Highlanders off to hot start

February 22, 2019
Huntington's Devin Doss, right, and Mussleman's Brady Hemp battle on the mat during the West Virginia state high school wrestling tournament Thursday at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Despite a four-day layoff from the state teacher strike, Huntington High’s wrestling squad appeared to be in top form for Thursday’s start to the 72nd West Virginia High School Wrestling Tournament in Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Jaishawn Lyles (106 pounds), London Bowen (113), Devin Doss (120), Alex Viars (126), Gabe Dempsey (138), A. J. Dempsey (152), Clayton Stewart (170), and Zane Lanham (182) all won first-round matches to advance in the championship bracket to Friday’s quarterfinals.

“So far, so good,” Huntington coach Rob Archer said. “London, Zane and Clayton all looked good. Gabe was fourth in our region and pinned the (champion from Region II Hunter Dodson of Spring Mills).

For Huntington High, which took a surprising second place at the Class AAA, Region IV tournament Feb. 9 at Parkersburg High School, it was a good start to what could lead to a good weekend for the Highlanders, the defending Class AAA state runner-up.

Was Archer surprised with Huntington’s performance? “Not with the way they’ve been working,” he said.

The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission gave a weight allowance of four pounds to each weight class because of the layoff.

Archer said the WVSSAC typically makes such a move around the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break.

“It hurt us more than it helped us,” Spring Valley coach Chris Miles said of the layoff. “But we’ve got a pretty good self-motivating team. We’ll be fine.”

That was evident with Chase Stevens, Spring Valley’s top contender for a championship in the 195-pound weight class. Stevens breezed to a first-round win by pinning Isaiah Sanner of Hedgesville.

Cabell Midland also had a strong showing on the tournament’s first day.

Ivan Vaughn joined Stevens in the championship bracket of the 195 class with a pin of Martinsburg’s Dante Logan. Kellen Hunt (285), Preston Rose (220), Zach Dillon (182), Nate Neale (160), Isaiah Vaughn (138), Payne Salmons (132) and Luke Jordan (106) also advanced for the Knights.

Parkersburg South is atop the Class AAA team standings after the first day with 37 points followed closely by Wheeling Park (36.5), Huntington High (36) and fourth-place Cabell Midland (29.5).

Independence, looking for its sixth consecutive state Class AA/A state championship, leads Point Pleasant, 38 to 36.