Oak Hill wrestling is a good example of putting a program into place.

Now you might say, “Wait a minute. The Red Devils have never had an individual state champion. Their team has never placed among the Top 10 in the state and they’ve never won their region. How can that be a program in place?”

Here’s my point. Years ago, Oak Hill would show up at matches with five or six wrestlers. Occasionally, they might have a couple of boys who were strong, but didn’t have good technique. Very seldom did the Red Devils field a complete team.

Let’s face it. During the coach Jim Lilly days, basketball was the chief sport in the Fayette County town and the best athletes played that game.

Less than 10 years ago, Joel Harris moved from Greenbrier West and took over the Red Devil team. Along with guys like Alan Fell, Harris helped initiate a youth program and a middle school program. Several members of his current high school team began wrestling in one of the programs.

The Red Devils had their first state placewinner in 2002. David Dequaise finished fifth in the 275-pound class. Oak Hill finished 23rd as a team that year.

Last year, Oak Hill had two state placewinners in Ryan Fell and Frankie Treadway. Both are returning, to the 171-pound and 189-pound classes, respectively. The team finished in a tie for 20th place in the state tournament. Early-season polls have them ranked among the top 15 teams in the AA-A division.

They also have a great deal of depth with 23 wrestlers. Kris Tetrault (130), Matt Griffith (215) and John Arthur (275) are the only seniors on the team. Other members in the starting lineup are DeAngelo Castro (103), Braden Evans (112), Spencer Holcomb (119), Aaron Shumake or Jason Bowles (125), Aaron Wriston (135), Philip Parlier (140), John Jones (145), Larry Dean or David Mullins (152) and Skye Baber (160).

Supporting cast for the starters are Gary Massey (125), Marcus Delung (160), Garrett Thompson (215), Luke Baber (215), Chris Worix (215) and Adam Sizemore (215).

The remainder of their schedule looks like this:

Dec. 30 — Roane Duals

Jan. 6-7 — Jackson County Invitational

Jan. 11 — Greenbrier East, Richwood at home

Jan. 20-21 — WSAZ Tournament

Jan. 24 — Tazewell, Richlands at Tazewell

Jan. 28 — Bob Stover Classic at Clay

Feb. 3-4 — Coalfield Conference Tournament

Feb. 10 — Poca, George Washington at Poca

Feb. 18 — Regional Tournament

Feb. 23-25 — State Tournament

I’m not predicting a state championship for the Red Devils just yet. I think a Top 15 state tournament finish would be realistic for this year and they might be able to crack the top 10 next season.

They’re still behind older local programs like Shady Spring, Independence and Greenbrier West, but the gap is getting narrower. From the top to the bottom the program is in place.

Since it’s the holiday season, let’s give two water bottle squeezes. First, a squeeze goes to John “Java” Brash, a big wrestling fan and avid reader of this column.

Another squeeze and happy birthday goes to Sherry Thomas, an all-around volunteer in youth, middle school and high school wrestling throughout the years.

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