Last Thursday’s Raleigh County quad gave area wrestling fans a preview of what’s in store for the 2007-08 season. Independence and Liberty engaged in a hotly contested match that brought the standing-room-only crowd to its feet throughout the contest.

This night belonged to Independence, but the outcome could have been reversed with one more win by Liberty. Independence is ranked fourth in the state in Class AA/A, while Liberty is fifth.

While that match was taking place, Woodrow Wilson was battling Shady Spring on the other mat. This rivalry used to be one that would compare to the likes of recent Parkersburg/Parkersburg South battles. The gym would be full of fans wanting to see the small school beat the big school or the city boys teaching the country boys a thing or two. Many of those battles were classic.

That rivalry has cooled down over the years, but I saw a glimmer of it possibly picking back up soon. Beckley won Thursday, 39-38, and I’m sure that didn’t sit well with the Tigers.

The idea of the county quad is good for rivalries and rivalries are good for wrestling.

There were several contenders in the gym Thursday night. Independence’s Mike Prince, Jake Justice and Adam Barnette are legitimate state prospects. Shady’s Sonny Harrah and Liberty’s Nick Hylton have picked up where they left off last year. Others who looked good were Liberty’s Mike Carpenter and Beckley’s Chris Sodosky and Nick Gwinn. I am sure new names will evolve as the season goes by.

Something to think about is that Wood County and Raleigh County are the only two counties in West Virginia that have three schools ranked in the top 10 among Classes AAA and AA/A wrestling schools. Both of the Greenbrier County schools are ranked. I personally think that’s quite a tribute to area wrestling programs.

In last week’s column, I erroneously called Matt Callahan, Beckley’s last individual state champion, by the name of Matt McClanahan. For that, I apologize.

Woodrow Wilson will be hosting a special youth night at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the school gym.

The Flying Eagles will wrestle Greenbrier East. The Spartans are currently ranked 10th in the state coaches poll. Any Beckley youth or middle school wrestler will be admitted free if they wear their team shirt and are accompanied by an adult.

On Saturday, the Beckley Junior Eagles youth team hosted the Southern Coalfield matches at Park Middle School. If you want to see an enthusiastic crowd, go to one of the youth competitions.

Speaking of youth wrestling, the junior states will be held once again in Beckley. The tournament will be held March 1-2 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. More than 800 wrestlers are expected.

This week, a squeeze of the water bottle goes to Alan Worley, a wrestling enthusiast and avid reader of this column.

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