June 27, 2013
At the beginning of the school year, these two young men probably wouldn’t have been your first guesses to be in this spot — at least not with all the other returning state champions that Point Pleasant had coming back for the 2012-13 campaign in both wrestling and track.
But that’s the real beauty of high school sports from year to year. You just never know what your going to get.
PPHS seniors Trevor “Reno” Hill and Caleb Riffle each shocked the state — and maybe even themselves — by coming away with Point Pleasant’s only state titles this year during the Big Blacks’ return to Class AAA competition.
Hill became the program’s 12th different state champion and 19th champion overall in wrestling, while Riffle knocked off renowned distance runner Jacob Burcham and the rest of the field to secure a track crown at Laidley Field.
PPHS had won three straight Class AA-A team championships in wrestling before making the move up this season, and the Big Blacks responded by sending a dozen grapplers to the state tournament at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.
But after two days of competition, only one wrestler found himself sitting in a division final with a perfect 3-0 mark. Hill, who had never advanced to a state final before this year, needed only to get through Nate Starkey of Ripley for the 170-pound title.
Hill never trailed in the championship match, which he won by an 8-2 decision. The victory extended Point Pleasant’s individual state champion streak to nine consecutive years in wrestling while also helping the team finish sixth with a score of 101 points — both records for the program at the Class AAA level.
Hill also joined Alex Reed — Point’s first state champion in wrestling back in 1988 — as the only Class AAA champions in PPHS history. Hill was only one of five Big Black grapplers to reach the podium that weekend and was also the only Mason County wrestler to compete in a state final.
For a senior in his final match, Hill was thrilled with the way he was leaving the PPHS program — on top of the podium.
“Coach told me going into the match not tire myself out and work as hard as you can go,” Hill said. “I did exactly what he told me and what he has taught me all year, and it worked. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be a champion. It’s like standing on top of the world.”
That euphoric feeling crossed over into the spring months when Riffle literally shocked the state by beating — arguably — West Virginia’s most-accomplished distance runner of alltime.
Both Riffle and Jacob Burcham, a senior at Cabell-Midland, were preparing for their final prep event — the Class AAA 800m final. Burcham had already won state titles in the 1600m and 3200m events earlier that day, and the Oklahoma-bound runner also owns the Class AAA records in the 800m, 1600m and 3200m events.
Riffle — who finished third in the Class AA 800m final the year before — needed an at-large bid just to qualify for the state meet after placing fourth in the 800m run at regionals.
What followed in the 800m final, however, was something truly spectacular.
Riffle trailed only Burcham and Brian Lawhon (CMHS) after the first lap, then the trio ended up side-by-side headed into the home stretch — where they remained close headed into the final 10 meters. Riffle, on the outside, claimed a slight edge and lunged forward ahead of his two Cabell Midland competitiors before all three fell across the finish line.
As Riffle was getting up, it took a few seconds to register that he had just won a state title. And if had any doubts, a pair of hugs from teammates Marquez Griffin and Zach Canterbury all but confirmed what he thought had just happened.
Riffle posted a winning time of 1:54.98, less than one-half second ahead of the third-place Burcham. Riffle’s mark was almost four seconds faster than his regional qualifying time of 1:58.91 and also became a new personal record for the West Virginia Wesleyan bound signee.
Riffle spoke about his incredible accomplishment afterwards, noting that he couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish up as a Point Pleasant athlete.
“This is an amazing feeling, and it feels good doing this for Point Pleasant. My family has grown up here over the years, so it just means a lot to me from that aspect,” Riffle said. “I knew coming in that if I could keep up with Burcham over the final 200 meters, I could out-kick him — and I executed perfectly. I had never beaten him in any race before now.”
It was the second straight year that PPHS won a state championship in a track event, although it had been over decade since Point won a state championship at the Class AAA level.
Only one story was better in the Ohio Valley Publishing area than what these two young men accomplished this year, or anyone else for that matter. The top story of the 2012-13 sports year will be available in the weekend sports editions of the Point Pleasant Register and The Sunday Times-Sentinel.