Big Blacks win 5th AA-A title


Point produces 6 weight class champions, sets state record with margin of victory

By Bryan Walters - bwalters@aimmediamidwest.com



Point Pleasant senior Juan Marquez locks in a hold during the Class AA-A 195-pound championship match on Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va.

Point Pleasant senior Juan Marquez locks in a hold during the Class AA-A 195-pound championship match on Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va.


Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant sophomore Justin Bartee walks past his opponent after recording a pinfall win Saturday night during the Class AA-A 138-pound championship match at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va.


Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant wrestling coach John Bonecutter, left, is presented with the Dix Manning Class AA Coaching Award at the end of Saturday night's Class AA-A tournament at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)


Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Parker Henderson receives a congratulatory hug from head coach John Bonecutter after Henderson won the 106-pound title Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)


Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — This 2020 vision left the Big Blacks seeing double.

The Point Pleasant wrestling team re-wrote the program’s record books this weekend while cruising to its fifth state championship at the 73rd annual WVSSAC Wrestling Championships held at Mountain Health Arena in Cabell County.

The Big Blacks came away with six individual state champions, 10 top three efforts and a dozen podium finishes en route to a winning tally of 266.5 points — the second largest team total in Class AA-A history, dating back to 1976.

The half-dozen individual titles ended up crushing the program mark of three state champions at one meet, which was set on five different occasions previously. PPHS also joined the 2001 Oak Glen and 2017 Independence squads in producing six different state champions at one meet, the most in Class AA-A tournament history.

The Red and Black — who technically secured enough points by the end of Session 2 to repeat as Class AA-A champions — went unbeaten in the opening round Thursday and won their first 15 matches overall before ending Session 2 with 120 points and a 26-5 overall mark.

By the end of Session 3 later Friday night, the Big Blacks had nine state finalists, a dozen grapplers still competing and a 37-7 record individually … as well 230 points and a 148-point lead on the rest of the field.

Point Pleasant went 2-4 overall in Session 4, which yielded a third place finisher and a pair of sixth place efforts en route to 239 team points and a 133-point advantage on the field.

Then, on Saturday night, the Big Blacks went 6-3 overall in state championship bouts … allowing PPHS to complete their historic weekend on a positive note.

Point Pleasant came up three points short of matching the Class AA-A total points record set by Oak Glen (269.5) back in 2000.

In defeating runner-up Braxton County (111) by 155.5 points, the Big Blacks did set a new state record for winning margin in a Class AA-A tournament … surpassing the 143.5-point mark previously set by Independence in 2017.

The 2012 team previously held Point Pleasant records for most points (224), most podium finishes (12), most state finalists (6) and largest margin of victory (85) at a single state tournament over five sessions. The 2012 squad also held the previous mark for consecutive wins to start a tournament with 11.

Sophomores Derek Raike (132) and Justin Bartee (138), as well as junior Isaac Short (120), repeated as state champions in their respective weight classes, while senior Juan Marquez (195) joined juniors Parker Henderson (106) and Mitchell Freeman (145) in notching their first state crowns.

All six state champions posted perfect 4-0 records in their divisions.

Senior Zac Samson (160), junior Christopher Smith (126) and junior Wyatt Wilson (152) all suffered setbacks in their weight class finals, allowing each to finish second overall. The trio also finished the weekend with 3-1 marks.

Sophomore Mackandle Freeman was third overall at 113 pounds with a 5-1 record, while seniors Logan Southall (170) and Wyatt Stanley (220) finished sixth in their divisions with identical efforts of 2-3.

Senior Jacob Muncy (285) and sophomore Brayden Connolly (182) also went 1-2 apiece and did not reach the podium in their respective weight classes.

Overall, the Big Blacks increased the program’s total to 30 state champions by night’s end and ended the weekend with a 44-14 overall record. In winning just over 76 percent of its matches, PPHS also recorded 21 pinfall victories, five major decisions and a technical fall.

In winning his fifth state title in 11 years at the helm, PPHS coach John Bonecutter picked up his fourth Dix Manning Class AA Coaching Award this weekend — including his second in as many years.

Having experienced four state titles and numerous individual championships over the last decade, even Bonecutter was at a loss for words in trying to describe the latest addition.

However, as he noted, the best word was probably special … much like the 14 athletes who made this incredible 3-day experience come to life on the grandest of stages.

“This is a special, special group of young men … and good families too. We are a close-knit group, and it was really nice to see the way that Point Pleasant showed up to support one another this weekend. We had great support over all three days of competition, and it really helped. We were really blessed this weekend,” Bonecutter said. “It’s been an unbelievable year. Honestly, we may have left a few points out there this weekend, but I don’t think I could have asked for any more from any of them. Every single one of them got it done this weekend, and what more can you ask for this time of year?

“We set big goals at the start of the season. We’ve won state titles before and most of these guys were on a state title team last year, so we really wanted to see what we could do this year. The guys wanted to leave no doubt about who the best team in the state and the best team in school history was. We beat (Class AAA champion) Parkersburg South this year in a dual, so we really feel like the unified champ in the state right now. It’s been a magical ride, and not just this weekend … I mean the whole season. But this weekend was something to see too.”

Point Pleasant posted a school record 35-0 record in dual matches during the regular season, including that 32-27 victory over PSHS at Cabell Midland High School back on Jan. 11. PPHS also won six of those head-to-head bouts by shutout.

The Big Blacks repeated as WSAZ Invitational champions and brought home tournament titles in every other event that they competed in this year — except for a 5.5-point runner-up finish to Aurora (OH) at the Alliance Top Gun Tournament.

The Big Blacks set new school records in the Region IV tournament with a dozen regional champions and 359 points overall … a total that was 197.5 points better than that of runner-up Winfield.

Point Pleasant also won the first-ever Class AA team duals tournament held at The Greenbrier, an experimental event sanctioned by the West Virginia Wrestling Coaches Association.

Point Pleasant is slated to lose Marquez, Samson, Southall, Stanley and Muncy to graduation, but the Red and Black will have five state champions, seven finalists, eight podium finishers and nine state qualifiers returning next year while gunning for the program’s second-ever 3-peat.

“We don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon,” Bonecutter said. “Our goal will be the same as it always is. We’ll get back in the weight room and start getting ready for nationals. Next season, we’ll be back to wearing that bull’s-eye. I’ll tell you this though, tonight is going to be a fun night.”

Point Pleasant previously won Class AA-A state titles in 2010 through 2012, then captured last year’s Class AA crown. Eleven of this year’s state qualifiers were part of last winter’s championship squad.

The Big Blacks previously won three individual championships at the 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2019 Class AA-A meets.

Editor’s Note: Additional stories from the WVSSAC Championships will appear in later editions of the Point Pleasant Register, Gallipolis Daily Tribune and The Daily Sentinel this week. The Thursday sports edition will feature a story on Point’s three first-time state champions, as well as the tournament runners-up this weekend. The Friday edition will feature a story on Point’s three repeat champions, while the weekend edition will include an interview with the Point Pleasant coaching staff.

© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

Point Pleasant senior Juan Marquez locks in a hold during the Class AA-A 195-pound championship match on Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va.
https://www.mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2020/03/web1_3.3-PP-Marquez-2.jpgPoint Pleasant senior Juan Marquez locks in a hold during the Class AA-A 195-pound championship match on Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant sophomore Justin Bartee walks past his opponent after recording a pinfall win Saturday night during the Class AA-A 138-pound championship match at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va.
https://www.mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2020/03/web1_3.3-PP-Bartee-2.jpgPoint Pleasant sophomore Justin Bartee walks past his opponent after recording a pinfall win Saturday night during the Class AA-A 138-pound championship match at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant wrestling coach John Bonecutter, left, is presented with the Dix Manning Class AA Coaching Award at the end of Saturday night’s Class AA-A tournament at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)
https://www.mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2020/03/web1_3.3-PP-Bonecutter-2.jpgPoint Pleasant wrestling coach John Bonecutter, left, is presented with the Dix Manning Class AA Coaching Award at the end of Saturday night’s Class AA-A tournament at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

Point Pleasant junior Parker Henderson receives a congratulatory hug from head coach John Bonecutter after Henderson won the 106-pound title Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)
https://www.mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2020/03/web1_3.3-PP-Parker-2.jpgPoint Pleasant junior Parker Henderson receives a congratulatory hug from head coach John Bonecutter after Henderson won the 106-pound title Saturday night at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, W.Va. (Bryan Walters|OVP Sports)Bryan Walters|OVP Sports
Point produces 6 weight class champions, sets state record with margin of victory

By Bryan Walters

bwalters@aimmediamidwest.com

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

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