Woodrow Wilson capped off an unconventional and abbreviated 2020 season with a ninth-place finish at the Class AAA state tournament.
It was the Flying Eagles' first top 10 finish since 1989, when they placed sixth and had three individual runners-up. And head coach Matt Osborne expects to see the momentum continue.
"We're on our way up, and that's what I want to these guys to do — keep their foot on the gas," said Osborne, now in his third season. "The expectations are getting higher and their standards are getting higher for wrestling. Their technique's getting there. We're constantly having new guys coming in and getting them on board with the same that technique these guys have got."
Woodrow had only two seniors on last year's team, but they were two good ones.
Devan Gauldin placed sixth in the state at 195 pounds, one year after finishing runner-up, and Hezekyiah Creasy was fifth at 152. Gauldin is now wrestling — and playing football — at Glenville State, and Creasy stayed home to wrestle at WVU Tech.
Also placing for the Flying Eagles were Ethan Osborne (third, 138), Jay Jones (sixth, 170) and Jackson Evans (fourth, 285).
All three are back. Osborne is a junior and projects at 152, the weight he wrestled at the prestigious Super 32 in Greensboro, N.C., last month, and Evans is a senior and a top returning heavyweight.
Jones is back and projects at 182, but there's a problem — he was injured in the football team's playoff loss at University last Friday and will likely miss significant time.
Osborne is expecting big seasons out of Evans and his son Ethan, and is looking for bounce backs from the likes of sophomore Troy Harris (138), who missed all of last season with both Covid and the flu, and senior Alex Webb (160), who tore his shoulder in his first Region 3 match against Colby Piner of Greenbrier East, who finished fifth in the state.
Also back are sophomores Ryan Muktar, at 6-foot-1 a lean, strong 132-pounder who lost in the blood round at the state tournament, and Hinckley Carter, who was wrestling above his weight at 220 last season with Gauldin entrenched at 195.
And it doesn't stop there.
"I have a group of freshmen that have been wrestling since they were 4 years old," Osborne said.
Many of them come with big credentials at the youth level, including Gary Johnson (106), J.J. Bailes (113), Tyler Roark (120), Vance Neil (126), Landon Jones (Jay Jones' little brother at 170) and Jacob Reeves 145.
Ethan Osborne was joined by Jones, Carter and Evans at the Virginia Beach Nationals.
Matt Osborne is confident the Flying Eagles can make some noise at regionals, but knows it won't be easy. St. Albans won last year's title and Riverside the year before that, after Greenbrier East had won the previous two. Oak Hill returns several wrestlers from last year's Region 3 runner-up.
"I think we'll push for the regional championship," Osborne said. "St. Albans has had a really, really tough team. I think we could push them if we can stay healthy and maybe even get Jay back. I think we could push for the regionals and then the goal is top five in the state. I think it's doable. These ninth-graders will just have to be high school wrestlers when March rolls around."
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