By J. Daniel Rollins
Assistant Sports Editor
We at least know this much about the Class AA/A Region 3 wrestling tournament before it even starts — Independence’s Teddy Stover and Greenbrier West’s Caleb Currence will qualify for the state tournament.
As the only entrants in the 106-pound division, both are guaranteed a spot on the mats next week in Huntington.
Beyond that, it’s hard not to make the tournament all about a West-Indy team showdown. But recent history suggests that’s what will happen starting today at Independence.
The tournament gets under way at 6:30 p.m. today, with action picking back up at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Greenbrier West, which won the title in 2011, has been at or near the top of the coaches rankings all season. The Cavaliers are currently tied with East Fairmont for No. 1 and have won championships their last six times out, including a tight win over Independence Feb. 2 in the Coalfield Conference Tournament.
Independence, meanwhile, has battled injuries throughout the course of the season. But the Patriots have been able to piece things together of late and are ranked fourth in the state.
The Coalfield tournament provided a glimpse of just how interesting things should get this weekend.
West won with a total of 183.5 points, but the Patriots were right behind at 178. The Patriots had four champions to the Cavs’ three.
Shady Spring had a hand in those results. Shady has moved up to Class AAA and will not be a factor in the tournament, but was allowed to participate in the Coalfield tournament. The Tigers had five champions and finished with 173 points.
Greenbrier East, also a AAA team, was at the tournament as well. The Tigers and Spartans both defeated members of West and Indy, perhaps skewing what could happen this weekend.
Each team is well represented in the state individual rankings. Greenbrier West has 10 of its wrestlers ranked while Indy has nine, and both have a pair of No. 1-ranked wrestlers - Stover and Colton Ward (132 pounds) for the Patriots, Malik Boatwright (152) and Tyler Parker (170) for the Cavaliers.
Boatwright (35-0) and Parker (36-0) are undefeated.
Independence is looking to repeat as regional champion. It also finished runner-up at the state tournament, and coach Cliff Warden was honored with the Dix Manning Class AA/A Coach of the Year award.
Other teams in the tournament, however, won’t just hand the trophy to either team. Liberty, for instance, has been battling injuries and a lack of depth, but has just as much talent as any other team. The Raiders have six state-ranked wrestlers, including Charles Ayers, No. 1 at 182.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament, set for Feb. 21-23 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
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