Joe Smith, Local Sports, Morgantown, Preston, Sports, University

3 schools get ready for area wrestling regional

MORGANTOWN — Seven schools from across northern West Virginia will gather on the mat today for the 2019 Class AAA Region I Wrestling Tournament.

When the action kicks off at 11 a.m., Morgantown will be among one of the smaller teams competing, filling just ten weight classes on their roster, but enter with a definitive advantage — they’ll be in front of a home crowd.

“I think the biggest benefit is that the kids have their family and friends so you have that moral support there,” Morgantown coach Joseph Abu said. “You’re going to work a little harder being there in your own backyard. It’s always a little more exciting wrestling at home than wrestling away.”

Despite their size disadvantage, Morgantown looks to make a strong mark, with hopes of making noise in the team standings and sending a contingent of wrestlers to Huntington for the Class AAA state championship.

“I’m just expecting the kids to show up and wrestle well, and I expect a lot of kids to place,” Abu said. “Numbers wise, it’ll be hard to compete as a team because we only fill ten of the fourteen weight classes. But if these kids show up and wrestle their best, I wouldn’t count them out.”

Hawks coach Ken Maisel loves a good party.

Friday night, he hosted one for his team — they gathered at his house to watch Penn State and Ohio State in a top-ranked collegiate match. It’s just one opportunity afforded him by the location of today’s tournament.

Of course, the Hawks don’t quite get home advantage for today’s action, but the 15-minute drive across the city sure beats what the competition has to deal with.

“I see both sides of it. Really, it’s an advantage. You get to sleep in your own bed,” Maisel said.

Expect the Hawks will take the mat today with energy as Maisel said there are high hopes amongst the team to send a full unit to the Class AAA state championships.

“Honestly, there is a chance we qualify everybody, but there’s a chance we don’t,” he said. “There is no one in this lineup we look at and can say they’re outmanned. There’s a good chance at a lot of regional champions.”

Preston wrestlers have spent the night before the regional tournament in a hotel room the past two years. As a result, there wasn’t a ton of silver-and-black in the crowd the next day.

With this year’s trek being much shorter, Knights coach Ike Dixon expects a bit better fan turnout this year — an advantage he hopes will help energize his team.

“I’d say we’ll have more parents and people show up to support. I’m hoping people will come out to the match, and usually when you have the people come out, it helps to motivate the boys,” he said.

Dixon is still unsure of his expectations from his team on the mat today, but he hopes for a similar result to last year, where the Knights put forth one of their strongest performances of the season.

“I don’t know how we’re going to end up. We have several with decent seeds, but you just never know. Last year I was pleased at regional time because it seems like we peaked then, and I’m hoping we will this year as well,” he said.