JACKSON COUNTY - It is hard to believe that it has been a year since Ripley's Adam Bicak brought home his fourth AAA West Virginia State Wrestling Title and teammate David Hicks snagged his third. Both grapplers have since graduated and are continuing their education and doing well.
However, they will forever hold a spot in the hearts of the wrestling faithful as new generations of county matsters can look to their accomplishments and see what can be achieved with hard work, dedication and tenaciousness.
For the 2013 group of young men advancing to the big show, the dream becomes a reality as the first sessions kick off Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington. The tournament runs through Saturday.
For the Red Devils of Ravenswood, their lone representative comes in a tough customer named Patrick Berry (170). Berry (23-13), a fourth place qualifier, will face undefeated regional champion Tyler Parker of Greenbrier West (39-0) in the first round. This will be the junior's first taste of state mats and Red Devil coach Matt Bender is sure to have his young grappler ready for action.
For the fourth ranked regional champion Vikings of coach Matt Smith, ten wrestlers will be preparing to make their mark this weekend. The Vikings finished as state runner ups last season and look to get over the hump. Huntington High (No. 1), defending champs Parkersburg South (No. 2) and Parkersburg (No. 3) represent just a fraction of the difficult road in front of the blue and white.
Smith feels his team is peaking at just the right time to maximize their chances in Huntington.
"It is definitely a quick turnaround from regionals last weekend. We have had good practices this week and I think our heads are in a good place. We feel good about our team and we expect to do well this weekend."
A look at the Blue Crew and their first round opponents:
Antonio Jones (sophomore, 120): Jones is a standout on coach Ward's track team and also competed in the West Virginia State Track meet last year. Jones, a third place qualifier (17-15), will face regional runner up Braidon Knotts (32-14) of parkersburg South. Jones is ranked tenth in his weight class.
Lucas Simpkins (freshman, 126): Simpkins was a phenom in middle school and continues to impress on prep mats. Simpkins, a regional runner up qualifier (25-5), will face Micah Powell (32-10) of Point Pleasant. Simpkins is ranked second in his weight class.
Austin Hileman (junior, 132): Hileman is also a standout defensive back for coach Frashier's football squad. He has continued his ascent into greatness on the mats and arrives in Huntington as a regional champion and faces Buckhannon-Upshur's junior Matt Fair (29-14, fourth place qualifier). Hileman is ranked third in his weight class and finished sixth last season in Huntington.
Jake Martin (sophomore, 138): Jake is teammate Preston's younger brother. Jake served as the Viking quarterback last season. He earned a state championship as a frosh wrestler and looks to add to his trophy cast this season. Jake (28-6) will arrive in Huntington as a regional runner up. He faces junior Dylan Hall (32-10) of John Marshall (third place qualifier). Martin is ranked second in his weight class.
Preston Martin (junior, 152): Martin was second on the Viking football team in tackles from his linebacker position also excels on the mats. Martin (29-6) is a regional champion and faces Hedgesville senior Nick Clevenger (23-24) (fourth place qualifier). Martin is ranked third in his weight class. Preston was state runner up last season.
Nate Starkey (senior, 170): Starkey has had sensational season and looks to build on that resume. The senior (25-5) comes to Huntington a regional champion. He faces Huntington junior Austin Budd (12-18 fourth place qualifier). Starkey is ranked fourth in his weight class. Starkey had his ticket punched to Huntington last season but did not place.
Martin Kuhl (senior, 182): Kuhl (13-16) finished his senior season powerfully and draws a tough opening round opponent in regional runner up Davis Stas, a sophomore from Musselman (30-9). Kuhl had his ticket punched to Huntington last season but did not place.
Greg Medina (senior, 195): Medina has become the rock star in his senior season that those in wrestling circles felt he would. He advances via a regional crown and faces a rugged opponent in Parkersburg South junior Matt Dixon (27-12), a fourth place qualifier. Medina is ranked fourth in his weight class and finished sixth in Huntington last season.
Freddy Roush (sophomore, 220): Roush (6-3) thought to be a heavyweight this season but shed some weight and filled a much needed hole for the Vikings at (220). Roush is a regional champion and faces Aric Ooten of Logan. The junior is (18-8) this season.
Daryl Hicks (senior, 285): Hicks (30-2) has wrestled like a man on a mission. With his last taste of state mats approaching, the all-state nose guard looks to leave his mark on Viking wrestling history. It all starts in a first round meeting with Martinsburg sophomore Josh Kerns (14-12). Hicks is ranked first in his weight class and finished last season as state runner up.