POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Ohio Valley Publishing area went without a state title of some sort during the 2017-18 school year, a first for the tri-county region in 14 years.
Point Pleasant High School went out of its way to make sure that the same problem didn’t occur again over the course of the last 10 months.
Though the number can technically be disputed, PPHS officially scored a half-dozen state championships over the course of the 2018-19 athletic school year — with all of those coming over a three-month span between the end of February and the middle of May.
The reason for the possible number discrepancy centers around a Big Blacks’ wrestling program that started the year with a 28-strong roster and 19 varsity returnees.
As a team, Point Pleasant captured the program’s fourth Class AA state title in rather convincing fashion after having 10 of its 14 state qualifiers earn podium finishes at the three-day event.
PPHS also landed a trio of individual state champions at the state tournament, but all 14 Big Black competitors — and other members of the program — were able to walk away calling themselves a state champion.
The Big Blacks — who technically clinched the 2019 team crown by the end of the third session Friday evening — dominated the three-day event with 203 points, finishing 83 points ahead of runner-up Independence (120) and the rest of the Class AA-A field.
The Red and Black — who entered the state tournament with only one senior out of their 14 divisional qualifiers — amassed a 38-18 overall record in head-to-head bouts, with 20 of those wins coming by pinfall.
Point Pleasant led wire-to-wire through all five sessions and secured its first state title since a three-peat performance in Class AA-A from 2010 through 2012, and the Big Blacks also produced their first individual state champions since the 2016 campaign.
Sophomore Isaac Short (106), freshman Derek Raike (120) and freshman Justin Bartee (126) were all magnificent in their first-ever state tournaments as each underclassman went 4-0 while claiming state titles in their respective divisions.
The triumphant trio increased Point Pleasant’s state champion total to 24 while also becoming the 16th, 17th and 18th individuals to accomplish the feat in program history.
Raike and Bartee are also the third and fourth freshmen in school history to win state championships, joining current senior teammate George Smith (2016) and Rusty Maness (2008) in that very exclusive club.
It was the seventh time in school history that Point Pleasant had multiple champions at the same state tournament, as well as a record-tying fifth occasion of having three state champions at one meet.
The Red and Black also secured two runner-up finishes to go along with a third place and a fourth place effort. PPHS also had a trio of grapplers end up fifth in their respective divisions.
The Big Blacks received wins from a dozen different individuals over the weekend, and nine separate Point grapplers also produced at least one pinfall win. Point Pleasant also lost eight of their 18 contests by two points or less, including six matches by a single point.
The 203 team points, 10 state placers and 83-point margin of victory are short of only the 2012 squad in program history. The 2012 team set the school marks with 224 points, a dozen top-six finishers and also won by 85 points.
The Big Blacks also lose only one of those 14 state qualifiers to graduation.
Joining Short, Raike, Bartee and senior George Smith on the state qualifying team were Christopher Smith, Mitchell Freeman, Wyatt Wilson, Zac Samson, Logan Southall, Jacob Muncy, Juan Marquez, Nazar Abbas, Wyatt Stanley and Nick Ball.
Senior Colton Carr was the only other member of the PPHS wrestling program this winter, though he did not have a starting spot in the lineup.
Speaking of youth movements, the Point Pleasant girls track and field team picked up a pair of state championships from two different underclassmen en route to a third place finish in Class AA with 44 points.
The Lady Knights landed their first state championship as freshman Addy Cottrill pulled off a bit of shocker by upending favorite Brooke Burns in the shot put final. Cottrill’s winning throw of 36 feet, 2.75 inches was less than three inches better the Scott senior’s best effort.
Cottrill was a Region IV runner-up in both events at Winfield High School a week prior at regionals, but she joined Alea Hipes as the only freshmen to ever win a state title in Point Pleasant girls’ track and field history. Hipes also won the shot put in 2007 with a winning throw of 34 feet, 1 inch.
Cottrill also became the first PPHS state champion since Aislyn Hayman won both the shot put and discus titles in 2017 at the Class AA tournament.
Point’s second state championship also took a bit of an odd turn as junior Samantha Saunders claimed gold in the high jump with a winning height of 5 feet, 4 inches. It was the first state title for Saunders in three appearances in the state high jump event.
Saunders ended the weekend with the third-highest point total of any Class AA girls competitor with 20 points. Saunders has finished on the podium in eight of her nine career event appearances and has accumulated 39.5 points at the state level through three seasons.
Both Cottrill and Saunders accounted for 36 points of the Lady Knights’ team points.
The Point Pleasant girls have also scored at least one point at the state tournament for 16 consecutive postseasons — the longest current streak for any program in the tri-county area at the state level.
The best thing about the OVP area’s top sports story from this past athletic year?
With the exception of only one member of Point’s wrestling team, every single state champion is expected to be back for the 2019-20 school year.
And maybe, just maybe, back in this kind of story again.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.