By Wayne Bennett
For The Register-Herald
The 37th annual Raleigh County Middle School Wrestling Championships will be held Tuesday at Park Middle School. Wrestling will begin at 4:30 p.m.
Independence Middle School will be looking to capture its second county title in a row. The Patriots recently won the Coalfield Conference Championship and will be heavily favored on Tuesday.
The first Raleigh County Wrestling Tournament was held in 1977 and Stratton Junior High won the title. It was coached by Malvin Ross.
Shady Spring Junior High started its program in 1973 and was coached by Doug Lamb. After that year, Dix Manning took over the coaching duties for two years.
Beckley, Park, Sophia, Stratton and Stoco started their programs in the 1976-77 school year. Trap Hill Middle School’s program began during the 1980-81 school year. Other coaches at the first county tournament were Jack Parker (Sophia), Fred Tassitino (Park), Charles Mancuso (Stoco), Larry Davis (Beckley) and David Wills (Shady Spring).
Since the tournament’s inception, Park has won the county title 11 times, Shady Spring won six times and Trap Hill five times. Beckley, Stratton and Beckley-Stratton have a combined total of seven county champinships, while Sophia and Independence also have a combined total of seven titles.
A few wrestlers who won county titles in the 1970s include Tom Hollingsworth, Lee Bradley, Corbett West, Ardie Jenkins, Clarence Bowles, Glen Meador, Craig Hill, Aaron Morton, Wesley Mason, Craig Spurlock, Mark Trotter and Cletus Harmon.
This year, four wrestlers from Independence have an opportunity to win their second county title. Alex and Jacob Hart, Hunter Taylor and Noah Adams are all favored to win their respective weight classes.
Here are a few other favorites and their weight class:
n 78 pounds: Jacob Eller (Independence);
n 84: Jacob Ewing (Beckley-Stratton);
n 90: Justice Smith (Park);
n 95: Seth Buckland; John Lilly (Beckley-Stratton);
n 102: Mark Burgess (Independence), Isaac Young (Beckley-Stratton);
n 110: Sam Buckland (Shady Spribg), Nathan McClaugherty (Independence);
n 116: Jacob Bailey (Trap Hill), Ryan Young (Shady Spring);
n 123: Noah Farley (SS);
n 128: Jim Polly (Shady Spring);
n 135: Antonio Leopardi (Park), Ryan Williams (Beckley-Stratton);
n 145: Austin Henderson (Park), Ryan Pauley (Park B);
n 155: Isaac Trotter (Independence), Michael Franklin (Park);
n 171: Tyree Swafford (Park), T.C. Slemp (Trap Hill);
n 190: Zach Wood (Park), Austin Cannaday (Beckley-Stratton);
n 285: Marcus Duval (I), Joel Cannaday (Beckley-Stratton).
The wrestling should be fun. Go out and support your favorite wrestler!
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This week a squeeze of the water bottle goes to Meredith Roark, a big wrestling fan and avid reader of this column.