Wahama could be guaranteed a full schedule in every season.
However, trying to match schedules that are determined by different governing bodies has proven to be a bit of task for all involved in the TVC — especially the one program not aligned with everyone else’s standards.
“Just an example of what we are looking at next year as members of the TVC. The boys basketball teams in Ohio will start practice almost three full weeks before we do in West Virginia. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the difference in the rules and guidelines between the states. A dozen to 15 extra practices also make a big difference at the start of a season,” WHS Athletic Director Ron Bradley said. “Our wrestlers and our track and field kids never get to compete at the league meet because it’s usually the same time as regionals in West Virginia. Again, the schedules just don’t align … and it ends up taking away from our kids. That’s why this is a positive move for our kids.”
As members of the LKC West Division, the White Falcons and Lady Falcons will be facing the likes of Ravenswood, Ritchie County, St. Marys, Tyler Consolidated, Williamstown, Parkersburg Catholic and Wirt County — all programs that are similar in both size and vicinity.
The LKC crowns divisional champions in both the East and West divisions, and all equally-paired divisional finishers end up playing one another in an end-of-season championship round in volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball — with an overall LKC champion coming from the winner of each championship game.
In football, each school is required to schedule at least five LKC opponents to be eligible for league championship consideration. The final LKC football champion is determined by the last WVSSAC rankings of the regular season.
Sports such as wrestling, track, golf and cross country hold league championships in one collective outing.
All of the road trips in the TVC Hocking end up being closer in total mileage to Wahama than what will be the case in the LKC West Division, and added expenses did become a major part of the discussion in switching leagues.
But, as Dr. Bond expressed, the extra expenditures will be well worth it when all is said and done.
“The last hurdle that we had to clear and convince ourselves of in this decision was balancing the issue of both travel time and cost while also accounting for wanting to be in West Virginia,” Bond said. “Was it going to be worth it from a numbers standpoint to make the switch? Our travel costs will increase a bit, but being able to be in West Virginia on the same schedule and playing by the same rules will be worth it. We will be well within the budget in making this move to the LKC.”
Another benefit to the move is that Wahama will be able to play in front other West Virginia media outlets, which should provide more exposure when all-state considerations are made at the end of every season.
Bradley — who also currently serves as the varsity boys basketball coach — noted that he has personally enjoyed everything that the TVC has offered competitively during Wahama’s time in the league.
Those communities, schools, coaches and student-athletes have become a large part of Wahama’s rich athletic history since the fall of 2010.
However, Bradley acknowledges that as much as the Wahama coaching staffs are going to miss those newly-formed rivalries … this next move allows WHS the opportunity to rekindle some old rivalry flames while also being tested night-in and night-out.
“The biggest thing for me is that I think it is going to be beneficial for our kids. The bottom line is that is what we are after, what we think will be best for our student athletes. It’s going to give our kids more exposure in West Virginia,” Bradley said. “It’s absolutely nothing against the TVC because there are a lot of quality people, coaches and competitions in that league. It’s more about the positives of us joining the LKC and less about anything else. It’s a positive move for us … and it’s going to benefit our kids in the long run.”
Dr. Bond agrees that the competitive aspect of this decision is basically trading one fierce league for another, but at least it will be on the south side of the Ohio River.
“We’re not taking a step down, most assuredly. We’re moving from one very competitive league to another very competitive league that is very similar to our enrollment numbers, much like the TVC,” Bond said. “We are certainly looking forward to completing our run in the TVC next year, and we are very much looking forward to the challenges that await us in the LKC.”
Multiple sources at Wahama made mention that the move to the LKC was kept pretty close to the vest during the exploratory stages, and one administrator did say that the school was expecting the LKC to issue a press release once the move was finalized almost four weeks ago.
The Point Pleasant Register was not contacted by anyone at Wahama High School once the move to the LKC was finalized.
The Tri-Valley Conference also did not release a statement on the matter, although it wasn’t really the league’s place at this time — given that Wahama is still technically a member of the TVC Hocking Division.
Wahama will submit its official Letter of Withdrawal from the TVC at the scheduled June meeting.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.