Cox claims Class AAA 113-pound state championship
Hawaii can wait.
Along with a couple of family members, Ripley senior Nate Cox was bound this spring for one of America’s most beautiful destinations.
Then came word the West Virginia High School State Wrestling Tournament was going to be moved to a later date due to COVID-19. It was going to happen when Cox was scheduled to be in Hawaii.
Cox, a senior wrestler at Ripley, had been to three straight state tournaments (in February) but had never enjoyed winning a match. He was 0-6 and wanted to change his fortunes.
As fate would have it, the Hawaii vacation was able to be changed without any financial hardship on the family, who had spent lots of time mapping it all out.
With the vacation rescheduled, the 113-pounder went about business on the mats for the final time in his career.
Once again, he qualified for the state tournament by winning the Class AAA Region IV championship.
And while in Huntington, not only did Nate Cox finally win that first-ever state tournament match, he was victorious in three more, including a state championship thriller in overtime.
In was a true storybook ending for the Ripley senior.
It started with the fear of him not being able to compete for the final time as a wrestler to capturing one of the 14 Class AAA individual state championships inside Huntington’s Mountain Health Arena.
Tied 1-1 with Parkersburg South’s Brent Bosley, whom he had defeated in the Region IV Tournament championship (6-4 in OT), at the end of regulation, Cox managed a takedown and was also awarded two back points for a near pin in the one-minute OT session.
With the win, he moves Ripley's state championship total to 27.
“Nate is a good kid and I’m glad he was able to win,” head coach Matt Smith, who won a state title in a Viking uniform at the 2002 state tournament. “He’s proof of what can happen if you just stay on the path you’re on and keep plugging away.
“Leading into this season, he was a three-time qualifier who hadn’t won a match at the state tournament. Now, he has won four matches there and is a state champion.”
Cox finished the season with a 20-5 record. His career mark closes at 70-55.
“I still can’t believe it,” Cox said. “It’s by far the best experience of my life.”
Cox started his championship journey by pinning Musselman freshman James Anderson in 51 seconds to give him that first state tournament victory.
“I hadn’t broken that barrier (of winning a state tournament match), but to be honest I was more focused on winning it all and not just a match,” he said.
He followed up that first win with a second, registering a major decision, 13-5, over Buckhannon-Upshur junior Aiden Wilson.
Cox earned his way into the championship match against Bosley with a 7-0 decision of Landon Hoffman, a sophomore from Spring Mills.
His title showdown with Bosley was possibly the most exciting match of the 14 in Class AAA.
“I think one of the keys was just to mostly stay on my offense,” Cox said. “I didn’t do well at the beginning of the match.”
But things ended well for Cox, who came back to the sport as a freshman.
“I wrestled in Midget League when I was young and in first grade. Then, I just didn’t stay with it,” said Cox, who is considering going to a trade school when his days at Ripley High are through. “I came out my freshman year and I am so glad I did.”
And now he can enjoy the beauty of Hawaii following graduation and reflect on being the latest state champion in the proud history of Viking wrestling.
Senior Luke Miller placed for the Vikings by taking fifth in the 132-pound class.
Miller started his tournament with a technical fall over Hedgesville sophomore Trenton Fox.
He was knocked into the consolation round in his second match of the tournament. University freshman Luca Felix pinned Miller in 2:42. Felix, who has a bright future, made it to the championship where he lost a tough, 1-0, decision to Washington’s Ethan Hardy, who was named Class AAA’s Most Valuable Wrestler.
After the loss to Felix, Miller rebounded with a pin over Greenbrier East freshman Micah Fisher in 59 seconds.
He then recorded a decision over Huntington junior Jesiah Winters, 9-6, to reach the placement round.
After a loss to Parkersburg South sophomore Trent Jones, 7-3, which would have put him in contention for third or fourth, Miller came back to down Hurricane sophomore Nick Cruickshank, 5-1, to earn fifth.
“Luke Miller was able to break through to become a state place winner after three years of heartbreak,” said Smith. “I’m very happy for him.”
Junior Brett Haskins, the 120-pound runner-up a year ago, finished 2-2.
He started things with a third period pin of John Marshall junior Carl Cochran. Haskins had to move into the consolation bracket after a 7-1 loss to St. Albans freshman Matthew McAfee.
Haskins recovered for a gutty, 4-3, decision over University senior Timmy Cargill.
His dream of placing a third straight year at the State Tournament was dashed when he fell by a 7-2 decision in a tough match against Tucker Hurst, a junior from Buckhannon-Upshur.
“Brett Haskins was in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, weight classes in the state,” Smith said. “He made it to the blood round and lost a razor close match to a returning state place winner in double overtime. I know he will put the work in and use this finish to drive him to bigger and better things next season.”
Senior Matt Moore was also 2-2 in his final state tournament.
He lost to Beckley Woodrow Wilson’s Devan Gaulding, a senior, 7-5 in his opening match. Gaulding had been a state runner-up the year before at 195.
In the consolation round, Moore picked up back-to-back wins over Morgantown junior Liam O’Connor and Preston junior Chase Blaney. Moore pinned O’Connor in 54 seconds and won by decision over Blaney, 4-0.
His tournament ended when he was pinned in the second period by Cabell Midland junior Logan Fischer.
“Matthew Moore had a tough opening round overtime loss to a returning state runner-up and then battled back to the blood round where he lost to the eventual third place finisher,” said Smith.
Viking senior Isaac Parsons was pinned by Greenbrier East senior Colby Piner in the second period to begin the tournament at 160.
Wrestling in the consolation bracket, Parsons pinned sophomore Jefferson’s Caleb Wiser in the second before being pinned by Riverside junior Zach Holstion in the second.
At 220, Dakota Parsons, a senior, was pinned by Erick Brothers of Wheeling Park in the first period. Brothers, a sophomore, would go on to take the title at 220. He was the 182-pound champ a year ago.
After his loss to Brothers, Parsons pinned GW junior Zach Johnson early in the second period before losing by pin to Parkersburg senior Jacob McCune.
Andrew Manley went 1-2 in his final state tournament. In the 285-pound class, Manley lost a 9-2 decision to Jonathan Lavely, a senior from Washington, to start the tournament.
He bounced back to stay alive in his first consolation match by pinning Brooke junior Daniel Rawson in the second period. He then lost a 7-0 decision to Huntington freshman Robert Martin.
Viking sophomore Hunter Brown lost a couple of tough matches in the 152-pound class by pin to Musselman junior Gage Cosner and Riverside junior Michael Hamilton.
“Isaac, Dakota and Andrew each won a match. All three progressed a ton over the season and their careers. I wish they could’ve placed but was glad they each picked up a win there,” Smith said. “Hunter Brown lost both matches but gained some valuable experience for his next two years. He actually beat a wrestler from Cabell Midland at regionals that placed in the top six, so he was and is right in the mix. He just needs to make some adjustments leading into next season.”
Parkersburg South captured its seventh consecutive team title over the two-day tournament by accumulating 264 points. It was the 25th overall crown in the storied South program, that was engineered by the late Rod Oldham, a Ripley native.
Spring Mills from the state’s Eastern Panhandle was second with 172.5.
Ripley placed 13th overall as a team with 56.5.