By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It may have been the biggest moment of Landon Hunter’s wrestling career, and all he had to do was have his arm raised.
He didn’t break a sweat, didn’t risk a separated shoulder or a bloody nose. But when Hunter received a forfeit win at 170 pounds over Kentucky power Johnson Central, for all intents and purposes he sewed up Greenbrier West’s biggest win of the season.
Johnson Central coach Jim Matney knew it — and so did Greenbrier West coach Jeremy Tincher.
When senior Tyler Parker gained a pinfall win at 182 pounds, the math told the story.
“Our scorekeeper was right beside me and he told me what the score was,” Tincher said. “I started doing the math in my head and even if they pinned us at (1)95, 220 and 285, they couldn’t beat us.”
That’s exactly what happened — three matches, three pins for Johnson Central. But, as they say, numbers don’t lie.
The Cavaliers edged the Golden Eagles 36-34 to finish unbeaten in the championship pool and wrestle the West Virginia Army National Guard Duals Wrestling Tournament title from the three-time defending champs. The only other West Virginia team to win the tournament was Herbert Hoover in 2009.
“It’s been a long time since we have won a tournament of that caliber, so that was really good,” Tincher said. “It’s nice for the kids, nice for the program and the school and the community. But, at the same point, it’s a long time between now and February. Last week’s touchdown is not going to win this week’s ballgame.”
Tincher is not discrediting Saturday’s win. But the ultimate goal for any wrestling team is to be peaking in the shortest month of the year, in time for regional and state tournaments.
Tincher also is not downplaying the fun he had in guiding his team to the title. Strategy isn’t limited to each individual match, and his wheels were spinning well before the 106-pound battle started.
“Luckily, we won the coin toss,” Tincher said.
That dictated that the Golden Eagles would have to send their wrestlers out first, so it was at that moment Tincher had a feeling things might turn out well. Both teams went 5-0 on Friday’s opening night and neither had been beaten in its first four matches Saturday, so each had a good idea of the other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We had scouted them and they scouted us,” Tincher said. “They didn’t have a 170-pounder, so what they were trying to do was to get a double forfeit in one of the weight classes.”
Wrestling has become wildly popular at Greenbrier West, evidenced by 32 people trying out for the team. Johnson Central, which won the Agie Skeens Memorial Tournament at Grundy, Va., on Dec. 29, had hoped that Parker would stay put at his usual 170-pound division, where he is 25-0 this season.
Instead, Hunter checked in from the JV team and accepted the forfeit. Tincher knew he had enough bodies at his disposal to strategically get what he wanted.
“The air kind of went out of them when I sent (Hunter) out there to take the forfeit,” Tincher said. “They even took a JV kid and put some headgear on him (as a decoy). That’s what dual matches are supposed to be.”
The trick for Tincher now is to make sure his team doesn’t relax after such an important win.
“We’re going to enjoy this one and come back (today), get back in the room and do what we do,” he said. “We can’t put too much emphasis on one tournament. You just can’t. We did a lot of good things, but there is always room for improvement. If nothing else, you can always take conditioning to another level — and we will take conditioning to another level. You have to if you want to do well in February.
“This is nice and we got a lot of pats on the back. But it can all turn bad tomorrow. I refuse to let them rest on one weekend.”
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Shady Spring ended up in the championship pool and finished sixth overall.
Independence won Pool B. In Pool C, Bluefield was first, Oak Hill second, Fayetteville third and Nicholas County sixth. Midland Trail won Pool D, while Webster County was third, Princeton fourth and Richwood fifth.
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