By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The biggest reason for Shady Spring’s recent wrestling surge is that its schedule is arguably stronger than it has been in years.
Unfortunately, that philosophy cost the Tigers a home match.
The annual Dix Manning Memorial Duals, originally scheduled for this Saturday, have been canceled. A low number of teams committing led to the decision to scrap the tournament for this year.
“We have had some tough times with other teams — it was a timing thing as far as scheduling conflicts for the other teams,” Tigers coach Larry Ransom said.
In order to rekindle interest in the tournament, the Tigers tried to run last year’s event under an Olympics pools format, like the annual Jason Eades Memorial at Point Pleasant. It worked, but not without a pitfall.
“Because of the structure of our school, we had to put a mat down in our cafeteria,” Ransom said. “We had a hard time running it, and I think a lot of the teams got frustrated.”
Plans were to return to a bracketed format, but there simply was not enough interest to warrant running the tournament.
“By then, most teams had already committed to other tournaments,” Ransom said.
Options will be examined to get the tournament running again next season.
As it was, the Tigers’ varsity team was not going to be there anyway. They instead will compete at the West Virginia Duals in Parkersburg on Friday and Saturday.
Joining Shady and Woodrow Wilson in the annual event, one of the premier in West Virginia, will be Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Brooke, Calhoun County, Roane County, Lewis County, Ritchie County, George Washington, Hedgesville, Cabell Midland, Dayton (Ohio) Christian Academy, Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio) Christian Academy and Springboro, Ohio.
It’s all part of the Tigers’ effort to wrestle against the best competition possible in order to be ready for mid- and late-February. That philosophy seems to be working — Shady was fifth at the strong Winner’s Choice Tournament Jan. 12, and placed third at the prestigious WSAZ Invitational last weekend.
“We have tried to create a tougher schedule,” Ransom said. “We feel like that is what has been making out team better. Our record might not reflect our total success. I think we’re 26-10, but those 10 losses have come against good competition.”
That competition, coupled with an abundance of talent — from Tyler Kosut and Johnny Forren, to Nick Farley, John Duncan and Brandon Stump — Ransom hopes will make Shady a stronger team when the regional and state tournaments roll around.
“We have an experienced lineup in a lot of spots,” Ransom said.
The Tigers are also blessed with youth — freshman Logan Robertson is among the state’s top 103-pounders — and depth. For instance, Cody Richmond unseated Henry Matos for the 152-pound spot and placed fifth at the Winner’s Choice, then both placed at the WSAZ.
And the Meadows twins — Chris and David — are making things tough on varsity wrestlers. Chris placed sixth at the WSAZ at 138.
“By the time regionals and states get here, that reality will set in and won’t be like culture shock when we get there,” Ranson said. “We will be able to handle them, or at least hang with them.”