By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Oak Hill wrestling coach Alan Fell will gladly take any victory his wrestlers can gain this season. He also knows any win now won’t mean nearly as much as they will in about a month.
“I have told the guys all year long my goal is not to have them win or place high,” Fell said. “I want them to come across the toughest competition as they can going into the state tournament. It doesn’t get tougher than the WSAZs.”
The annual WSAZ Tournament, one of the longest running in West Virginia, starts today at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington. Oak Hill is one of 37 high schools set to compete.
The WSAZ represents a gradual step up in competition for the Red Devils. Oak Hill has wrestled in the West Virginia Duals in Parkersburg, the Jackson County Invitational in Ripley and the Winners Choice in Fairmont — all tournaments that routinely attract the toughest Class AAA wrestlers in West Virginia.
It has all been by design by Fell, who was not happy with the way his team performed in last year’s state tournament.
“It was our first year in Class AAA and they were not ready for that level of competition,” Fell said. “I think it’s paid off. We have seen a lot of tough competition this year. We have seen a lot of the top-rated AAA guys in the state.”
Oak Hill has three state-ranked wrestlers — Zack McCarthy (eighth, 113), Dakota Miller (seventh, 152) and Marc Williams (seventh, 160). Chris Shumaker placed eighth at 145 at the loaded Winners Choice.
“We have some guys who have stepped up to the plate and are facing the challenge,” Fell said. “We have some guys who have true potential to be state placewinners.
“Zack McCarthy told me on the ride home from (Fairmont), ‘When I was out there wrestling, I wasn’t thinking, I was just reacting and wrestling,’” Fell said. “I told him you reach the Zen of wrestling when you’re not thinking and just doing it on instinct. Not many get there. Some of his moves were immediate and pretty to watch.”
n n n
No. 2 Greenbrier West, which won the Class AA/A championship at last year’s tournament, will be back to defend its title. Class AA/A No. 1 Indepnendence will also be there.
Other local teams at the tournament are Woodrow Wilson, Shady Spring, Liberty, Nicholas County and Wyoming East.
Wrestling starts at 2 p.m. today and will pick back up at 9:45 a.m. Saturday. Championship finals are set to start at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
— E-mail: gfauber
follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.