By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Independence wrestling coach Cliff Warden could not have come up with a more timely analogy.
“I told the kids (Friday), first or second doesn’t matter, to be honest,” he said. “Just pretend you’re at the Daytona 500 running a qualifying race. You don’t need the pole position to win the race.”
Warden’s attempt to put his wrestlers at ease was right on target.
The Class AA/A Region 3 tournament will be held today in the Patriots’ home gym starting at 9 a.m. Indy goes in as the unanimous No. 1 team in the state on the strength of six consecutive tournament championships.
Ranked second in the state is Greenbrier West, the defending state champion, which will also be at the tournament today.
Both coaches maintain that the biggest issue today is to forget about any kind of pressure.
“This is my 18th regional, so I’ve been down this road a time or two,” West coach Jeremy Tincher said. “I told the kids that all they need to worry about right now is going out and taking care of what they need to to take care of as individuals. The scoreboard, the points and the team things will take care of themselves. You just worry about wrestling your very best and putting yourself in position to where you’re standing on the podium next week (at the state tournament).”
The Patriots have been state runners-up each of the last two seasons and have wrestled as though they intend to finally clear the hurdle in 2014.
“We just don’t want any pressure going into regionals,” Warden said.
A total of 28 state-ranked wrestlers will be in the gym today, including six at No. 1: Will Cox (Independence, 120), Colton Ward (Independence, 138), Malik Boatwright (Greenbrier West, 160), Marquis Frazier (Greenbrier West, 170), Jake Tyler (Nicholas County, 182) and Trey Williams (Independence, 195).
The top four wrestlers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament, Feb. 27 through March 1 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
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The Class AAA Region 3 tournament will be held today in Ripley. Woodrow Wilson, Shady Spring, Oak Hill, Greenbrier East and Princeton will be there.
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