The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 2, 2012

Collins and Park have strong finishes at Wayne Bennett Invitational

The Wayne Bennett Invitational at Park Middle School is always a hectic time for teams and coaches.

But a good time was had by all Saturday. Just ask its namesake.

“It was great,” Bennett said. “Christiansburg (Va.) went through everybody pretty well, but the other teams were competitive.”

Christiansburg easily won all five matches, teamwise, and captured nine of 15 weight classes.

But Bennett noted it’s not really about wins and losses, at least at this stage.

“The first tournament of the season is a warm-up thing. Everybody looks at what they have to do and plan for,” he said.

“Some kids will change weight classes. You’ll also have a team like Summersville, which didn’t win a match because they left six or seven kids at home. Some didn’t have enough practices because of snow, and some others had a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event.”

Collins Middle School had two champions and four runners-up to finish second in the tournament.

“It went very well, considering we had one forfeit and had a kid sick,” coach John Arthur said. “We’re a very young team, but we have 10 kids who have wrestled for years together in the New River Youth League.

“They’re doing an outstanding job.”

Collins has 15 seventh graders, including Tanner Harris, who won the 78-pound division. His father Joel was a standout wrestler at Greenbrier West and West Virginia University, and his grandfather Toby was a longtime coach at Greenbrier West.

“Tanner is a technician. He studies the sport and has great mat sense,” Arthur said. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”

Collins also has two sixth graders. Moses Truman, a 90-pounder, also finished the day 5-0.

“We knew Moses would be talented, and through lifting and practices he’s matured a lot,” Arthur said.

Eighth grader Trenton Casto (145) and seventh graders Zack Barber (84), Conner Gibson (102) and Chris Snuffer (285) were runners-up in their weight classes.

Casto is tall, almost 6-foot, and has a great work ethic; Barber was one pound over his weight earlier in the week, but made sure he made weight; Gibson was 31-1 last year as a sixth grader, and was one of the strongest sixth graders Arthur has seen; and Snuffer has great balance and strength for his age.

Third-place Park had three champions and two runners-up.

“We’re very young. Most of my kids are first-year wrestlers,” coach Alan Worley said. “They work hard, and I was tickled to death with how we finished today.

“We gave up three spots (78, 84, 90) and were 18 points down to start with, so I was really happy.”

Sixth grader Justice Smith won the 95-pound class. He’s a very strong transfer from California with a lot of potential.

Tyree Swafford, a seventh grader, took the 171-pound class. He moves well for his size and wrestles with a lot of technique.

Zach Woods, also a seventh grader, is experienced (5 years in the youth or middle school program) and is one of the stronger kids on the team.

Levi Williams (123) and Antonio Leopardi (135) both won four of five matches and took second place in their respective classes.

Tyler Cales from Western Greenbrier rounded out the area winners, taking first place in the 285-pound class.

Next up for most of the teams is the Arch Coal Duals, set for Saturday at Woodrow Wilson High School.

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