Everything was going so well for Shady Spring.
The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 8 in Class AA and went into the Region 3 tournament at No. 9. Many of their individuals seemed to be peaking just in time to start securing state tournament berths.
Then, it happened.
"Last year was a little bit disappointing because several kids got sick at regional time," said fourth-year head coach Anthony Shrewsberry. "Kolby Ellis could have placed at states but he wasn't able to wrestle in regionals because he had the flu."
Illness ravaged the Shady mat room and only four individuals qualified for the state tournament. Daylin Toms won the regional at 160 pounds, Josh Goode (126) and Kadin Ellis (138) were third and Joe Dye (182) was fourth.
Of the four, only Goode was able to place. He took fourth as a freshman and finished 45-16.
Toms, Ellis and Dye received unfavorable draws, Shrewsberry said.
"If they would have gotten into a different pill, I think things would have been different," he said.
Toms and Ellis have graduated, but for the first time in his four seasons Shrewsberry has a veteran team at his disposal. There are seven seniors and five juniors on the roster, but speaking well to the feeder programs, there are also six sophomores and eight freshmen.
"That's good for the future," Shrewsberry said.
The present doesn't look bad, either.
The Tigers have a 7-6 duals record thus far, but four of the losses have come to Class AAA schools. Included among them are Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East in the championship pool at the Raider Rumble on opening weekend.
They went 4-4 and finished eighth in the 24-team Jason Eades Duals Saturday at Point Pleasant.
"I'm really pleased with how we have done," Shrewsberry said. "One of our losses was to Herbert Hoover and I requested to be in their pool because they are in our region and we never get to see them."
Goode is back at 126 and is 12-1 after the weekend at Point Pleasant. Eight of his 12 wins have come via pinfall.
"He had a real good season (last year)," Shrewsberry said. "We took a gamble and bumped him up to 126 (for regionals). He had been wrestling at 120 most of the season. There were five really good kids at 120 and somebody was going to have to stay home. We didn't want him to be that guy, and I was pretty sure he could qualify at 126."
Three of Goode's state tournament opponents were ranked in the top 10. Connor Spaulding, who defeated Goode in the consolation finals, is now wrestling at Davis and Elkins.
Shady has had to deal with injuries in the early going. Braydon Harper, a junior at 182, dislocated a kneecap in his first match of the season and is expected to miss a month. Freshman Colton Tate (120) had to injury default because of a sprained knee at Point Pleasant but is not expected to be out long.
A committee has been working at the 182 class, made up of Martin Rivas, James Sellards, Danielle Simmons and Brett Wood. All are freshmen, except for the junior Wood.
Senior Tristen Tate (152) has gotten off to a 10-3 start, including nine pins. He is hoping to rebound from what Shrewsberry calls a "heartbreaking" regional tournament.
Kolby Ellis and Ethan Morgan have split time at 285, and Cameron Moretto has been at 220 but hopes to get down to 195 in time for the Mike Stump Duals on Saturday at Calhoun County.
Sarah Harvey (106), Andrew Shrewsberry (138), Levi Price (145) and Riley Chapman (160) are all wrestling well for the Tigers.
Two seniors returning to the team after not wrestling last year are Matt Sweeney and Myles Coffman. Both are 132-pounders and have been battling each other every day in the mat room.
Last season's end might have been disappointing, but Shrewsbury and the team have moved on.
"Once we get everybody in the spots where we want them, I think we can be contenders for top three in the region," he said. "It will be a dogfight. Independence is a little down from where they had been, Greenbrier West is a little up and Herbert Hoover is solid. We lost a couple of heartbreakers to them (Saturday). PikeView has some good wrestlers and Oak Hill is going to be tough after combining with Fayetteville. There is competition in that room and it will make everybody better."
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