HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Independence appears to have already won the war, but that doesn’t mean that Point Pleasant can’t win a few battles until it’s official.
The Big Blacks are sending two defending Class AAA state champions back to the big show on Saturday night as senior Grant Safford and sophomore George Smith will both be aiming for program history during the Class AA-A finals of the 70th annual WVSSAC wrestling championships being held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Cabell County.
At the conclusion of Friday night’s third session of competition, Point Pleasant had moved back into third place in the Class AA-A team standings with 67 points.
PPHS also lost two of its remaining five grapplers by night’s end in junior Jacob Bryant (138) and freshman Justin Cornell (106), and Andrew Roach lost his 195-pound semifinal match — but the senior will compete on Saturday morning and have a spot on the state podium.
Independence has all but secured the 2017 Class AA-A title as the Patriots have 202 points through two days and also have seven wrestlers competing in weight class finals on Saturday night. The current Class AA-A runner-up is East Fairmont with 86.5 points through three sessions.
Independence, however, stands in the way of both Safford — the 182-pound triple-A title as a junior — and Smith — the 106-pound champ last winter — in making program history. No PPHS wrestler has ever won a state title at both the triple-A and double-A ranks during a career.
Safford (44-2) will face IHS senior Jacob Hart (37-2) in the 182-pound championship match, while Smith (43-7) takes on Patriot sophomore Liam Lusher (29-8) in the 113-pound title bout. The fifth and final session — more commonly known as the Night of Champions — begins at 6 p.m. Saturday night.
PPHS went 2-3 overall in Friday night competition and are now 15-17 overall as a team at the 2017 tournament.
With three sessions in the books, Wahama now sits tied with Robert C. Byrd for 44th place with four points in the Class AA-A field. The White Falcons — who were eliminated after the second session — also sit 15th overall in the Class A standings.
Wirt County currently leads the single-A field with 48 points, followed by Greenbrier West with 41 points and Madonna with 35.5 points.
Complete results of the 2017 WVSSAC wrestling championships will be available in the Tuesday sports edition of the Point Pleasant Register, Gallipolis Daily Tribune and The Daily Sentinel.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.