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Haskins can’t wait for return to the mats

By Mark Martin

The wait high school athletes in winter sports are having to presently endure in West Virginia is excruciating.

By now, a wrestler, for example, would have several matches tucked away.

Instead, practices have yet to get underway due to a COVID-19 mandate that was instituted late last fall by Governor Jim Justice and state health officials. 

Workouts and competition for winter sports (wrestling, basketball and swimming) in West Virginia won’t begin until January. The layoff has been extremely difficult for someone like Ripley junior Brett Haskins.

When wrestling season ended a year ago, Haskins, then a sophomore, was battling for a state championship in Class AAA’s 120-pound division.

Haskins lost a tough 10-3 decision to Parkersburg High School’s Garret Donahue in a match that was much closer than the final score indicated.

The match was tied with 20 seconds remaining.

Haskins is eager to return for his junior season that will likely have less mat time.

“Now we’re looking at probably 20 to 25 matches maximum,” said Haskins, who was a finished third in the 113-pound division of Class AAA as a freshman in 2019.

“I’m pretty eager to win a state championship and I want our team to do well,” said Haskins in laying out goals for this season.

With no practice time at this point in the school year, Haskins is doing everything he possibly can to be ready but knows there’s it’s two totally different worlds when comparing working out on your own to being in a mat room day after day.

“I’m trying to get stronger and running. There’s a big difference in being in shape and then being in wrestling shape. They’re totally different. No one can understand that unless they’ve wrestled.”

Haskins would like to return to the 126-pound weight class this season but might opt for 132.

He said 126 was definitely the target weight for this season until Governor Jim Justice and state health officials delayed the start of winter sports.

Besides being in peak physical condition, Haskins wants to improve in a number of areas on the mat. One is his scrambling technique.

“If I want to wrestle in college, that (scrambling) is something I really need to improve on,” he said.

Haskins said he wouldn’t rule out playing baseball in college.

His older brother, Tyler, is a catcher for the program at Fairmont State University.

COVID-19 not only is delaying his junior season of wrestling, but it wiped out his entire sophomore year of baseball last spring.

With no baseball season and a late start to wrestling, Haskins is involved in the longest lull of his time as a competitive athlete since he started as a youngster.

“It was definitely disappointing not having my baseball season,” said Haskins, a versatile player who started as a freshman for Shane Casto’s Vikings. “I’m excited to get back out there.”

And he’s certainly counting the days to be on the mat and begin his pursuit of a state championship.

He’s certainly looking forward to another season wrestling for head coach Matt Smith.

“I think he should be voted coach of the year every single year,” said Haskins of the one-time Ripley High state champ. “He pushes us and wants to get everything out of us. He’s there for us. He wants us to get better. And he wants us to not only be better at wrestling but as humans. He’s doing things right.”

And Brett Haskins is doing everything right and will continue to do so as he hopes to leave the mat as a champion this March at the State Tournament in Huntington.