HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — There’s a chance, a good chance, that the Big Blacks set some more records this weekend.
The Point Pleasant wrestling team enters the 75th annual WVSSAC championship as overwhelming favorites in the Class AA-A field, and the 3-time defending state champs are aiming for school history this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Mountain Health Arena.
The Big Blacks have an entrant in every weight class and account for 14 of the 17 Mason County representatives competing this weekend, with Wahama also sending a trio of grapplers into the Class AA-A brackets.
PPHS, however, has a pair of 3-time state champions in its 14-man lineup, as well as two other podium finishers from a year ago — including a state runner-up as well. Half of the 14 Point entrants will also be making their first appearances at the state tournament.
The Big Blacks — who have posted back-to-back 14-0 marks on the opening day of each of the last two state tournaments — have produced six state champions in each of the last two postseasons.
PPHS has also averaged 257 points as a team during the last two title runs, beating the field by an average of 145.5 points.
The Red and Black — who also 3-peated as Class AA-A champions from 2010 through 2012 — are not only aiming for the program’s first-ever 4-peat, but also the school’s seventh state championship over the last 13 years.
Overall, the Red and Black have seven state qualifiers making repeat trips to Mountain Health Arena, including five seniors from that group alone.
Seniors Justin Bartee and Derek Raike are respectively aiming for state titles in the 145- and 160-pound divisions after winning championships in each of their first three years as varsity competitors.
The duo will look to end their historic careers on a solid note as each tries to join Rusty Maness (2008-11) as the only 4-time champions in PPHS wrestling history.
Senior Mackandle Freeman was a state runner-up a year ago and will be appearing in the 138-pound division, while classmates Brayden Connolly (195) and Colby Price (220) are also returning to the state meet.
Sophomore Nathan Wood placed fifth last year and will compete at 113 pounds this weekend, while classmate Conner Blessing is also making a return trip to the state tournament at 120 pounds.
The newcomers to the state tournament are senior Ethan Marcum (170), junior Luke Moffitt (182), sophomores Tanner Epling (106), Ciah Nutter (132) and Kolten Weaver (285), and freshmen Gunner Andrick (126) and Josh Woyan (152).
Point Pleasant has double-digit entrants in the state tournament for the 14th time in 15 years. PPHS also has all 14 weight classes filled headed into state for the fifth time in program history, including a fourth straight year.
The White Falcons joined Buffalo and River View for 47th place a year ago in the Class AA-A field.
The Red and White have three state qualifiers competing, with junior Kase Stewart making his third consecutive appearance at the state level. Stewart is Wahama’s lone repeat performer at state for a second straight postseason and will compete at 138 pounds.
Juniors Logan Roach (152) and Trey Ohlinger (220) will make their state debuts this weekend. A fourth grappler, freshman Blake Henry, qualified for state last week, but will not compete in the 106-pound division and has been replaced in that division.
The White Falcons have scored at least one point in 12 of the last 14 state tournaments overall. Wahama has never had a state champion in its program’s history.
The 3-day event at Mountain Health Arena starts Thursday evening, with opening round matches slated for 6:30 p.m.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.