By Gary Fauber
Cliff Warden is good at keeping things in perspective.
After Independence won the Class AA/A Region 3 championship — putting itself in good position for this weekend’s state tournament in the process — Warden was quick to remind that the work is still far from finished.
“Important that they’re going, but if they go and don’t do anything, not important,” Warden said, smiling.
That Patriots had 11 wrestlers in the finals Saturday and wound up with 13 overall placewinners. Those 13 will go to Huntington Thursday to begin the final leg in their quest to win their first state championship since 1996.
Indy, the state’s No. 1-ranked team, finished with 262 points to outdistance defending state champion Greenbrier West (238.5). The No. 2 Cavaliers will send 12 wrestlers to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in hopes of repeating.
The rivals met head-to-head in seven title matches, and just as they did at the Coalfield Conference Invitational two weeks before, the Cavaliers prevailed most often. West wrestlers amassed four wins over the Patriots.
But Independence had seven champions overall to those four for the Cavaliers. Individual champs for the Patriots were Nathan McClaugherty (106 pounds), Will Cox (120), Jacob Hart (126), Colton Ward (138), Cody Clifton (145), Noah Adams (152) and Trey Williams (195).
Warden said the team went through an intense week of practice because they had to make up for the three days they lost to snow the previous week.
“The guys’ bodies were probably sore because we grinded really hard,” Warden said. “Now our bodies will be recovered more next week. We won’t do as much live, as much conditioning and lifting. We’ll bear off to get our bodies fresh.”
“I believe with all my heart, when I sit and look at them, there’s 13 kids and 13 of them can place,” he added. “A couple of them have to wrestle well and maybe catch a break in the draw.”
Winning for West were Logan Robertson (113), Dustin Yoakum (132), Malik Boatwright (160) and Marquis Frazier (170).
Yoakum and Boatwright will be trying to win state championships for the second straight year. Frazier was the state runner-up at 160.
Boatwright and Independence junior Dustin Justice once again provided a classic match, with Boatwright edging Justice 6-4.
Boatwright (31-2) and Ward (46-5) tied in balloting for Most Outstanding Wrestler. Both are ranked first in their respective weight classes.
Rounding out the top five in the team standings were Nicholas County in third with 160.5 points, Webster County fourth (113) and Fayetteville (77).
The remaining individual champions were Nicholas County’s Jake Tyler at 182, Drew Hicks at 220 and Thorton Hall at 285.
NOTES: It promises to be an emotional weekend for the depleted Liberty wrestling program. Senior Triston Harvey placed third at 120 pounds to qualify for the state tournament. He is the lone remaining wrestler on the team so, win or lose, a mentally exhausting road will end in Huntington ... Midland Trail junior Trisha Lee placed third at 113 to qualify for the second straight year. Last season she became the first female wrestler in Fayette County history to wrestle in the state tournament ... Frazier’s win in the 170-pound title match was the 100th of his career.
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Area Class AAA teams had to travel to Ripley for the Region 3 tournament, but they represented the area well.
Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring placed third and fourth, respectively, in the team standings, and each school qualified eight wrestlers for this week’s state tournament. Greenbrier East was fifth and will send seven to Huntington, but three will go as regional champions.
Oak Hill also had a good day, finishing seventh while placing six in the top four of their weight classes.
Woodrow edged Shady by one point, 147-146. East had 128 and Oak Hill 105.5.
Greenbrier East will have three top seeds at the state tournament. Jasiel Kinder won at 113 pounds, Josiah Solak at 160 and Charles Withrow at 182. It was the second straight regional championship for Withrow.
Woodrow’s Josh Gilger was the champion at 132.
Chris Shumaker of Oak Hill won the 145-pound class, a division that was dominated by local talent. All four qualifiers are from area teams: Chris Meadows of Shady Spring was second, Adam Zimmerman of East third and Cody Van Dyke of Woodrow fourth.
The state tournament begins Thursday evening at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
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Fayette County qualifiers include:
Fayetteville — Triston Swafford, freshman, 106, 10-17 record; Bailey Bowles, senior, 126, 34-8 (fourth in 112 in 2013); Troy Farrell, sophomore, 132, 23-8; and Cameron Underwood, senior, 145, 33-6.
Midland Trail — Trisha Lee, junior, 112, 21-15; Christian McGuire, sophomore, 220, 20-10; and Anthony Murdock, junior, 285, 32-8.
Oak Hill — Dawson Vincent, freshman, 106, 8-15; Zach McCarthy, sophomore, 113, 19-11; Cody Gillespie, junior, 120, 14-10; Chris Shumaker, senior, 145, 22-6; Dakota Miller, senior, 152, 24-9; and Marc Williams, senior, 160, 29-6.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter@GaryFauber.