HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — One last shot at the title.
Mason County will be well-represented this weekend at Big Sandy Superstore Arena as two teams and 15 total grapplers compete in the 70th annual West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Association wrestling championships this Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Cabell County.
Both Point Pleasant and Wahama will be competing in the Class AA-A tournament this weekend, and both programs also have multiple entrants in the three-day affair for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign.
The Big Blacks — who are returning to the Class AA-A ranks after four postseasons of top-10 finishes at the triple-A ranks — will have a total of 11 wrestlers competing this weekend, while the White Falcons are sending four grapplers to the big stage.
PPHS — which won the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Class AA state crowns before being bumped up to the triple-A ranks — have five wrestlers making a return to Big Sandy Superstore Arena … including a pair of defending Class AAA champions.
Senior Grant Safford (41-2) and sophomore George Smith (40-7) are hoping for repeat titles in their first Class AA-A tournament. Safford is competing in the third state meet of his career and will compete at 182 pounds, while Smith is competing at 113 pounds in his second career tournament.
Senior Austin Wamsley (37-2) will be making a triumphant return to state after battling back from a late-season injury to win the Region 4 individual title at 152 pounds last weekend in his first competition since mid-January.
Juniors Brian Gillispie (32-11) and Caleb Lane (31-12) are also headed back for another round of competition at the state level in their respective heavyweight and 120-pound weight classes.
Senior Andrew Roach (35-11) will be making his state debut at 195 pounds, while juniors Jacob Bryant (16-4) and Jacob Roub (34-10) also earned their first state appearances in the respective weight classes at 138 and 145 pounds.
Freshmen Justin Cornell (37-7), Logan Southall (31-16) and Juan Marquez (27-18) are also making their first career trips to the state tournament at 106, 126 and 220 pounds, respectively.
Along with Wamsley, Cornell, Smith, Southall, Bryant and Safford also came away with Region 4 championships in their individual weight classes.
The Big Blacks are sending double-digit entrants to the state meet for the 10th time in 11 postseasons and have also finished inside the top-10 of the final team standings every year since the 2002 campaign.
The White Falcons did not score a team point at the state level last year, which was the first time the program came up empty on the scoreboard since the 2010 Class AA-A tournament. Wahama has also scored at least one point in eight of the last 10 tournaments overall.
Ethan Herdman (27-5) is Wahama’s lone repeat qualifier and the junior will still be aiming for his first state victory while competing at 145 pounds.
Senior Brady Powell (25-12) picked up his first state appearance in the 152-pound weight class, while junior Antonio Serevicz (24-7) earned his first career state berth at 195 pounds. Freshman Trevor Hunt (28-12) is also making his state debut at 120 pounds.
The White Falcons are still searching for the program’s first state champion in wrestling.
The three-day event at Big Sandy Superstore Arena starts Thursday with opening round matches at 6:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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