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Vincent touts work ethic of deep roster

Jan. 4—David Vincent probably couldn't believe what he was seeing in the mat room as preseason practice opened up in November.

Nearly 30 wrestlers showed up, representing by his estimation the most he has had to work with since he took over the Oak Hill program in 2014.

Of course, he had been there before. Those who show up on Day 1 don't always stick around for Day 2. So he had a plan.

"The first week, when we had so many kids, we really just tried to see who wanted to stay here," Vincent said. "Coach (Shaun) Coleman and coach (John) McGinnis were looking at me, saying, 'David, have you lost your mind?' And all but one stuck around."

With a roster 28 strong, the season has been full of positives. Perhaps the biggest is the attitude and dedication the wrestlers have shown.

"They show up to work," Vincent said. "They're here, they work hard, they show up. These kids want to be here. They're working, and I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the work they're putting in the mat room. That's what people don't see."

The Red Devils have five seniors, led by 285-pounder Colton Naylor. He is a three-time state qualifier and two-time state placewinner and a past All-American.

Hayden Keffer (138) is back and having a big season after missing his entire junior year out with an injury. Chris Hale (150) was a regional finalist last season. Colton Willard shows a lot of potential and right now is bouncing between 126 and 132.

Aaron Higginbotham (157) is back after not wrestling the last two seasons. He was a state qualifier as a freshman at 126.

Beyond the seniors, there is a bit of inexperience with several sophomores and freshmen. But inexperience does nothing to suggest a lack of talent.

One of the sophomores is Kirclyn Coleman, who last season won the 114-pound state championship at the West Virginia Girls Invitational. She was the only girl wrestler for Oak Hill and single-handedly garnered a top 10 finish with 30 points.

"She wants it," Vincent said. "She's wound up, excited. Every day it looks like she's excited to be here. She has that mindset that she gets to be at practice. It's not that she has to be here; she gets to. It's a privilege. And you can tell a difference in kids that have that thought process."

Coleman is not alone this year. Three freshman girls are on the team — Kya Osborne, Audrey King and Destiny Demoss. Osborne took a second-place finish at the Williamstown Throwdown last week.

Oak Hill will host its inaugural HER-Story Maker all girls tournament on Jan. 20.

All the wrestlers, young and otherwise, have captured Vincent's attention.

"I could talk about how 28 kids and there's something special I could say about every one of them," he said. "All of them show up to work. It's refreshing and exciting to see."

Oak Hill will return to the mat at the same place as 29 other teams — the West Virginia Army National Guard Duals at the Summersville Arena. The teams will be divided into six pools on Friday then repooled based on results for Saturday.

Wrestling will take place on six mats starting at noon on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students each day.

Each year the tournament honors Lee Parlier, the former head wrestling coach at Richwood who started the tournament in 2008. Parlier passed away in 2016.

Vincent, the tournament director, acknowledged the Oak Hill parents for helping make his job easier.

"Goodness, if it weren't for them," he said. "They make the tournament run as smooth as it does. If it weren't for them, this tournament wouldn't be the way it is."

And the way it is is one of the most popular tournaments in the state. The dual format will get wrestlers nine matches over the two days while providing an atmosphere comparable to the state tournament.

"I hear it every year — this is (the coaches') favorite tournament to come to," Vincent said.