MORGANTOWN — Wrestlers from University, Morgantown and Preston high schools are preparing for the final push of the season. Only six weeks remain until the state meet, and, Jan. 12-13, an important two-week stretch begins.
Kicking off that stretch today, UHS, MHS and PHS will join 29 other schools at the Winner’s Choice Tournament, in Fairmont.
University, ranked third in Class AAA in the latest statewide poll, is one of three teams at the tourney that are ranked top-five in their class. The other two — Parkersburg (No. 4 in AAA) and East Fairmont (No. 2 in AA) — finished second and third, respectively, ahead of the fourth-place Hawks at this tournament last year.
University is in good shape coming into the weekend, strong in the first four weight classes and slowly gaining traction is some of the higher weights.
“It’s a good tournament,” UHS head coach Ken Maisel said. “There are a lot of teams that we don’t see on our schedule, that have good teams. It’s a good way to see where some of our guys are.”
Maisel’s first example is his first man up on most nights, Jace Stockett, who is undefeated in the 106-pound weight class.
“It’s a good test for him,” Maisel said. “He didn’t wrestle the all-stater from Parkersburg. Spring Mills has a great freshman, and East Fairmont has a great kid in that class, too.”
Maisel has no short supply of examples. Outside of Stockett, Jake Staud, Jacob Simpson and Owen Zeiders have impressed this year for the Hawks. Staud and Zeiders have plenty of experience at this tourney as well, having finished runner-up in their respective classes a year ago.
On one side of the rivalry, UHS seems up to the task and could compete for a team title. On the other, the challenge will be especially great for MHS as a team. Diminished by injury, the Mohigans have turned their attention to individual success.
“You can’t win as a team,” MHS head coach Joe Abu-Ghannam said. “We can do well individually, and that’s what we have to focus on. … Neil McKnight has been doing fantastic as a heavyweight. At 170, Alex Shriver has a lot of long-term potential.”
Shriver and McKnight were the lone bright spots for Morgantown during a home meet Wednesday. McKnight recorded two pins, finishing with a 3-0 match record.
“It’s a big two weeks,” Abu-Ghannam said. “Winner’s Choice and then the OVAC meet next weekend. It’s a really great opportunity to see who they’ll potentially be wrestling down the line.”
Preston has avoided the injury bug this year but still struggled. Less than a week ago, the Knights suffered a 71-6 loss to UHS, winning just one match against the Hawks. Last year, Preston did get one wrestler in the top eight at Winner’s Choice. It came in the 106 class.
The tourney begins today and will conclude Saturday, at the Fairmont Senior Field House.
The field of teams:
Fairmont Senior “B”
Hope for Hyndman (Pa.)
Waynesburg (Pa.) Central