HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It wasn’t a perfect trip for either one of them, but you’d be hard-pressed to do either journey much better than this dynamic duo.
Point Pleasant seniors Justin Bartee and Derek Raike cemented their legacies in West Virginia history by respectively becoming the 23rd and 24th members of the 4-time state champions club over the weekend at the 75th annual WVSSAC Wrestling Championships held at Mountain Health Arena.
Both Bartee and Raike started their prep careers by becoming the third and fourth freshmen to win state titles for the Big Blacks back in 2019, and the pair wrapped up stellar careers on Saturday night by joining Rusty Maness (2008-11) as the only PPHS grapplers to ever run the gauntlet four times and come away successful on each and every run-through.
The duo served as some of the main catalysts in guiding the Red and Black to the program’s first-ever 4-peat as Class AA-A champions over the last four postseasons. Both Raike and Bartee are also the only PPHS grapplers to compete at the state tournament during the current 4-year reign as team champions.
With a combined 322 wins and three of the five unbeaten seasons in school history between them, each can make a strong argument — alongside Maness — that he is the very best to do it in the squared circle at Point Pleasant High School.
Raike and Bartee became the first teammates to win four straight state titles as members of the same graduating class in regards to the 75-year old WVSSAC tournament.
Raike — an Ohio University signee — also joined Anthony Jeffers (2008) as the only Point grapplers to ever be named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at a Class AA-A tournament.
More impressively, each grappler won titles in four different weight classes along the way — although one of those runs might have proven to be a little tougher due to backtracking in weight.
Bartee — a Davis & Elkins College commit — posted unbeaten seasons of 36-0 as a freshman at 126 pounds and again went perfect in 27 matches as a junior in 2021, which ultimately resulted in his third overall crown at 160 pounds.
Bartee eclipsed the 50-win plateau as a sophomore and finished the year with a 51-3 mark while winning the 138-pound weight class.
Then this winter, Bartee dropped down two weight classes to compete at 145 pounds. The senior amassed a 38-7 mark this year, but Bartee ultimately completed his perfect 16-0 career mark at state by capturing the 145-pound title with a 2-1 decision in double overtime over Independence junior Judah Price.
Afterwards Bartee spoke about the night, the journey for a pair of 4-peats and, maybe most importantly, the memories of wrapping up his storied Point Pleasant career in a collective style.
“Heck of a way to go out, huh? A double overtime victory over a guy that beat me earlier this year. It just doesn’t seem real yet, being a 4-time champion,” Bartee said following his final match in the Red and Black. “Then I’m watching what my teammates are doing out there tonight and this weekend, and I’m reminded again of how incredible it is to really be a part of what’s gone here at Point Pleasant the last four years. My brothers, like myself, are reaching goals and helping make history. It’s the perfect ending if you ask me.”
Bartee completes his 4-year run at PPHS with a career record of 152-10 and ends up as one of only 18 grapplers in program history to surpass the 150-win mark in a career.
Raike, on the other hand, capped his 4-year reign in his traditional work-like fashion — by dominating Berkeley Springs senior Evan Thompson in the 160-pound final. He also completed his senior campaign in the Red and Black with a 47-2 record.
Thompson — who entered the championship bout with a 51-1 overall mark this winter — never led in the match and was down 7-1 after one period. Raike — who had three separate takedowns off of lifts in the finale — went on to build a 12-2 cushion before ultimately securing a second period pinfall to complete his 16-0 career mark at the state meet.
Raike went unbeaten in 52 matches as a sophomore while acquiring the 132-pound title. The future Bobcat went 46-1 as a freshman at 120 pounds, then posted a 25-2 mark as a junior at 145 pounds.
With a Division I career awaiting him roughly an hour from his hometown, Raike’s future looks as promising now as it did four years ago.
In reflecting on everything that the Big Blacks achieved in his short 4-year tenure, Raike gave perhaps the biggest smile that he’s ever provided when discussing a state championship victory.
“I’m ecstatic about this. This is what I’ve worked for, what this team has worked for. We’ve busted our butts for four years for this moment … and it feels great going out on top,” Raike said. “It’s been an amazing weekend, watching these younger guys do what they’ve done. It’s been an amazing four years too, especially doing all of it alongside my best friend while each of us won four individual titles. Four-time champs, it’s just awesome.”
Raike completes his 4-year run at PPHS with a career record of 170-5 and ends up as one of only 18 grapplers in program history to surpass the 150-win mark in a career.
Both Raike and Bartee account for three of Point Pleasant’s five unbeaten seasons in program history. Maness accomplished the feat first as a senior in 2011. Three-time state champion Isaac Short also went unbeaten as a senior in 2021.
The Big Blacks amassed a final state record of 164-60 in individual matches over the span of this historic 4-peat, which includes 90 pinfall victories. Point also averaged 237.5 points as a team over four postseasons, which included an average margin of victory of 122.6 points.
PPHS has scored at least 203 points as a team in each of the last four Class AA-A title runs, with the 2012 squad accounting for the only other 200-plus point showing at state in program history.
The year before Raike and Bartee came in as freshmen, Point Pleasant was coming off a fourth place finish in its second season back at the Class AA-A level. What was worse, the Big Blacks didn’t have a single state finalist in that 2018 tournament — which snapped a 14-year streak at the time.
Four years, four team titles, 21 individual state champions and a pair of 4-time title-winners later, the duo has left the program in much better shape on their way out.
“I looked up to those groups when I started in as a freshman, and I know the older guys looked after us and made us better. Now I’m watching freshmen and sophomores that I’ve trained with win state titles tonight,” Bartee said in reflecting on the process. “These four years have come full circle, and it’s been worth every minute of it. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.”
PPHS will have eight state qualifiers, five podium finishers and a quartet of state champions returning next winter to take a shot at the school’s first-ever 5-peat.
That was something that Raike was already eager to see, even though it’s roughly a year away and he’ll be somewhat occupied at the time.
“The program is in very good shape moving forward and I feel that Point Pleasant will be in the mix for the next few years. Hopefully the next group can keep this thing going,” Raike said. “I’ll be pulling for them and I’ll be around when I can next year, if I can, to see the family. I will always take a pride in my four years as a wrestler at Point Pleasant. I’ll always want nothing but the absolute best for the people in that program.”
Raike notched pinfall victories in all four of his final prep matches, while Bartee claimed a pair of pinfall wins to go along with a pair of decisions in his prep finale.
Point Pleasant is now one of three programs in the state of West Virginia to produce a trio of 4-time state champions, joining Spencer and Parkersburg South in that most-elusive club.
A total of 14 schools have produced at least one 4-time title-winner over the duration of that athlete’s prep career. Four-time champion Josh Humphreys won his freshman title at Huntington, captured crowns at St. Albans as a sophomore and junior, then captured his fourth as a senior at Parkersburg South in 2018.
Maness won Class AA-A state titles at 112 and 119 pounds as a freshman and sophomore, then posted back-to-back championships in the 130-pound weight class his junior and senior campaigns at PPHS.
Point Pleasant also moved ahead of Independence for second alltime with seven championships at the Class AA-A level. Only Oak Glen’s 13-year reign as champions from 1997 through 2009 ranks ahead of the Big Blacks.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.