By Wayne Bennett
For The Register-Herald
The 36th Coalfield Conference Wrestling tournament has the makings of being an exceptional competition. Greenbrier West will host this year’s tournament on Friday and Saturday. Wrestling will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
At least 13 high schools will participate, including three state-ranked teams. The Greenbrier West Cavaliers are currently tied for the top spot in the state AA/A classification and Independence is ranked seventh. Shady Spring is ranked eighth in the AAA classification.
As an added plus, Greenbrier East and Nicholas County will return to compete this year.
Other teams participating are Fayetteville, Midland Trail, River View, Richwood, Bluefield, Oak Hill, Liberty and Webster County.
The Independence Patriots won the overall championship last year.
Until 1978, the Coalfield Conference championship was decided by regular season results. Usually the winner of the Woodrow Wilson/Shady Spring match was declared champion.
The first Coalfield tournament was held in 1978 and Shady Spring was the overall team champion. Since then Woodrow Wilson has joined the Mountain State Athletic Conference and Independence has had the most Coalfield tournament championships, with 15 titles.
In the initial tournament of 1978, the individual champions were Shady’s David Farley, John Walker, James Thompson, Jerry Settle and John Lynch. Beckley’s champions were Phil Carson, Ardie Jenkins, Larry Maiolo and Clarence Bowles.
Greenbrier West had Chris Morelle and Wesley Walker, while Greenbrier East had one champion in Rick Ramsey.
Individually, this year’s tournament should be a dogfight with over 45 state-ranked wrestlers participating. Three wrestlers will be seeking their third Coalfield title: Indy’s Colton Ward, Marc Williams of Oak Hill and West’s Tyler Parker. Wrestlers going after a second championship include Shady’s John Forren and Tyler Kosut, Liberty’s R.J. Elam and Cody Clifton, Indy’s Teddy Stover and West’s Malik Boatwright.
The semifinal and final matches should be worth the price of admission.
Other Coalfield Notes:
n Greenbrier West’s Bill Walkup was the first three-time Coalfield Conference Champion, winning 1981-82-83.
n Independence’s Robert Rash was the Coalfield’s first four-time champion, winning 2003-04-05-06.
This week a squeeze of the water bottle goes to Kenny Powers, a big wrestling fan and an avid reader of this column.