By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
There will be change in the Shady Spring wrestling program this year, but the Tigers make it a point to honor the past.
“We always try to keep the tradition that (late legendary coach) Dix Manning started with the fundamental core of the program,” said first-year Shady head coach Larry Ransom. “It’s a preservation thing.”
Ransom, who had been an assistant coach for six years, takes over for former head coach Jeff Lester, who will remain with the team as a volunteer assistant. Also assisting is Derek Scarbro, a three-time state champion for the Tigers.
“We also try to invite Mason Epperly (a former Tiger star who won the 105-pound state championship in 1964),” Ransom said. “He brings the old-school style to the program.”
Ransom and Lester were also state placewinners, so there is plenty of past success to pass on to the current roster.
But there will also be newness for Shady Spring, which along with Oak Hill will move up to Class AAA this season. Those two teams’ debut at the state’s highest classification comes Saturday, when the Tigers host the annual Beckley Newspapers Invitational.
Weigh-ins will be from 7:30-9 a.m., with wrestling starting at 10 a.m. The championships will begin at about 4:30 p.m.
So far, eight area teams have been confirmed for the event: Woodrow Wilson, Princeton, Greenbrier East, Webster County, PikeView and Wyoming East, in addition to Shady and Oak Hill. Ransom said Monday that he was still awaiting word from at least two other squads.
The move to Class AAA has resulted in a significant change to the Tigers’ schedule. They have taken annual trips to the Jason Eades Memorial in Point Pleasant and the Braxton County Invitational off the docket, but there are plenty of difficult destinations that await.
After the BNI, Shady will compete in the Greenbrier West Duals against the likes of the host Cavaliers, Roane County and 2012 Class AA/A runner-up Independence. The Tigers will then wrestle at Kentucky Division 4 power Johnson Central on Dec. 15.
The Raleigh County Quad follows on Dec. 18 at Woodrow.
In January, Shady will wrestle in the West Virginia National Guard Duals in Summersville and the Winners Choice Tournament in Fairmont, and will make a return to the WSAZ Invitational after a long absence.
The Tigers will host the Dix Manning Memorial Jan. 26 and compete in the Coalfield Conference Tournament Feb. 2.
The Class AAA Region 3 tournament will take place two weeks later, followed by the state tournament in Huntington.
Austin Syvertson was the team’s lone senior last season, so experience abounds for the Tigers this season.
Among those back are Johnny Forren, who had potential to make an impact at the state tournament last season but fell academically ineligible in January; Tyler Kosut, who came within 30 seconds of advancing to the 126-pound state finals last year; Nick Farley, who had a memorable upset of Greenbrier West’s Malik Boatwright in the 145-pound region championship; and Brandon Stump, a multiple state qualifier.
Ransom is looking for big things from freshman 106-pounder Logan Robertson, and said twin brothers Chris Meadows and David Meadows are lurking and could present problems to starters if they challenge for their spots.
— E-mail: gfauber@