HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Been there and done that … and now they’ve done it again.
Sophomores Derek Raike and Justin Bartee, as well as junior Isaac Short, became the fifth, sixth and seventh wrestlers in Point Pleasant history to repeat as state champions Saturday night during the 73rd annual WVSSAC Championships held at Mountain Health Arena in Cabell County.
The trio collectively pushed Point’s individual state champion history up to 24 a year ago, and this year the underclassmen were part of six additions to that list — making it an even 30 moving forward.
Short, Raike and Bartee, however, nearly doubled the program’s total of repeat champions, all while joining such legendary grapplers as James Casto (2005-06), Anthony Jeffers (2007-08), Rusty Maness (2008-11) and Casey Hogg (2009-10).
And, not by coincidence, the three winningest wrestlers on this year’s squad all shined while earning their elite status Saturday night.
The Big Blacks had nine finalists entering the fifth session, including a runner-up effort by junior Christopher Smith in the opening bout at 126 pounds.
Raike — who scored a second period pinfall (3:02) to win the 120-pound title a year ago — helped get things back on track in his 132-pound championship match with Mikey Jones of Fairmont Senior.
Raike scored a pair of quick takedowns and released twice for a 4-2 edge, then went on a technical display over the final 90 seconds en route to a 15-4 advantage headed into the second period.
The sophomore started down and quickly escaped, then added a near-fall takedown to wrap up the 19-4 technical fall outcome.
In winning the 132-pound championship, Raike joined both Maness (2011) and Bartee (2019) in finishing an entire season unbeaten.
The sophomore — who also had three pinfall wins over the weekend — completed the 2020 campaign with a perfect 52-0 mark, the most wins by any of the unbeaten Point grapplers.
Raike ended his freshman campaign with a 46-1 overall mark and has now won 98 consecutive matches after losing his very first varsity bout at a tournament in North Carolina back in 2018.
Given the totality of his season individually, Raike was proud when expressing his accomplishments this winter. The now 2-time champion, however, was also more than happy to talk about everything else going on around him — mostly notably the Class AA-A scoreboard.
“This weekend has meant the world to me. We repeated as state champions and I was able to complete an unbeaten season with another state title. We’ve put a lot of work into this year, and it looks like the hard work is paying off right now,” Raike said. “I’m really proud of all of the guys and what we’ve been able to accomplish this season, as well as this weekend. There are a lot of reasons to be proud this weekend.
“Given the tournaments that we’ve wrestled at and the competition we’ve faced, it’s a special honor to finish the year unbeaten. There aren’t many of these in school history, and that’s what makes this feeling amazing. I’m very excited about the way this year has gone, both personally and collectively.”
Bartee — who scored a second period pinfall (3:41) to win the 126-pound title a year ago — followed Raike’s dominant effort with one of his own against Levi Blake of Nicholas County in the 138-pound title bout.
Bartee landed four consecutive takedowns and released three times for an 8-3 advantage through one period, then extended his lead out to 12-4 after two periods and was ahead 17-5 before scoring a pinfall.
The sophomore — who joins both Maness and Raike with two state titles through their sophomore campaigns — was thrilled to repeat as a champion … but more so as a group.
In fact, Bartee is already focused on next year — mainly because he doesn’t want this feeling to go away.
“We’re proud of ourselves for the way this weekend has gone. We’ve worked hard every day in the wrestling room this year for this moment, and we all had the same goals coming in. Everything has gone about as well as we could have hoped for,” Bartee said. “We’ll have a lot of wrestlers coming back next year, and our goal as a program is to never stop getting better. I hope that we don’t become satisfied with what we’ve done, because there is still a lot for us to accomplish over the next couple of years.
“This moment, repeating as state champions or me winning another title, is a great thing, but we still need to keep the focus that got us here. Next year, the tournament scoreboards start over at zero and we’ll be wearing the bull’s-eye again. It’s great motivation to get back here.”
After a 51-3 campaign this winter, Bartee is now 87-3 overall in two seasons with the program.
Junior Mitchell Freeman completed the first set of three straight finals wins for PPHS at 145 pounds, then junior Wyatt Wilson and senior Zac Samson fell in the next two finals matches at 152 and 160 pounds.
Senior Juan Marquez and junior Parker Henderson added state titles at 195 pounds and 106 pounds, leaving the Big Blacks one win shy of tying the Class AA-A state mark of six set by both Oak Glen in 2001 and Independence in 2017.
That was what Short was looking at, historically, headed into his 120-pound championship match with Judah Price of Independence — the final bout of the evening.
Short was very precise with his movements, particularly in the opening round after a takedown gave the junior a 2-0 edge through one period.
Short started down in the second period, but quickly executed a reversal and maintained that top leverage the rest of the way for a 4-0 lead entering the finale.
Price did manage to escape midway through the third period, but Short surrendered nothing else while claiming a 4-1 decision.
Short — who scored a 1-0 decision while winning the 106-pound title a year ago — noted that he was much more comfortable headed into his second state final. And, as he put it, that comfort level really showed itself by night’s end.
Short also felt like the accomplishments of this weekend were something that could be obtained again.
“It’s pretty insane to look up at the scoreboard and see what we’ve accomplished this weekend. We know we have a pretty solid team of individual wrestlers, but it was amazing to see what we could do when we put our minds to it,” Short said. “Honestly, the experience of being a state champion last year really paid off. I was focused tonight and didn’t have any nerves about being in another final, and I think that showed throughout the match.
“Obviously, I’m honored to be a state champion again … but I’m also proud of the team and what we did together this weekend. I really think we can do this again next year, so we already have some goals to shoot for as we leave here tonight. I mean, what a weekend. What a great weekend for Point Pleasant wrestling.”
Short — who scored two pinfalls and two decisions over the 3-day meet — completed the year with a 51-3 overall mark. Short was also 42-1 last season.
Raike, Bartee and Short were joined by Smith (50-4) and Freeman (50-5) in producing 50-or-more wins this season. The Big Blacks previously had four grapplers accomplish that feat all-time before this year.
Point had wrestlers reach all 14 weight classes for the third time in school history, joining both the 2012 and 2019 squads in accomplishing that feat. All three of those teams went on to win Class AA-A championships.
From this year’s group of 14 state qualifiers, Marquez, Zac Samson (160), Logan Southall (170), Wyatt Stanley (220) and Jacob Muncy (285) will be lost to graduation.
Of the returning nine state qualifiers, seven ended up competing in finals — including five weight class champions — and eight of the nine finished the weekend on the podium.
The Big Blacks also had a junior high program that earned the WSAZ Invitational championship this past winter, so there could be more repeat performances coming in Point’s very near future.
A story on Point Pleasant’s coaching staff will appear in the weekend sports editions of the Point Pleasant Register and the Sunday Times-Sentinel.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.