Ripley Middle School wrestling is enjoying outstanding season

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The future is now.

While there’s no time like the present, Ripley Middle School head wrestling coach Luke Parsons also knows a big part of his job is to look years down the road.

By leading sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders on the mat, Parsons realizes he is preparing his young wrestlers for what lies ahead at the varsity level for Ripley High School.

As the wrestling season moves into the new year, his current group is doing all they can to one day excel as varsity competitors for Matt Smith's Viking program.

Despite dealing with a lot of missed practice and match time because of quarantines, Ripley Middle was simply superb in the 2021 portion of the campaign and will now look for a strong finish in the season’s second half.

The Ripley Middle School wrestling team of 2021-22 is off to an outstanding start. Luke Parsons' team won back-to-back tournaments in late December in Cambridge, Ohio, and Parkersburg.

Ripley’s accomplishments included winning back-to-back tournaments in late December over the course of three days.

“We had a nice stretch there. We wrestled three days in a row. Most middle school teams don’t do that, but our kids responded,” said Parsons, a former Viking standout who later spent two seasons as a college wrestler at Ohio Valley University.

Ripley capped off 2021 by capturing the prestigious Cambridge Junior High Tournament in Cambridge, Ohio, on Dec. 28.

The Vikings amassed 204 team points to outdistance the rest of the field, which featured nearly 40 teams, mostly from the Buckeye State.

Beaver Local out of Ohio was a distant second to Ripley with 162 team points.

Champions for the Vikings were Colston Skeen in the 92-pound class, Stephen Myers at 104 and Cooper Merritt at 170. Mason Philyaw was a runner-up at 122.

“The classes up there were a bit different, but our kids wrestled really well,” he said. “We wrestled all day there. It was a single-elimination format.”

Ripley came right back to compete in the Mountain State Clash at Blennerhassett Middle School in Parkersburg.

“A lot of the middle schools in the state were there,” Parsons said. “There were probably 30 teams. Any good team was there.”

Ripley won the two-day affair which consisted of a dual match format.

Parsons said this season’s team is second to none.

“They are good kids and really hard workers,” said the 2010 Ripley High graduate.

Leading off for the Vikings in matches is 78-pounder Kendrick Durst, a sixth-grader.

“He’s been wrestling a couple of years in clubs. He’s experienced.”

Zayden Cordeiro, who is in seventh grade, mans the 84-pound class. “He’s wrestled in clubs. He is experienced. He’s tough as nails and has a fiery attitude.”

In the 90-pound class is seventh-grader Parker Tabor. “He’s new. He’s a little light for his class. He’s wrestling up, which is tough. But he is getting better.”

While only a sixth-grader, Skeen has performed like a well-seasoned veteran at the 95-pound class. “He’s tough. He’s wrestled on the club scene. He beat two Ohio state champs at Cambridge. He’s tenacious. He’s a young kid that’s put a lot of time in.”

Lars Cooper, an eighth-grader, wrestles in the 102-pound class. “He’s tough. He does a lot of the club wrestling. He’s the most exciting guy to watch. He’s really gotten better and better.”

Myers, a seventh-grader, handles the 110-pound class. “He is the real deal. He goes all over the country to wrestle and improve and has been impressive in multiple national tournaments. He’s flat-out good.”

Bobby Minor, an eighth-grader, is the starter at 116. “He took a year off and has been a little rusty. He’s a very smart wrestler and is a very aggressive, very physical wrestler.”

Philyaw, an eighth-grader, wrestles at 123. “He was in the Ripley Midget League program and has been with me for three years. He’s one of our hardest workers. He’s gotten taller and slimmed down. His hard work is paying off.”

The 128-pound class is occupied by Cam Good, an eighth-grader. “He is probably our hardest worker on the team. He gives 100 percent every time he wrestles.”

At 135 is eighth-grader Cody Lawrence. “He won the county tournament in seventh grade. He hasn’t lost to a wrestler in West Virginia. He is a superior athlete.”

The 145-pound class has eighth-grader Connor Pritt and Ja’miere Coller, a seventh-grader. “Both guys are brand new. They are working hard and getting better. When they wrestle off it’s 2-out-of-3. There is no quit in either one of these guys.”

Carter Neal, an eighth-grader, is the RMS 155-pounder. “This is his third year with us. We’ve had to bump him up some. He’s given up a lot of weight. But he gets better every day. It’s nice to see his hard work paying off. He’s now wrestling at his natural weight.”

Merritt, an eighth-grader at 171, has improved leaps and bounds. “He’s on a tear. The last two years he was junior varsity. He looks wildly different as a person and a wrestler. He’s very aggressive and very coachable. He dominated at Cambridge. He’s worked hard for his success.”

Ivan Shaeffer is an eighth-grader who competes at 190. “He hasn’t had any matches yet but he’s ready to go now.”

Parsons’ current team doesn’t have a wrestler for the heavyweight division.

Others competing for the Vikings and getting plenty of work on the mat in junior varsity competition are sixth-grader Ian McCauley at 95, eighth-grader Trey Adkins at 102, Jace Starcher, a sixth-grader, at 110, Jackson Vanhoose, an eighth-grader, at 116, Tyler Donohew, an eighth-grader, at 123, eighth-grader Nathan Brito at 128, eighth-grader Jackson Stover at 151, Johnny Anderson, a seventh-grader, at 135, seventh-grader Aiden Harmon at 135 and Qwenton Campbell at 155.

Parsons is proud of what his team has done to date and is hopeful the Vikings can stay healthy for the stretch run.

“We have a lot of wrestling still to come this season, but these kids are workers,” he said.

The fifth-year head coach said this Ripley Middle School squad is making a name for itself.

He knows if they all stick with the sport, great things will not only happen the rest of this season but in years to come at the next level.

The future is not only now but it is also very bright for Ripley wrestling.