By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
No way was Independence wrestling coach Cliff Warden going to celebrate.
Not even a win over the reigning state champion could make him crack a smile.
“You can’t smile. It’s too early in the year,” Warden said Saturday after his team won a dual over rival Greenbrier West at The Lumberjack Classic.
It may be a long way to February, but Independence took a big step in further establishing itself as a major player in the run for a state title.
The Patriots beat the Cavaliers 37-21 in a battle of teams tied for the top spot in the state rankings. The win over West wound up one of nine for Indy as it won the tournament, wrestling the trophy from the Cavs, who won it last year en route to their Class AA/A state championship.
All three local teams that went in as top seeds — Shady Spring, Greenbrier West and Independence — went unbeaten to win their respective pools Friday. Indy beat both of them Saturday on its way to winning the tournament for the first time.
The dual with West was much anticipated and provided a state tournament-like atmosphere. Hundreds of fans came to the floor and surrounded the mat as the co-No. 1s started their match.
The Patriots wasted no time asserting themselves, winning the first four matches and taking a 16-0 lead. Indy won nine of the 14 matches overall, but Thomas Williams’ 3-2 win at 182 pounds solidified the team win.
Greenbrier West coach Jeremy Tincher felt the dual came down to close matches such as Williams’ victory.
“We didn’t win some of those close matches ... I hadn’t seen some of those kids,” Tincher said. “We had different matchups with them than we did last year. I didn’t know how we matched up this year, and we didn’t win any of those matches. If you’re going to beat those guys, you have to win those close matches in a duals format like this. You can’t get beat 3-2 everywhere.”
Tincher said his wrestlers will learn from the match and use it for the remainder of the season.
“I told the kids I would rather be where we’re at now than be here in February,” Tincher said.
“We accomplished what we set out to do as a team,” said Warden, whose team has finished as state runner-up each of the last two seasons. “But each individual still has work to do before the state tournament.
“Our win put the fire under Greenbrier West, but I can guarantee you we won’t rest.”
Overall results of the tournament were unavailable at press time.
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