Yes, next Saturday -- January 6, 2001 at 1:00 p.m. -- mat enthusiasts throughout West Virginia and the Ohio Valley will have the opportunity to observe the two best teams in the state duke it out: the AA Oak Glen "Golden Bears" and the AAA Parkersburg South "Patriots."
The setting is Oak Glen High School's Gymnasium in New Cumberland, and it will be teeming over with bipartisan spectators. In all likelihood, it could be the largest attended dual meet in the history of West Virginia scholastic wrestling.
The stats prove they were the two most dominating wrestling teams in the Mountain State during the decade of the '90s. Oak Glen has captured four AA state championships in a row, and will be vying for an unprecedented fifth state title in 2001. Parkersburg South has captured an amazing 6 AAA state team crowns during the same time frame, and are looking to "three-peat" this February in Huntington.
Why are Oak Glen and Parkersburg South West Virginia's elite in the mat sport? It's really quite simple. Each mat program has internally developed continuity from youth to high school grappling in their communities, utilizing the additional coaching services of devoted wrestling alumni.
Both teams are primed for this "dynamic dual," and their coaches are keenly anticipating the meet with immense excitement. Below are their thoughts.
Oak Glen's head coach, Larry Shaw, comments "This is a great opportunity for fans of both teams to see them go at it."
Named the 2000 WV and OVAC coach of the year, Shaw adds, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the South squad. Win or lose, my boys will walk away from this experience better wrestlers, and with mat memories that will last a lifetime."
On the flip side, Tim McCartney, South's two-time WV mat mentor of the year points out, "It will be a great match, a challenge that both squads are more than ready to face."
"Personally," Coach McCartney continues, "I would like to see West Virginia initiate a state dual meet competition. Great tournament teams are not necessarily great dual meet teams. I feel our match with Oak Glen is a step in that direction."
Now let's meet the grapplers; they will have the last say regarding the outcome of the match. The following are the tentative line-ups, individual records as of December 26th, and their strengths on the mat.
103 - Justin Goneau (OG) vs. Justin Conley (PS)
Goneau: A tenth-grade, first-year varsity wrestler, Justin has a 3-4 record and is still learning. He is not afraid to try moves and is gaining more confidence with every match he wrestles.
Conley: A junior, Justin's record is 1-0. Coach McCartney refers to him as a dedicated wrestler, with plenty of heart and a desire to improve second to none.
112 - T. J. Glass (OG) vs. Shane Grogg (PS)
Glass: With a 2-5 record, Coach Shaw emphasizes that T. J., a freshman, has a great attitude and a zest for learning.
Grogg: Presently sporting a 6-2 record as a tenth grader, Shane is good on his feet and very quick.
119 - Ian Whittington (OG) vs. Ryan Metz (PS)
Whittington: A first-year varsity performer with a 3-4 record, Ian is a hardworking sophomore who doesn't quit.
Metz: Placing 4th in states last year, Ryan, who defeated Parkersburg's defending state champ Matt Steven earlier this month, has a 4-3 record as a junior and is potent on his feet.
125 - Garrett Six (OG) vs. Matt Bosley (PS)
Six- Toting an 8-1 record and placing 2nd at the highly-competitive Brooke Classic, Garrett (a junior) is very aggressive on his feet and the top position.
Bosley: Third in states last year as a sophomore, Matt (7-3) is a high-intensity matman with lightening-like quickness.
130 - Gaelen Lowers (OG) vs. Bryce Pickens (PS)
Lowers: A 4-year all-state, senior letterman, Gaelen has a 7-2 record and is very aggressive, especially on the top position.
Pickens: With a 2-2 record, Bryce is a very sound sophomore wrestler with great mat sense in all aspects of the game.
135 - Eric Noel (OG) vs. John Duncan (PS)
Noel: Oak Glen's stellar performer, Eric was a state champ last year as a junior and most recently was crowned champion at this year's Brooke Classic. He presently is 7-1 with an overall record of 104-12. A very hard worker at practice, Coach Shaw describes Eric Noel as having a strong willingness and dedication to do all things required to be a champion.
Duncan: With a 6-3 record to date, senior John Duncan was an all-state wrestler last year, who is explosive on his feet.
140 - Kyle Eckleberry (OG) vs. Jeff Schmitt (PS)
Eckleberry: A 12th grade, all-state wrestler who was runner-up at the Brooke Classic, Kyle is a smart wrestler and solid in every position of the mat sport. Schmitt: As a senior, Jeff has a winning record of 4-3 and is also sound in all wrestling areas.
145 - Steve Flowers (OG) vs. Sonny Dye (PS)
Flowers: Only a sophomore, Steve has a record of 7-2 and was 2nd in the Brooke Classic. He has a lot of mat savvy and is very athletic.
Dye: With a 3-2 record as a junior, Coach McCartney is very pleased with Sonny's sense for knowing where he's at at all times during a match.
152 - Matt Wharton or Tim Cashdollar (OG) vs. Nathan Pickens (PS)
Wharton & Cashdollar: Matt Wharton (a sophomore) and freshman Tim Cashdollar both have 1-1 records and can wrestle well. Coach Shaw is just waiting to see which one will jump forward and dominate the other during wrestle-offs.
Pickens: Second in states as a sophomore last year, Nathan's coach says this 8-1 matman is just good everywhere.
160 - Derrick Stickles (OG) vs. Casey Daggett (PS)
Stickles: Undefeated this year (5-0) as a junior, Derrick is a tremendous competitor. He is a well-balanced wrestler who shines on his feet. His coach considers him a great one.
Daggett: The first South wrestler to ever win the prestigious Ironman Tournament, senior Casey Daggett is the school's star matman with the only unblemished record (8-0) on the squad. His overall record is 57-16. Coach McCartney considers Casey, a bronze medalist at states last season, to be one of the finest and competitive wrestlers he has ever coached. Casey is solid in all facets of the sport and his match with Stickles should be the feature bout of the day.
171 - Ronnie Hebrock (OG) vs. Chris Daggett (PS)
Hebrock: Third at states last year, Ronnie holds a 6-4 record as a junior. Hebrock has had some very close losses early in the season. His coaches consider him to be very good on his feet as well as on the mat.
Daggett: A state champion in 2000, Chris, a junior, was a silver medalist in the Ironman and presently holds a 6-1 record. Daggett's coaches are very impressed by his wrestling skills on top.
189 - Philip Bellville (OG) vs. Justin Sleeth or Matt Wright (PS)
Bellville: Boasting a record of 7-1, Philip was a state champ last year and second in the 2000 Brooke Classic. This junior's main suit is in the neutral position, where Beliville is described as a takedown machine.
Sleeth & Wright: Justin Sleeth dropped from 270 pounds to the 189-pound weight class. Not only is this senior's dedication to the sport unparalleled, but he is also considered to have sound mat sense. Matt Wright, a junior and very light for this weight category, is respected by Coach McCartney for his work ethic in practice. These two grapplers have yet to have their hands raised, but understand their competition has been of the highest caliber.
215 - Greg Six (OG) vs. Aaron McCartney (PS)
Six: Greg, now 7-3, was a silver medalist at last year's state tourney. A great counter wrestler, this senior's forte is upper body moves.
McCartney: A third-place finisher at states last season as a junior, Aaron has a record of 5-1 with second place laurels at the Ironman competitions. He has developed into an all-around, solid wrestler.
275 - Joey Caughey (OG) vs. Chris Morrison (PS)
Caughey: A state champion in 2000 as a junior, Joey sports a record of 8-2. He is very competitive and exceptional on his feet for a heavyweight.
Morrison: A junior, Chris placed third in this year's Ironman Tournament. He (8-1) is looked upon by his coaches as a sound wrestler in all phases of the mat sport.
The match official is Ray Marling, the 1994 West Virginia wrestling official of the year. Mr. Marling has nearly 20 years of experience as mat referee. A veteran state tournament official known for his integrity, fairness and consistency, both coaching staffs are extremely pleased to have Ray Marling oversee the dual meet.
Now for our predictions. Larry Deaton, a charter member of the Ohio Wrestling Officials Hall of Fame and WV's top referee in 1996, hag been forecasting matches for this column since 1997. Mr. Deaton, a 30-year whistle-blower, prognosticates that the "Golden Bears" of Oak Glen will prevail by a score of 30-28 over the Parkersburg South "Patriots."
As for yours truly, I give the edge to the "Patriots" by a tally of 32-27. We'll find out who's right on January 6th.
I contacted John Yocina, Oak Glen's athletic director, regarding the logistics for spectator accommodations. A former successful "Golden Bear" wrestling coach himself, John's foremost concern is the hope that the weather will cooperate.
Yocina also pointed out, "Fans should get there as early as possible. Our gates will open at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning. And believe me, the prematch, multi- colored 'light show' is something to behold."
As for the many onlookers expected to make the dual meet trek, the Oak Glen A.D. stressed, 'We are determined to accord spectator satisfaction to everyone who shows up for this unique athletic event."
So, to all athletic devotees out there who truly love the sport of wrestling, don't you dare miss the "Match of the Millennium!"