ON THE MARK: State wrestling tournament notebook: Column
THINGS WERE DIFFERENT: While it wasn’t quite the same as we are accustomed to when it comes to the West Virginia High School State Wrestling Tournament, just the fact it did unfold was a blessing for all of those who love the sport.
Wrestling, as you may recall, had been the last to actually decide championships last February before COVID-19 ultimately stopped all other sports from competing for titles.
The Girls State Basketball Tournament was shelved after nine games while the Boys Tournament never got started.
And then came the spring, when the sports of boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, girls softball and boys baseball had their seasons cancelled.
Instead of the traditional three-day affair in which Class AAA and Class AA-A wrestling action run simultaneously, this year the 74th annual event was stretched into four days.
All of the Class AAA action took place on Monday and Tuesday while Class AA-A was staged on Wednesday and Thursday.
Regardless as to when and how it unfolded, just seeing another sport make it until the end and crown champions was a good sign that slowly, but surely, things will get turned around and back on schedule.
COX IS A CHAMP: The story of Nate Cox’s state championship journey (see story elsewhere on sports pages) was truly a great one.
The Ripley Viking saw his senior year face a dilemma when the wrestling season was delayed twice due to COVID.
A family vacation had been planned (thinking wrestling season would end in the usual month of February) for Hawaii at the very same time the state tournament would now be taking place.
The family made the decision Cox’s final go-round on the mats was more important.
The sacrifice allowed him to become Ripley’s 27th state champ.
And the trip to Hawaii is now on for a later date.
TIES TO RAVENSWOOD: One of the Class AAA state finalists has quite the connection to Ravenswood and Red Devil wrestling.
Robert Shockey, a freshman at Parkersburg South and formally of Ravenswood, battled for the title in the 145-pound class.
Shockey’s father, Nathan, and mother, Jenna Schindler, are Ravenswood High graduates.
His great uncles — Luke Schindler and Tom Schindler — are on the list of Ravenswood High state champions. Luke won a AA-A title in 1981 in the 132-pound division while Tom captured the 167-pound crown in 1985. Uncle Adam Schindler, Jenna’s brother, was a state champ for Ravenswood in 2000 at Class AA-A's145-pound division before transferring to Ripley and claiming a Class AAA title at 152 in 2001.
Shockey entered his championship match with Wheeling Park senior Steven Mitchell and took a quick 2-0 lead. He had the misfortune of injuring a knee while landing awkwardly during second period action and had to default his match.
There’s no question, though, the future is bright for Shockey, who helped the Patriots win a seventh consecutive state team championship.
In addition to Luke, Tom and Adam, two other great uncles, Paul and Pete Schindler, and grandfather John Schindler, were outstanding wrestlers in the Ravenswood program of Hall of Fame coach Dale Hinkle.
His great aunt, Ann Schindler, was a matmaid for Ravenswood wrestling during his high school days.
IN THE STRIPES: Steve Stoffel Jr., who spent the early years of his life in Ripley, again served as one of the officials for this year’s state tournament. Stoffel Jr. was working the Class AA-A portion of the event.
His father, Steve Sr., was the Ripley High head football coach in the seasons of 1976 and 1977 and was head wrestling coach from 1973-1977.
FRASHIER ON HAND: Ripley High principal Jimmy Frashier was present at the state tournament.
Not only was Frashier there to watch Ripley’s seven wrestlers compete, but also to serve in his role as a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission SSAC Board of Directors.
Among his functions at the state tournament was being part of the championship ceremonies following the 14 title matches.
HUMBLED BY AWARD: For the second time in my career, I was honored by the West Virginia Wrestling Coaches Association as the Class AAA Snyder-Miller Media Person of the Year.
The award is named in honor of Tim Miller, who developed and oversees the magnificent wvmat.com website, and the late Jim Snyder, who was one of the early pioneers of devoting plenty of love to high school wrestling while working as sports editor for The Parkersburg News.
In addition to coverage for Jackson Newspapers and my full-time job at WCHS-TV/FOX 11, I’ve had the pleasure of calling play-by-play action of the Class AAA state championship matches the past four years for the NFHS (National Federation of High School Sports) Network’s livestream telecast in conjunction with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
Once again in 2021, I was joined matside by one-time Ravenswood Red Devil standout Jim Mahan, who later coached the sport at his alma mater and helped lead three wrestlers to state titles, both as an assistant and head coach.
He is an outstanding analyst who I’ve also had the honor of working with at the West Virginia High School State Track and Field Meet for the NFHS Network and on live televised high school football games for WCHS-TV/FOX 11 sister station Stadium.
Jim finished fourth at the state tournament in 1979 in the unlimited division.
A year later his younger brother, Bob, became Ravenswood’s first-ever state title winner in the 167-pound division of Class AA-A.
DEVILS ON THE MAT: Speaking of Ravenswood, details of Red Devils wrestlers freshman Wyatt Milhoan (132) and junior Ethan Lane (285) will appear in this Friday’s edition of The Jackson Star News.