By Wayne Bennett
For The Register-Herald
Wrestling season has arrived and area teams are vigorously preparing for another great season. I have nothing but positive things to say while anxiously waiting for the competition to start!
First, wrestling will remain as an Olympic sport at least throughout the 2020 Summer Games. The international committee has made some changes that will make the sport more exciting and easier to understand. A big bear hug goes out to all those involved.
Secondly, the state of West Virginia now has six colleges and universities that offer wrestling as a varsity sport. Alderson-Broaddus and Wheeling Jesuit Universities added the sport this year. They join West Virginia University, WVU Tech, Ohio Valley and West Liberty University by offering wrestling on a collegiate level. Several local athletes who are extending their wrestling careers include Nick Hylton (WVU), R.J. Elam (WVU Tech), Dan Carpenter (WL), Cole Williams and Davis Solak (A-B). Hylton, Elam and Carpenter went to Liberty High School, Williams was at Beckley and Solak graduated from Greenbrier East. Best of Luck to all of them!
University of Charleston-Beckley has hinted that it may offer wrestling on a varsity level real soon. Let’s hope!
The third positive event was the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes Wrestling Clinic on Nov. 16. Nate Carr was the featured clinician and did a great job. The clinic was well attended, and hopefully others will take place in the future.
The last positive “happening” was the hiring of Jeff Leopardi at Trap Hill Middle, Kenny McMillion at Shady Spring Middle and Jeremy Hart at Independence Middle as head coaches. Bobby Elam (TH), Matt Huffman (SS) and Derek Jones (I) are the former coaches who left the programs in good shape, and I am sure the traditions will continue.
The high school BNI will be held Saturday at Shady Spring High School.
The Wayne Bennett Duals will be held at Park Middle School, on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. Christiansburg Middle School, which has won this tournament every year but one, will not participate this year because of a scheduling conflict. That leaves the competition for the team title wide open.
Eastern Greenbrier and Collins middle schools seem to be the prohibitive team favorites, but keep a close eye on Park, Summersville, Beckley-Stratton and Western Greenbrier.
Some top performers to watch are Eric Burgess, Tanner Harris, Conner Gibson, Zach Barber and Chris Snuffer from Collins Middle; Jacob Hefner, Jacob Scott, Levis Hobbs and Liam Lusher of Eastern Greenbrier; Trevor Edenfield and Colton Dorsey of Western Greenbrier; Cameron Crislip and Terry Fazenbaker of Summersville; and Levi Williams, Tyree Swafford, Zach Woods and Justice Smith of Park.
I am sure there will be some new names to evolve as the tournament progresses. Come out and join the fun!
I am taking the old water bottle off the shelf, dusting it off and filling it to the maximum. This week a squeeze goes to Becky Vance, a wrestling mother, a wrestling fan and an avid reader of this column.