Ripley's Haskins aiming for the ultimate prize in his final days of high school wrestling

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

Things were progressing rather nicely for Brett Haskins as a high school wrestler.

As a freshman, Haskins placed sixth in Class AAA’s 113-pound division of the West Virginia State Tournament.

Moving into his sophomore year, Haskins went to Huntington bound and determined to claim a championship.

And he almost did.

In a tough battle until the end with Parkersburg’s Garrett Donahue, Haskins would fall in the 120-pound state championship match by a final of 10-3.

So, going into his junior year the sky appeared to be the limit for Haskins.

But as we know, sometimes in life and certainly athletics, things don’t always go as planned.

Which was the case for Haskins in the strange season of high school wrestling less than a year ago.

While Haskins returned to the state tournament in Huntington for a third consecutive year, he left without placing.

Ripley's Brett Haskins (right) eyeballs an opponent on the mats during last year's West Virginia High School State Wrestling Tournament. Haskins, now a senior, was a state runner-up as a sophomore and is looking for a big finish to his Viking wrestling career. He currently owns a record of 22-5.

You’ve heard of the “sophomore jinx”; Haskins may have been victim to the “junior jinx.”

After wrestling at 113 and 120 his first two years, Haskins moved to 126 as a junior.

“The weight class was pretty stacked, but I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I wanted to see how I could do,” he said. “The weight class alone had 10 or 11 returning placers from the year before. Two were returning champions. Only six can place, so five are going home without an award.”

Haskins was one of those five. He finished 2-2 at last April’s state tournament. It was a sudden end to his time in Huntington after the magical championship run a season earlier.

While it was disappointing, it served as motivation for his senior campaign.

Haskins is wrestling at 145 in his final go-round as a Viking and has already won over 20 matches in this 2021-22 season, including a fifth-place finish at North Canton.

“I was a takedown away from wrestling in the finals,” said Haskins of the mammoth tournament in the city that is home to Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.

The tough junior season served as motivation for his final days on the high school mats.

Besides competing in a weight class loaded with supreme talent (including Haskins) last season, the time frame in general was a difficult one.

Due to COVID-19, the winter sports scene in West Virginia was delayed. The normal time for the state tournament is late February. But that is when things got going last year with the state event not happening until April.

“Last year I was cutting weight in August to October. Then things got delayed. I had to maintain my weight a couple of more months,” Haskins said.

It was a challenge for Haskins along with the rest of the state’s high school wrestlers.

When things did end for Haskins in Huntington, he turned his attention to baseball.

Haskins is also a standout on the diamond for Shane Casto’s Viking program.

When baseball season wrapped up,  Haskins' wrestling batteries were fully charged and he got busy aiming for a big finish to his high school career.

“I put in the work in the offseason, hopefully I can get back into the state finals match and see what I can do this time.”

The North Canton event certainly helped Haskins’ confidence in turning things around.

“I got some big wins against some pretty good guys,” he said.

He feels good about several things out on the mat this season but there are some aspects to improve upon in order to achieve his goals. 

“I’ve had my ups and downs,” he said. “I think my mentality has gotten a lot better. There are some technique things I need to fix.”

One of the biggest things Haskins decided to do heading into this season was to have fun and not let anything become too stressful.

“I felt like I was obligated to go out there and win it last year, I’m not going to lie. I probably put too much pressure on myself after wrestling for the championship the year before,” he said. “This year there is no pressure whatsoever. I’m just going out there and wrestling and not thinking about the past.”

Not only is Haskins an outstanding two-sport athlete but his work in the classroom is second to none.

He presently owns a 4.35 GPA.

Haskins’ father, Jeff, is Ripley High School’s assistant principal. His grandfather, Gary Higginbotham, is a former county administrator.

Haskins plans to go to college but hasn’t chosen a major, let alone a school.

He’s still weighing his options.

One thing is for certain, Haskins doesn’t want his athletic days to come to an end once he leaves Ripley High School.

He would love to either wrestle or play baseball at the next level and hasn’t ruled out perhaps trying to do both.

His older brother, Tyler, is enjoying success as a college baseball player at Fairmont State University.

“I’m going to wait and see what happens,” he said.

For now, Brett Haskins will continue to cherish his final days as a Viking wrestler.

And perhaps earn the ultimate prize in early March at the state tournament.