Mason County grapplers aiming for success

By Bryan Walters -

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — And here we go again.

Mason County will have nine wrestlers competing Thursday at the 69th annual WVSSAC wrestling championships at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena after each grappler earned a top-four finish this past weekend at the 2016 regional tournaments held at Point Pleasant and Roane County high schools.

Point Pleasant had eight of the nine local wrestlers advance in the Class AAA Region IV tournament at PPHS, while Wahama landed a single state qualifier for the second straight postseason in the Class AA-A Region IV championships. In all, only four of the nine grapplers will be making a repeat trip to the state meet.

The Big Blacks will not be sending double-digit entries to Huntington for the first time in 10 postseasons, as the Big Blacks scored three individual regional championship while finishing fourth with 148.5 points. Huntington won the 10-team tournament with 218 points, while host Cabell Midland was the overall runner-up with 195.5 points.

Junior Grant Safford (37-2) earned his second consecutive Region 4 championship after going unbeaten at 182 pounds. Safford also earned his third consecutive appearance at the state meet and was the 195-pound runner-up a year ago.

Senior Hunter White (39-5) is headed back to Huntington for a third straight year after capturing his first Region 4 championship last weekend at 170 pounds. White earned his first podium finish last year after placing sixth at 170 pounds.

Freshman George Smith (39-4) also scored a Region 4 championship for Point Pleasant at 106 pounds. Smith will be making his state tournament debut this weekend.

Senior Tannor Hill (38-7) was the Region 4 runner-up at 220 pounds and will be making his third straight appearance at the state meet. Hill was the Class AAA runner-up at 195 pounds back in 2014.

Senior Scotty Wilcox (30-18) is making his third straight appearance at the state tournament after finishing fourth in Region 4 at 120 pounds. Wilcox is the only repeat state qualifier for PPHS to never earn a podium finish at state in his career.

Seniors Christopher Lush and James Patterson each earned their first career trips to state after finishing fourth in their respective weight classes, as did sophomore Brian Gillispie. Lush owns a 30-17 record at 145 pounds, Patterson is 12-16 at 195 pounds, and Gillispie is 9-10 overall this season at 285 pounds.

Point Pleasant, which is making its final Class AAA appearance before dropping back down to the Class AA-A level next year, has finished no lower than ninth as a team over the last three seasons in the big-school division.

The White Falcons finished 10th overall out of 12 teams with 32 points at Roane County. Calhoun County and Roane County shared the Class AA-A Region 4 title with 181 points apiece, while Wirt County was third with 169.5 points.

Sophomore Ethan Herdman (30-10) was the lone Wahama grappler to advance to state after finishing third at 145 pounds. Herdman, a first-time state qualifier, will be looking to extend the White Falcons’ scoring streak to six straight postseasons with a single win.

The 2016 WVSSAC wrestling championships will be held Thursday through Saturday at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Cabell County.

Complete results of the Class AAA and Class AA-A state wrestling tournaments will be available on the web at

Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.

By Bryan Walters