HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — One program is looking for its first state champion. The other wants to scratch a seven-year itch.
Both Wahama and Point Pleasant have legitimate opportunities to fulfill top-level goals this weekend during the 2019 WVSSAC Wrestling Championships being held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Cabell County.
Each program is sending multiple entrants to the 72nd annual event, and a total of 16 student-athletes will be representing both their schools and Mason County while trying to achieve the pinnacle in their chosen sport.
The Big Blacks — who ended the regular season as the top-ranked Class AA team in the state — are gunning for their first state crown since the last of a Class AA-A three-peat in 2012, while the White Falcons are hoping to secure the program’s first-ever individual title.
Point Pleasant qualified a grappler into each of the 14 weight classes at the Class AA-A level, with nine of those coming from weight class champions in the Region IV tournament — a program best. The Red and Black also have eight wrestlers making a return trip to the state tournament, including a trio of placers from a year ago.
Wahama is sending two grapplers to the Class AA-A championships, and both were competitors in this same event last winter. The Red and White also picked up the program’s first Region IV divisional champion in five postseasons en route to state.
The big story entering the weekend is Point Pleasant, which is looking to add to its already impressive trophy case and program lore.
The Big Blacks have gone consecutive tournaments without an individual state champion, but Point does have one former title-winner returning this weekend in senior George Smith.
Smith — who won the Class AAA 106-pound crown as a freshman in 2016 — is also the only senior that PPHS has in the tournament field this weekend. Smith was a regional champion two weeks ago at Williamstown and enters the 132-pound division with a 39-7 overall record.
The Big Blacks — with 13 underclassmen — may appear young on paper, but they also account for seven state returnees in a group that just set the program record for both points (321.5) and divisional champions at a Region IV tournament.
The junior class has six entrants and four state returnees, which includes Region IV champions Logan Southall (31-6) at 160 pounds and Juan Marquez (32-13) at 182 pounds.
Jacob Muncy (25-7) returns to state after placing second at regionals in the heavyweight division, while Zac Samson (33-11) is also making a repeat appearance at state following a third place performance at 152 pounds.
Nazar Abbas (29-15) and Wyatt Stanley (31-12) are making their state debuts this weekend at 170 and 220 pounds, respectively.
Three of the five sophomores advancing were in this same spot a year ago, and two of them ended up finishing in the top-six of their respective divisions.
Christopher Smith (38-5) and Mitchell Freeman (41-6) both joined George Smith in placing at the Class AA-A meet last winter, and each secured Region IV championships two weeks ago. Freeman will be competing 138 pounds, while the younger Smith is entered into the 113-pound division.
Wyatt Wilson was a Region IV champion and also competed at Big Sandy Superstore Arena last year. Wilson is 33-5 overall and is competing at 145 pounds.
Both Issac Short (38-1) and Nick Ball (20-17) are competing at the state level for the first time at 106 and 195 pounds, respectively.
Two freshmen — Derek Raike and Justin Bartee — are also aiming to do some damage in their initial matches at the state level. Raike is 42-1 overall this season and is competing at 120 pounds, while Bartee is unbeaten in 32 matches and is participating in the 126-pound division.
The Big Blacks competed at the triple-A level from 2013 through 2016 and have placed fourth each of the last two postseasons back in Class AA-A.
Point Pleasant has double-digit entrants in the state tournament for the 11th time in a dozen years.
The White Falcons finished tied for 12th a year ago in the Class A portion of the AA-A meet, scoring nine points from a quartet of qualifiers.
This winter, the Red and White have half as many entrants — but they also have a duo that is making their third consecutive appearances at the state level.
Senior Antonio Serevicz (46-2) and junior Trevor Hunt (43-5) have state tournament wins under their belts, and both are looking to add a few notches this weekend.
Serevicz became the program’s first Region IV champion since 2014 after capturing the 220-pound title at Williamstown.
Hunt — who dropped a 1-0 decision to Point’s Wyatt Wilson in the regional semifinals — ended up placing third at 145 pounds.
The White Falcons have scored at least one point in nine of the last 11 state tournaments overall.
Independence enters the weekend as the reigning five-time state champion at the Class AA level. Madonna is the defending Class A champion, as is Parkersburg South at the Class AAA level.
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.