Reed wins first state title; Hovermale second and Bennett third
Berkeley Springs High School crowned their first state wrestling champion since 2003, when junior Cody Reed pinned Ryan Fickiesen from St. Mary's in 2:48 of the 189 pound Class AA-A final at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington on Saturday, February 24. Reed's victory, his 52nd of the year against only two losses, lifted the Indians to a ninth place finish in the team standings.
Oak Glen easily won their 11th consecutive team title, despite crowning no individual champions. The Golden Bears scored 168.5 points to easily outdistance runner-up Point Pleasant. The Black Knights scored 86.5 points followed by Williamstown 79.5, Herbert Hoover 75, Grafton 74, Calhoun County 72, Shady Spring 72, Clay County 71.5, Berkeley Springs 70.5, and Greenbrier West which scored 69 points to round out the top ten.
Reed's road to the 189 pound final was not as easy as some predicted. The talented junior had blitzed his way through the regional with three first period pins, but found the going much tougher in Huntington.
Reed opened the tournament in typical fashion with a first-period pin over Jeff Clinton of Independence High School, before meeting Samson Gianessi of Weir in the quarterfinals. Gianessi, a senior sporting a record of 31-5, gave Reed a battle before falling 8-4. In the semifinal bout Reed bested Oak Glen's Jack Wright in another tough battle 10-6, before disposing of Fickiesen to claim the 189 pound championship.
"Cody was runner-up last year and I think the experience served him well," said Berkeley Springs coach Darrell Bennett. "He had a couple of tough matches but did what he came here to do. He worked hard for this title and I am happy for him."
The Indians placed two other wrestlers. Derek Hovermale finished second at 103 and Tyson Bennett third at 160.
Hovermale, who became the first freshman from Berkeley Springs to reach the championship match, fell to Wheeling Central's Dirk Bauer 5-0 in the 103 pound final. Bauer came into the tournament ranked first in the state at 103, with an undefeated record of 40-0 and cruised to the finals with a forfeit, 16-0 technical fall and a pin, while Hovermale had a tougher road to follow.
"I think Derek let his nerves get the best of him in his first match," Bennett said. "He settled down and wrestled much better, but Bauer had been here before and seemed to wrestle with a lot more confidence."
Hovermale did struggle in his first match, but managed to pull out a 4-1 decision over Point Pleasant's Caleb Duong. He seemed to shake off the opening day jitters and scored a 13-2 major decision over Cody Pennybacker of Williamstown in his quarterfinal match before winning a heart-stopping 4-2 overtime decision over Ryan Asbury of Oak Glen in the 103 pound semifinal bout.
In the final, Bauer gained the upper-hand with first-period takedown for a 2-0 lead. There were no more points scored in the period and Hovermale selected the down position to start the second period. Hovermale was unable to score in the two-minute stanza and headed to the third and final period, down 2-0. Hovermale nearly turned Bauer, which would have either tied the match or given him a one-point advantage, but Bauer fought off the attempt to retain the lead. Hovermale was then penalized for an illegal hold, giving Bauer a 3-0 lead, before Bauer reversed Hovermale for the 5-0 win.
"Derek has really improved since the beginning of the year," Bennett said. "He still has room to improve but he had a terrific freshman year. If he can keep his passion for the sport and work hard he will have the opportunity to bring home a state title in the near future."
Finishing third for Berkeley Springs was Tyson Bennett. Bennett, the pre-tournament favorite to bring home the 160 pound title, was upset in the semifinal by Anthony Jeffers from Point Pleasant. With the score tied at 3-3 late in the match, Bennett attempted a tilt in order to score back points, but Jeffers successfully countered the move, reversing Bennett to his back and securing the pin with only nine seconds remaining in the match
"It is really disappointing for Tyson," Coach Bennett said. "He has worked very hard and wanted the state title badly. We knew coming into the tournament that the two best wrestlers in the weight class would meet in the semifinals and that is what happened. It was Jeffers' day, but you can't take anything away from Tyson because he fought back and earned third. He could have folded his tent, but he didn't. He kept his chin up and came back and helped his team. I am very proud of his effort. He placed four times at the state tournament and there aren't many wrestlers that can make that claim."
Bennett, who finished second a year ago, earned his third place medal by scoring a 10-0 major decision over John Jones of Oak Hill in the consolation semifinals and then defeated Ritchie County's Chase Hyde 3-1 in the third-place match.
Three other Indian grapplers qualified for the state tournament and each won one match before bowing out of the tournament.
Brad Reed (119) pinned Travis Withrow from Greenbrier West in 1:00 of his first-round match. He was then pinned by Ethan Dray of Oak Glen in 3:42 before losing a tough 3-1 decision to Cody Clarkson of Wirt County.
Both Josh Connor (112) and Jake Stotler (285) lost their opening round bouts. Connor lost a heartbreaker to Tevin Hall from Cameron 6-5, while Stotler was pinned in the first period by Cameron's Dan Dishman. They both then won their first round consolation matches, Connor with a 16-0 technical fall and Stotler a 2-1 overtime decision. Both then lost their next matches to be eliminated
"You're never totally satisfied as a coach," Bennett said. "I was certainly pleased with things in general yet know that we could have done better. The good news is that five of the six who qualified will be back. Only Tyson and A.J. (Blankenship), who was unable to wrestle in the post-season, will graduate. We have a pretty good nucleus returning and some wrestlers coming up from the middle school. I think we will be able to fill more weight classes and should have some good leadership from our upperclassmen. We will just have to see how everything shakes out, but we could have a pretty good year."