By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Greenbrier East is a team without a conference. So, too, are Shady Spring and Oak Hill.
But that hasn’t been able to stop the camaraderie that exists in high school wrestling. That will be exhibited this weekend at the 36th annual Coalfield Conference Tournament. The event is scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m. today at Greenbrier West High School, with at least two rounds completed.
The tournament will resume at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Greenbrier East has not competed in the tournament since it went to the Mountain State Athletic Conference after the 2004 season. But the Spartans will be in Charmco this weekend, and second-year coach Brian Miluk is appreciative of the opportunity.
“I can’t thank them enough. They really have welcomed us with open arms,” Miluk said. “At the seeding meeting, I made sure to thank all of them for letting us in.”
Shady and Oak Hill are tournament veterans and will be there this weekend, despite both moving up to Class AAA this season.
“At the end of last year,” said Shady Spring coach Larry Ransom, “we asked if they would mind if we continued to wrestle in it, and they said it was fine.”
Each team will bring a number of talented wrestlers to the tournament.
Oak Hill has junior Marc Williams, the state‘s fifth-ranked 132-pounder. He recently picked up career win No. 100 at a home quad match.
Among the other top performers so far have been: Chris Shumaker at 145, Cody Gillespie at 106, Seth Keith at 182 and Zach McCarthy at 113.
Red Devils coach Alan Fell said the season has been one of ups and downs for his team.
“It’s just been one of those years,” he said, referring to a multitude of illnesses and injuries taking their toll. “I’ve been bitten real bad by the injury bug.
“We’ve got a good crew this year,” Fell added. “We’ve got a pretty young team. “We’re junior- and sophomore-heavy.”
Shady comes in as the state’s No. 9 team in Class AAA. The Tigers have eight state-ranked wrestlers, each of them in the first eight weight classes: Logan Robertson (fifth, 106), Zach Clark (tenth, 113), Johnny Forren (third, 120), Tyler Kosut (sixth, 126), John Duncan (eighth, 132), Nick Farley (fifth, 138), Brandon Stump (seventh, 145) and Cody Richmond (ninth, 152).
The Tigers got some unexpected time off last week when snow prevented them from traveling to the West Virginia Duals in Parkersburg. Ransom said the team was able to make a positive out of the situation.
“We have had a good week of practice,” he said. “I think we have benefited with some healing. I think we will have some good performances.”
The Spartans are in a bit of a rebuilding mode under Miluk, but there is undeniable talent. Freshman Jasiel Kinder has come up big at 106 (ranked sixth), as have brothers Josiah and Davis Solak at 160 and 170, respectively. Both are ranked seventh.
Freshman Chris Delaney (ninth) and sophomore Evan Roberts have both done well at the heavyweight division. Another freshman, Jared Morgan, has been a nice addition after having not wrestled since he was in sixth grade.
“We’re trying to build a foundation here,” Miluk said. “I’m really happy with this team. We’re like a wrestling family here. We get such good support from the parents.”
Miluk pointed out the closeness between the number of state-ranked wrestlers in the MSAC and Coalfield tournaments. The MSAC has 54, while 50 will be at the Coalfield tournament.
“This could be the toughest conference tournament in the state,” he said.
— Steve Keenan
contributed to this story.