MORGANTOWN — Josh Hite and Neil McKnight have a lot to prove. The two Morgantown seniors are former state qualifiers, with hopes of returning to the big stage to finish their high school careers.
Despite a tough 63-18 team loss to local rival Preston on Senior Night, Hite and McKnight proved their worth Dec. 20 against their individual opponents.
They manhandled their opponents on the mat, with Hite defeating Preston’s Ayden Bishoff in the 220 weight class by pin in just 23 seconds. The match-up was the last of the night.
“Hite has been a real leader for us,” MHS head coach Joe Abu said. “I’m really proud of the growth he’s had.”
McKnight handled Preston’s Tristan Everett just as soundly, with a 48-second pin at 285.
“This is only his second year,” Abu said of Mc-Knight. “It’s a shame he’s a senior because he’s doing so well right now, and I hope it carries that on the rest of the year.”
The only other Mohigans win came from Griffen Leombruno, who earned a victory by forfeit in the 138 weight class.
The Knights came on strong following Everett’s loss, reeling off five straight victories. Zack Riffle and Ryan Moats grabbed wins by forfeit at 106 and 113 respectively, followed by a Bryson Wilkins pin over Darrien Bortay at 120, in 1:11.
Preston’s Bailey Radabaugh was on showcase next at 126, securing a dominant pin of Angel Rodriguez in just 26 seconds, the quickest victory on the evening for the Knights. David Pratt followed up with a pin in 1:57 to defeat Michael Gale at 132, closing out the run.
Preston resumed its strong performance with another win at 145, as Hunter Bishop notched a decision over 2015-’16 state qualifier Dylan Weimer, who returns to the Mohigans following an injury-riddled junior year.
“Bishop at 145 was a good match-up,” Knights head coach Ike Dixon said. “But later in the season, he’ll drop down to 138. Weimer’s a good wrestler, and I was pleased with that win.”
Tucker Knisell turned in a winning performance at 152 over Ethan Shipp with a pin in 1:17, then Jacob Fields pinned Michael White at 160, in 3:02.
Branson Tasker earned a forfeit victory for the Knights at 170, followed by a Blake Miller pin of Alex Shriver in 4:16, at 182.
“Miller is undefeated so far on the season,” Dixon said. “It was nice to see him keep that alive.”
Preston’s final individual win came in the penultimate battle, between Tyler Yost and Jat Maria, at 195, with Maria tallying an injury default when Yost had to leave the mat.
“I thought we wrestled well tonight,” Dixon said of the performance. “We have several kids hurt, it wasn’t our full lineup, but they did well.”
Dixon said he’s seeing solid improvement from his team on the season, but there are still some spots he thinks it can work on.
“We did well on our feet, we’ve been doing well on our takedowns,” Dixon said. “But we need to work on our top position and our pins.”
Both Preston and Morgantown also battled Phillip Barbour to open the evening. The Knights took a 52-30 victory, while the Mohigans also fell to the Colts. Results for MHS and Phillip Barbour were unavailable.
The Knights will return to action Dec, 28, at the Wheeling Park duals, while Morgantown will next take the mat on Dec. 29, at the WesBanco Arena Domino’s Duels in Wheeling.