The Dominion Post  

University High aims to take down state mat titles

Created on:   Wed, Feb 21, 2018   11:52 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Feb 21, 2018   11:52 PM

For The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The 1956 state wrestling meet was a great one for University High School. Behind three individual championships, the Hawks claimed, to date, their only team title.

One year removed from the program’s best finish at state since that championship season, UHS has its eyes set on a school-record four individual champions as the tournament gets underway Feb. 22, in Huntington.

That goal is no impossible task, but it undoubtedly will be a challenge.

The four Hawks with serious hopes of an individual title — Jace Stockett (106), Jake Staud (120), Jacob Simpson (126) and Owen Zeiders (152) — all enter the state meet fresh off regional championships. Stockett aside, this group has plenty of experience at this stage, with the other three finishing on the podium a year ago.

“I think they all have a shot,” UHS head coach Ken Maisel said. “The bracket works out pretty well for Jake and Owen. For Jace and Jacob, it will be a more difficult road.”

The road for University, as a whole, also will be more difficult.

Last year’s third-place finish was the result of eight Hawks placing in the top six in their respective weight classes. This season, only 10 wrestlers from UHS qualified for state.

“There are about four or five teams that can be second,” Maisel said. “I don’t know that we’re the top one right now, but we’re right there. We have to get some upsets. We have to beat some people we aren’t supposed to beat. It’s going to be a struggle, but it’s not out of reach.”

As was the case at regionals, the Hawks will rely on Braeden Pauley (138), Josh Sanders (195) and Ben Gribble (220), among others, for vital points in the team race.

“Ben is just so strong,” Maisel said. “He catches on very quickly. He picks things up so fast. He has a tough match in the first round, though. That will certainly be a challenge for him. We’ll see what he can do.”

If the week leading up to the state meet is any indicator, competitors and spectators alike could be in for quite a show from University.

“We had a great week of practice,” Maisel said. “I told them this week that I wished the meet started earlier. I think they’re ready to go.”

Of course, the Hawks won’t be alone at the state meet. Morgantown High earned four berths to state, including a regional championship from Neil McKnight at heavyweight.

The senior is the Mohigans’ best hope of ending their drought at the state meet. MHS last won an individual championship there in 2005.

Only two Preston High wrestlers have ever claimed a state title, most recently in 2014. Seven Knights will take aim at adding their names to that list.

Senior Blake Miller will lead the charge for PHS. Boasting a 53-1 record on the year, Miller claimed Preston’s lone regional title two weeks ago, in the 182-pound weight class.

The Class AAA state tournament runs today through Saturday, at the Big Sandy Super Store Arena, in Huntington.

Local wrestlers at the state tournament:

106 – Jace Stockett (U), Zach Riffle (P).

113 – Bryson Wilkins (P), Calvin Matthews (U).

120 – Jake Staud (U), Bailey Radabaugh (P).

126 – Jacob Simpson (U).

132 – Brise Bennett (U).

138 – Braeden Pauley (U).

152 – Owen Zeiders (U), Tucker Knisell (P).

160 – Josh Rudmann (U), Michael White (M).

170 – Alex Shriver (M).

182 – Blake Miller (P).

195 – Josh Sanders (U), Jat Maria (P).

220 – Ben Gribble (U), Josh Hite (M).

285 – Neil McKnight (M), Brycen Valentine (P).