HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It’s not another feather in the cap.
It’s more like a pristine centerpiece for the venerable chief’s headdress.
The Point Pleasant wrestling team produced yet another historical weekend at the 2022 WVSSAC Championships by claiming the program’s first-ever 4-peat as Class AA-A champions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Mountain Health Arena.
The Big Blacks led wire-to-wire over the course of five sessions at the 75th annual event and ultimately doubled up the entire field by the end of the 3-day competition.
PPHS also technically secured enough points for the program’s seventh overall AA-A crown somewhere early in the third session Friday evening.
The Big Blacks came away with a half-dozen individual state champions — including a pair of 4-time title-winners — and nine podium placements en route to a final tally of 233 points. Both Cameron and Fairmont Senior shared runner-up honors out of 45 scoring teams with 116.5 points apiece.
Point Pleasant — which has won all seven of its AA-A crowns over the past 13 postseasons — produced six individual champions for a third consecutive year. Only Oak Glen (2001) and Independence (2017) have matched the same 6-champ output once in Class AA-A history, dating back to 1976.
Seniors Justin Bartee (145) and Derek Raike (160) respectively became the 23rd and 24th members of the 4-time state champions club in West Virginia high school history, and the pair also joined Rusty Maness (2008-11) as the only 4-time title-winners in PPHS history.
Raike and Bartee become the first duo to accomplish the 4-time feat as members of the same graduating class in regards to the 75-year old state tournament. Raike — an Ohio University commit — also joined Anthony Jeffers (2008) as the only Point grapplers to ever be named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at a Class AA-A tournament.
Sophomore Nathan Wood (113) and Conner Blessing (120), as well as freshmen Gunner Andrick (126) and Josh Woyan (152), increased the number of different Point Pleasant champions out to 26 by the end of the weekend.
Both Andrick and Woyan are just the fifth and sixth wrestlers, respectively, to win state championships as freshmen at Point Pleasant — joining Maness, Bartee, Raike and George Smith (2014) in that rare club.
The six title-winners also give PPHS a total of 42 individual state champions in program history, with 31 of those coming under the tutelage of 13th year head coach John Bonecutter — who was named the Dix Manning Class AA coach of the year for the fourth straight postseason and sixth time overall.
The Big Blacks ultimately won their first six state title bouts of the night and finished 6-1 overall as sophomore Kolton Weaver was pinned in the heavyweight final by Mason Atkinson of Herbert Hoover.
Seniors Colby Price (220) and Mackandle Freeman (138) also earned podium finishes after respectively placing fourth and fifth within their weight classes.
Seniors Ethan Marcum (170) and Brayden Connolly (195), as well as sophomore Ciah Nutter (132), all recorded two wins apiece for the Red and Black. Junior Luke Moffitt also went 1-2 overall at 182 pounds.
All 13 Point Pleasant participants won at least one match and the 25 total pinfall wins set a new program record at a single tournament, surpassing the mark of 24 set by last year’s squad.
Overall, the Big Blacks posted a 42-13 overall record and had two major decision victories to go along with the 25 pinfall wins. The 42 wins are one more than last year’s total at the state level and ends up being two short of the school mark of 44 wins recorded back in 2020.
It was the fifth time in program history that PPHS scored over 200 points as a team at the state tournament, as well as the fourth consecutive postseason. Point has also beaten the entire field by triple-digits in each of the last three tournaments, accounting for the only three occurrences in the school’s history.
Needless to say, it was a decent three days for Point Pleasant wrestling — past, present and, most importantly, the future.
Afterwards, Bonecutter spoke about the significance of this historic 4-peat, acquiring the program’s seventh overall crown, and coming away with six more state champions as part of another dominant showing at the highest level of the sport.
“It was almost a perfect night, but it was a wonderful weekend. It was a good night for us, meaning the kids, the program and the town. All you had to do tonight was look around and listen to know that Point Pleasant is a wrestling community,” Bonecutter said. “It’s uncharted territory for us, and it’s a heck of a way to send out this senior class. We’ll also have eight qualifiers and four state champions returning next year, so maybe we aren’t going to fall off as much as some might have previously thought.
“We elevated the program this weekend with this championship, and I also think we elevated things with the way we performed in the finals Saturday night. We had nail-biters, we had overtime, we scored a few pinfalls and we had one not go our way. That’s the thing, it wasn’t perfect, and that’s why we’ll be back at work Monday getting ready for all of the things that go into preparing for next season. We’ll enjoy what we’ve done this weekend, for sure, but we’ll be chasing the same goal next year. And we’ll be wearing the same target too.”
Point Pleasant scored 46 points with a 12-1 record that included 11 pinfall wins, which resulted in a 22.5-point lead over the field after Session 1. PPHS led by 41.5 points and owned 103 points after the second session, then secured 194 points after Session 3 for a 101-point lead over the field.
The Big Blacks scored 203 points and led by 92 points following Saturday afternoon’s fourth session, then tacked on another 30 points with six wins in the final session.
Dillon Perdue (106) and Colten Caron (170) of Independence,, Braxton Smith (132) of Nitro, Kolbie Hamilton (138) of Fairmont Senior, Ian Bush (182) of Cameron, Tate Britton (195) of Sissonville and Cody Houser (220) of St. Marys were the remaining Class AA-A state champions from the 2022 tournament.
Both Bush and Houser represented the lone single-A programs to come away with an individual state title.
Wheeling Park captured the Class AAA championship with 207.5 points, while University was the runner-up out of 29 scoring teams with 176 points.
Matthew McAfee of St. Albans was named the triple-A MOW and Brian Leggett of Wheeling Park captured Class AAA coach of the year honors.
Mat Time Podcast, hosted by Point Pleasant natives Zach Sayre and Daniel Tench, was honored with the Snyder-Miller Media Person of the Year award at the event as well.
A pair of stories featuring the six individual state champions will appear in the Wednesday sports editions of the Point Pleasant Register, Gallipolis Daily Tribune and The Daily Sentinel.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.