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Prep wrestling notebook: Woodrow keeps raising its standard

Feb. 28—Matt Osborne will never tire of winning. He'll also never stop expecting it.

Woodrow Wilson claimed another Class AAA Region 3 championship two weeks ago, its third consecutive since the 2022 title was the program's first since 1989. To Osborne, that's the way it should be.

"I just think that's how our standards should be," the Flying Eagles head coach said. "That's what I expect. I mean, I know we've got a huge group of really good wrestlers. A bunch of juniors. We're losing one senior, which is a really big senior.

"But I feel like we have the talented athletes here and we should be doing that."

That big senior is 144-pound Region 3 champion Troy Harris, who will take an undefeated record into the state tournament that starts Thursday at the Mountain Health Arena. All first round championship brackets will be contested starting at 6:30 p.m.

Harris is one of eight regional champions for the Flying Eagles and 11 state qualifiers overall. The team will be looking to continue its steady progression up the Class AAA ladder after finishing ninth in 2021, sixth in 2022 and fourth in 2023.

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As the Drive for 5 pulls into Huntington, Greenbrier West coach Jeremy Tincher knows there is work to do.

"I don't think they're just going to mail us the trophy," Tincher said. "I think we've got to show up. There's some other teams down there that are really hungry and want to win it. It's close. I think it's with 10 or 15 points between three or four of us. The Wheeling Centrals and the Ravenswoods and the Camerons, if those guys come down there and they wrestle well and we don't, then they'll beat us."

The Cavaliers are looking to repeat as Class A state champions, a title they won in dramatic fashion last season. Cole Vandall's pinfall in the 215-pound final vaulted West to a one-point win over Cameron.

West is also seeking its fifth championship overall, adding to the titles in 2013, 2019, 2020 and 2023.

The Cavs will go in with 10 state qualifiers, one less than they anticipated. Sophomore 285-pounder Trey Franklin wrestled for the first time at the Region 3 tournament and placed fourth. However, he has pulled out due to the knee injury that kept him out the entire regular season and will have surgery soon so he can be ready for the start of football season.

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Greenbrier East has quietly put together a solid season.

Among the highlights for the Spartans was qualifying for the West Virginia Dual Team State Championships for the first time. The championships were held at the State Fairgrounds in the Spartans' hometown of Fairlea.

While there, Greenbrier East was able to defeat then-No. 3 Spring Mills 42-38, which coach Mark Solak said was the type of win that could "help propel our program."

That it did. The Spartans went into the Region 3 tournament and qualified 11 wrestlers for Huntington.

And, in keeping with the quiet theme, East finished second to Woodrow with 188.5 points. The Spartans were originally credited with 181.5 points, third behind the Flying Eagles and George Washington, before a scoring discrepancy was found.

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For the second straight year, Independence has struggled to fill an entire lineup due to a number of reasons. The Patriots made it work last year, finished the state tournament tied for runner-up with Point Pleasant.

Just how this year will end remains to be seen. The Patriots will send nine wrestlers to the state tournament — one more than expected after Landon Burleson was named as the replacement for Franklin at 285.

"Almost similar to last year, we haven't had everybody in the lineup at once, until the regional tournament, and obviously without (three-time state champion) Dillon Perdue then, which definitely hurts," coach Cliff Warden said. "But we put the best team that we've got on the mat at regionals, which was 11 kids and we qualified eight of them."

The Patriots had four regional finalists and all four won championships — Brayden Hart I132), Hunter Whittaker (138), Caelyb Nichols (144) and Jesse Adams (175).

Of the nine qualifiers, only Nichols is a senior. Freshman Hart and sophomore Whittaker winning their titles were big moments, as were qualifying sophomores Luke Mullins (120) and Tyson McGinnis (165).

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Oak Hill had a disappointing showing at the Region 3 tournament, finishing sixth out of nine teams and sending five wrestlers to the state tournament.

"We had some losses that were really a punch in the gut to us," coach David Vincent said. "Of course we wanted to see all of our kids do well. Somebody's got to win and somebody's got to lose. Unfortunately, we lost some matches that we felt we should have won, especially with our seniors. Those were a tough pill to swallow."

Team-wise, Vincent said it all aligns roughly with how things have gone in the past.

Heading to Huntington will be Issac Davis (113), Colton Willard (132), Aaron Higginbotham (157), Dayvon Bravo (175) and Colton Naylor (285).

Seniors Higginbotham — wrestling for the first time since his freshman year — and Naylor finished third in their weight classes, and Willard, another senior, was fourth.

Bravo is a freshman who qualified fourth. He will face Parkersburg South's Gage Wright, the nation's No. 1 ranked 175-pounder, in the first round.

Another freshman, Davis was fourth and has grown as a wrestler over the last two months.

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A year ago, Liberty qualified two wrestlers for the state tournament. This year, that number more than tripled to seven.

"I think the boys have had an awesome season," coach Cole Blankenship said. "I started the year filling every weight class except one, and we beat a lot of good teams. We beat Spring Valley, Riverside, Winfield. We beat a lot of good triple-A teams.

"Throughout the year I lost a couple of kids for grades and my team got progressively smaller. But, man, we were still able to beat a lot of good schools. The guys are wrestling really well, so I really can't ask a lot more of them."

The Raiders had eight wrestlers overall in regionals. Matthew Hill (175) is a junior, while the other six qualifiers are all sophomores: Gavin Brown (113), Colton Tolliver (138), Jeremiah Griffith (144), Isaac Williams (150), Josiah Pilkington (140) and Connor Acord (285).

"They're all wrestling really good," Blankenship said. "They're sort of peaking right now. They're probably wrestling their best right now, which is what you want come state tournament time."

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Shady Spring's Braelen Holstein is looking to go out with a bang. The Tigers senior is ranked seventh in the state at 175 pounds and is coming off a runner-up finish at the Region 3 tournament.

"I've been going to offseason training, The Arsenal, and watching videos on my own time," Holstein said.

Holstein has come up with some big performances, including a dominant showing at the Dix Manning Duals that helped the host Tigers to a three-way tie at the top that eventually went to Spring Valley on criterium.

"I think my strength is the biggest part of it," Holstein said. "Not much technique. The little bit of technique I do have, my strength helps with it."

"He's the type of kid that (wrestling) didn't come easy for," Shady coach Anthony Shrewsberry said. "He had to really work for it, and you can tell that he's worked for it now. He's the first one in the weight room. Offseason, he's there every day in the weight room lifting. Lifts two or three times a day, sometimes for the football team and sometimes for the wrestling team. He lives in the weight room.

"I've told him for years that he's probably a better athlete than his brother (Jaelan, a former cross country and basketball standout) but he just hasn't realized it yet. I think he's finally starting to realize he's as good an athlete as his brother."

"I've gotten more confidence since my freshman year," Holstein said. "That's helped me improve from neutral stances and helped me to build more moves and finish them."

The Tigers are sending five other wrestlers to the state tournament — freshman Matthew Meadows (144), freshman Damien Simmons (157), sophomore Kaiden Helmer (165), junior 190-pound Region 3 champion Gabe Knoblet and sophomore Joey Cowger (215).

Holstein is a senior but defers to Knoblet as a leader.

"I just go out there and do my thing," Holstein said. "I try to be a leader the best I can. Gabe is mostly the leader here. He knows what he's doing."

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Nicholas County was met with more inexperience than expected, but the Grizzlies came out of Region 3 in decent shape.

They finished in sixth place, 2.5 points behind Liberty. The Grizzlies qualified four wrestlers for the state tournament, including champions Sailor McKinney (126) and Preston Thomas (150).

Also in Huntington will be freshman Conner Tallamy (113) and sophomore Luke Kelly (second, 120).

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Midland Trail junior Cole Brandstetter qualified fourth at 132 and Richwood senior Cohen McGeeney was runner-up at 190.

PikeView is sending Tyler Goins (106), Jaden Taylor (126) and Chase Cantrell (132). Princeton will be represented by Chandler Morris (120) and Christopher McGlothlin (190).

Webster County qualified Jackie Ferguson (157) and Michael Ferguson (285).

Email: gfauber@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @gfauber5