Short season a challenge for young Red Devils

F. Brian Ferguson/For The Register-HeraldOak Hill's Case Bryant, right, takes on Greenbrier West's Brad Blevins in a 138-pound match March 30 in Oak Hill.

Oak Hill wrestling coach David Vincent likes the way his lineup has shaped out this year. There's a bit of experience on his side, but there's also enough youth to provide encouragement for the future.

Of course, all that has been tempered by a season shortened drastically because of coronavirus concerns. In a typical season, this would be the time Vincent is coming off a rewarding but grueling weekend of directing the West Virginia Army National Guard Duals. Instead, the five-week point actually brings everybody to regional tournament preparations.

That has made an impact on every team's approach, especially a team like Oak Hill that is depending on several young wrestlers.

"That's had a huge effect," Vincent said last week before the Red Devils' home tri-match with Independence and Greenbrier West. "Normally at this point, with the (number of matches) we have had, we're just getting started. We're a couple of weeks, a month into the season, where right now our season is ending. At that time of the year, the National Guard Duals (normally the first weekend of January) is about equivalent to when the season's over.

"It's been a challenge we go through each week. We work on making changes and adjustments, but we just don't have the time for that this year."

Vincent has had to balance attention toward every aspect of the sport.

"You've got to condition them, because we don't have much time to condition them, and you've also got to work on technique," he said. "I push these kids. I push them hard in practice. I told them at the start of the year I'm going to push them. Hopefully it will show up and hopefully they will push through."

The Red Devils will join Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson at the Class AAA Region 3 tournament Saturday at Riverside. Also competing will be Capital, George Washington, Princeton, South Charleston, St. Albans and the host Warriors. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m.

Oak Hill will put on the mat a team that has been competitive while also taking its lumps. That's to be expected of a team made up of young wrestlers, but seniors Eli Sedlock, Case Bryant, Scott Wilshire and Robert Long has provided a bit of a steadying influence over the last month.

Juniors such as Dominique Johnson and Max Underwood have provided experience, while young wrestlers such as sophomore Mason Wills and freshmen Aaron Higginbotham and Colton Naylor have gotten is as many matches as possible.

"Every one of the kids have some sort of experience in the sport. I can't say that's been the case in the past," Vincent said. "I like how we're set up from top to bottom in the lineup. We've got a lot of youth and a lot we can build upon over the next couple of years. We've got a couple of seniors that are looking to do better than they ever have this year at the regional and state tournaments.

"We've got a lot to build on and it's something I'm looking forward to over the next several years, and what we accomplish."


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