POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — They were dominant — and historic — at the state tournament in late February, but it still wasn’t as thorough as this.
The Point Pleasant wrestling staff scooped up all of the postseason honors in West Virginia on Tuesday as the staff came away with Coach of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year and Staff of the Year honors on behalf of the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
The Big Blacks set a state record for largest margin of victory in the Class AA-A tournament last winter, not to mention tying a Class AA-A record with six state champions en route to the program’s fifth team championship in the past 11 years.
PPHS went unbeaten in all 35 of its dual matches and also won every tournament team title it competed in except for a runner-up finish at the nationally-renowned Top Gun Tournament in Alliance, Ohio.
John Bonecutter — who just completed his 11th season in charge of the program — repeated as West Virginia’s coach of the year selection by the NWCA. It is the fourth time in Bonecutter’s still somewhat brief tenure that he has received this honor after also winning it in 2010, 2012 and 2019.
“Honestly, it’s just been a story book season after all that has happened this year,” Bonecutter said. “We went 35-0 in dual matches, won a lot of invitationals and picked up a pair of state titles at the dual tournament and at the team tournament. We’ve received a lot of attention in the national rankings and it’s all been just another step forward for the program.
“It never gets old receiving recognition like this, but it also speaks more about our program and our community. It’s an honor to receive this award again, but a lot of people here in Point Pleasant are to thank for this honor.”
Jed Ott — who has served as Bonecutter’s top assistant since 2010 — earned his second Assistant Coach of the Year honors in West Virginia on behalf of the NWCA. Ott was also the state’s top assistant in 2010.
“It’s definitely a great honor. It’s an honor to receive the award, an honor to be a part of the staff and to help coach this team,” Ott said. “Each team is unique and has its own personality, but the goal is always a state championship. When that happens, it’s a great thing for so many. The school, the community, our parents and fans, the athletes, those are the results we want.”
Though Bonecutter and Ott were both humbly pleased with their repeat efforts individually, it was the final honor that seemed to bring the most excitement to the venerable duo.
The Staff of the Year award was a first for the Point Pleasant program, mainly because this is the first time that the award has ever been presented on behalf of the NWCA.
This inaugural honor was bestowed not only on Ott and John Bonecutter, but assistants David Bonecutter, James Casto and George Smith were also recognized for their efforts in getting the Big Blacks to new heights this past winter.
Ott, as previously noted, seemed more thrilled about the entire staff being recognized than the award he received individually. But, to know this group of coaches, that shouldm’t come as much of a surprise.
“Two things, in my opinion, stick out when looking at our staff. One, we all love wrestling. It’s our sport of choice. I mean, other sports are wonderful. I can still cheer on my Cleveland Indians, but for us … wrestling is it,” Ott said. “The second is the genuine friendship among the staff. It’s not being cordial with co-workers, it’s a family-like atmosphere. We all wish the best for each other and will help in any way to see someone achieve that. That’s what makes the staff honor so special.”
David Bonecutter — John’s younger brother and a former PPHS grappler himself — has also been on the staff since 2010, so he’s played a major role in the success that has happened over the last decade and change.
“Being an assistant coach, I am not use to getting a whole lot of attention on stuff like this … and this is fine with me. I really do just enjoy being able to coach wrestling at Point Pleasant,” the younger Bonecutter said. “I am very proud of my brother for all the hard work that he has put into this program and I think Jed is a great coach that is also very deserving of receiving his award.
“None of us do this for individual awards, it’s all about Point Pleasant wrestling. We are so proud of our team and what they have been able to accomplish. We have been coaching for quite some time and we do appreciate the staff awards because this truly is an honor to be recognized on this level. I am proud to coach with these men.”
Casto — a former 2-time state champion at PPHS in his prep days — joined the coaching squad in 2012. To him, receiving this honor is just a reflection of the town and the program that has always been his home.
“In my opinion, the biggest secret to our success is no secret at all. We are a family and this family is large and widespread,” Casto said. “This family extends to, not only current wrestlers, their parents, or even former wrestlers, but a community that has supported this team over the years. We have the best fans in the world hands down, bar none.
“If you need proof, feel free to show up to any dual, tournament, or better yet, Saturday night at the state tournament and witness the sea of red and black filling the stands.”
Smith is actually the longest tenured assistant coach, having served in the youth and junior high programs for several years before joining the varsity staff recently.
In all he’s seen and been a part of since 2003, Smith was truly moved to be part of receiving this group award.
More importantly, as he noted, they couldn’t be great coaches without great wrestlers who have a plan.
“It’s exciting that we received this award as a coaching staff. To have a successful program at the level we are currently at, you have to have continuity in the program,” Smith said. “Coach Bonecutter is able to use the strengths of each coach integrating into his daily, weekly, monthly and yearly plans to optimize the team’s output. Our success as coaches are merely a reflection of the work and commitment of our wrestlers.”
Since becoming the head coach at Point Pleasant in 2010, the Big Blacks have won five state titles and produced 19 individual championships between 15 different grapplers under Bonecutter. The program has 30 individual state champions between 21 different wrestlers overall.
“It’s really neat to have the whole staff recognized for what we were able to accomplish this year, but this award really honors what we’ve been doing for a long time here at Point Pleasant,” John Bonecutter said. “It also helps when you have some really talented wrestlers that can make you look good too. We’re really excited about where the program is right now and what the future holds for us moving forward.”
The awards presented on behalf of the NWCA included all wrestling programs in the state of West Virginia, not just teams in the Class AA-A level.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.