Story & Photos
By Carl Holcomb
From playing with broken ribs to ending a career with a hand raised, there was no question as to the toughness displayed by East Hardy and Moorefield grapplers at the Class AA/A Region II Wrestling Tournament in Bridgeport resulting in four consolation medals.
Falling short of state tournament bids in one regard was difficult to swallow, yet signifies a strong future.
“This wasn’t the story we wanted to tell, not the way we wanted to finish. We have young wrestlers ready to come back next year,” Moorefield assistant coach Larry Schoonover noted.[private]
Moorefield senior captain Jacob Stickley summoned up the energy to finish with a fifth place medal in the 182-lb. weight class, while sophomore teammate and fellow captain Matt Wright earned a sixth place medal in the 138-lb. weight class.
“I think it is a great opportunity to represent Moorefield, especially since this is only my sophomore year and second year of wrestling. I think it is a really great opportunity to be here with Stickley and see him use everything I taught him and represent Moorefield well. The competition was very hard, it is a different level at regional and everybody brings their A-game,” Moorefield wrestler Matt Wright stated.
East Hardy senior captain Charlie Mellen garnered a sixth place medal in the 132-lb. weight class with grit playing through the pain of broken ribs suffered a couple weeks ago, while freshman teammate Cole Pusl took a sixth place medal in the 120-lb. weight class.
“I’m really proud of them. Everybody worked hard this year and there’s little room for growth,” East Hardy Coach Scott Mongold commented.
“For the one the difference was experience, he just lacks experience and needs to get a little stronger, Pusl does. Charlie has been hurt, hurt himself two weeks ago at the Viking Smash and hasn’t been the same wrestler. To get as far as he did this weekend was done off of pure guts and determination. It wasn’t so much his willpower, but his body gave out. Second year in existence, so everything these kids do is setting records and setting goals. Last year we went to regionals and didn’t score a point and this year it looks like we’re not going to finish last. We are going to be in the bottom. East Hardy has never had a place winner before and both of these wrestlers placed.”
If there was a silver lining to take away from this regional tournament, there’s a plethora of talent to yield state tournament berths next season.
On Friday, Moorefield 113-lb. freshman Jackson Weese (15-28) lost by pin to the eventual Region II runner-up Ethan McLean of Philip Barbour and to Braxton County sixth place medalist Scott Freeman.
There was a potential for a Hardy County clash in the 120-lb. weight class and it came to fruition in the consolation quarterfinals as East Hardy’s Cole Pusl battled and pinned Moorefield freshman Paxton Coby to setup an opportunity to advance to the state tournament.
Both wrestlers started the tournament with byes, then South Harrison’s Anthony Columbo got past Pusl in a 7-1 decision which led to the match against Coby.
Coby was pinned by Region II runner-up Zarah Blackwell from Roane County.
Pusl waited until Saturday to see who his opponent would be in the consolation semifinals with a state tournament berth on the line and it was Liberty Harrison’s Devin Barnes getting the upper-hand and finishing in third place overall by pin.
Barnes made a takedown and earned back points during the first period as Pusl managed to elude the initial pin attempt, but Barnes used a partial cradle and grapevine to get a pin at 1:31 in the second period.
Pusl went on to lose by pin in the second period at 3:37 against Doddridge County’s Gage Smith in the fifth place match.
Pusl was awarded a penalty point on an illegal hold by Smith in the first period, then Smith notched a takedown.
Smith flipped Pusl for the pin in the second period.
“It’s a great experience. I think because of our small team, I thought it was good enough (6th place). Next year we will have to do a little bit better. Strength and skill level was obviously the difference here and Grafton has a lot of skill,” East Hardy wrestler Cole Pusl said.
In the 126-lb. weight class, East Hardy sophomore Marina Stotlemyer (3-20) lost to South Harrison’s Jonathan Smith by pin and fell to Philip Barbour’s K’Leb Alderman, who eventually took sixth place.
Moorefield’s Aidan Richardson, who was one of the top wrestlers for the Yellow Jackets in this division, withdrew from the tournament due to a broken thumb suffered midweek.
Mellen competed in the 132-lb. weight class for the Cougars and lost to Philip Barbour’ fourth place medalist Tanner George by an 8-5 decision on Friday, then a pair of byes setup a consolation semifinal match on Saturday against third place medalist David Rhodes of Roane County and a fifth place match versus South Harrison’s Francisco Reyna.
Against Rhodes, there was no scoring in the first period as Mellen made a headlock and spread to avoid a takedown.
In the second period, Rhodes made a reversal and earned back points before Mellen countered with a reversal.
After an injury timeout, Rhodes made a takedown and picked up more back points with Mellen returning to base.
Rhodes notched the pin at the 1:43 mark of the third period over Mellen.
Mellen was locked up with Reyna for most of the first period of the fifth place match with no score.
Mellen made a nice spin in the second period, but the move resulted in going out of bounds for no points.
Reyna notched a reversal and Mellen countered with an escape and was just picking up Reyna as time expired.
Reyna started the third period lifting the leg of Mellen, but they hopped out.
Mellen managed a reversal, then Reyna got an escape for a 5-3 lead.
Mellen tied the match with a takedown with about 33 seconds left, but Reyna was able to get an escape point with 15 seconds remaining for the win.
“In the two years I’ve been here it has been small teams and I’ve been setback by injuries both years in regionals. I’m just glad I got to wrestle this year. Cole has helped me throughout the year and taught me some things and it got me here. Being ready for my matches and studying what they do really helps to prepare for them. The couple takedowns I got were out of bounds and I did what I could in the last match. My family has wrestled in regionals and I tried to do what they did and keep going,” East Hardy wrestler Charlie Mellen remarked.
Wright (27-33) had a bye in the first round of the 138-lb. weight class, then lost to third place medalist David Murphy of Philip Barbour by pin.
Wright earned a major decision over Lincoln’s Tommy Metz in the consolation quarterfinals to provide an opportunity for a chance to reach Huntington.
Liberty Harrison’s Bryce Stearns denied that chance with a 7-2 decision in the semifinals, then South Harrison’s Zach Hogsed won by major decision 12-2 in the fifth place match.
Stearns got a takedown in the first period, but Wright refused to be turned over for a pin and added an escape point in the second period as Wright was making some positive moves.
Wright would earn two points in the third period on a reversal after Stearns earned the same.
The only points in the first period of the fifth place match was from a takedown by Hogsed.
Both were neutral to begin the second period and Hogsed got another takedown, then Wright returned to his base and managed to stand up and get out of bounds.
Wright had a hold standing up in the third period, but Hogsed got an escape, takedown, and back points.
Wright managed to get a reversal and was attempting to move into position for a pin, but Hogsed eluded capture with a reversal.
Moorefield 145-lb. freshman Trace Tanner (14-41) lost to Notre Dame’s Brent Robinson by pin and to Braxton County’s Coleton Keener by pin in the second round of the consolation bracket.
Moorefield freshman Riley Hedrick (25-27) lost by pin in the 170-lb. weight class to Notre Dame third place medalist Elijah Helsley and Roane County’s Tyler Copley.
Stickley (34-15) had a bye in the first round, then pinned Bridgeport’s Blayne Werstler to reach the championship semifinals and faced eventual Region II champion Blake Belcher of Clay County.
Belcher won by a 10-4 decision in the championship semifinal which drained Stickley’s energy both physically and mentally, then Stickley had one more shot at reaching the state tournament with a consolation semifinal against Lincoln’s Gibson Barnard, who got the pin with 11 seconds left in the second period denying a state trip.
Stickley refocused and pinned Doddridge County’s Shawn Johnston in the second period at 1:18 to earn the fifth place medal.
“It’s a huge honor. Not only for me, but for the coaches that taught all of this to in one year. I think it shows just how good the coaches we have and are going to have such good wrestling teams in the future as the kids get older. If I could have gone back, I would have started wrestling on this team my freshman year,” Moorefield wrestler Jacob Stickley remarked.
“Like Matt said, everyone brings their A-game to regionals. A lot of the people didn’t have to wrestle until the second round and my match went the full six minutes and I ended up losing to the kid I split with which was a destroyer. It took all of my energy away, then I had to turn around an wrestle in 30 minutes and I didn’t have the energy. I should have beaten that kid, but everybody shows up with a different mentality for the regional. You can beat a kid in eight seconds, then go the full six minutes with him here. You just never know what they will bring. It was a great feeling to have my last match as a pin for a win for me and hope for them to have a great season starting off with a win after finishing off here with a win turning into a win next year. It was great feeling to have my hand raised for my last match ever for Moorefield High School.”
Against Belcher in the championship semifinal, Stickley blocked the initial shooting attempt after a headlock, then countered with a single leg shot and held him there trying to twist for a takedown and Belcher managed to keep balance preventing a takedown as no points were awarded in the first period.
In the second period, Belcher made a reversal and notched near fall points prior to getting a penalty point.
Both were neutral to start the third period and Stickley went for a single leg takedown to make it 6-2, but Belcher got an escape.
Stickley recorded another takedown, but Stickley let Belcher get up and Belcher countered with a takedown for the 10-4 win.
In the consolation semifinals, Stickley slapped his legs before starting the match and spread on defense when Barnard attacked and both locked heads for awhile.
Stickley was on top, but Barnard got an escape and made a takedown before earning back points.
Stickley battled hard, but couldn’t get out of the jam late in the second period in a crossface hold as Barnard got the pin.
In the fifth place match, Stickley notched a takedown against Johnston to begin the match right away, then Johnston got an escape point.
Stickley spun Johnston over and locked him down for the victorious pin at 1:18.
Earlier this season, Stickley split with Belcher and pinned Barnard in under 30 seconds, so it was difficult to lose at the regional having that prior good fortune.[/private]
Stickley would rebound from that defeat to pin Doddridge County’s Shawn Johnston in the second period at 1:18 for the fifth place medal and finish his career with his hand raised which was a good feeling.
In the 195-lb. weight class, Moorefield freshman Dakota Blacka lost to eventual Region II champion Kavaughn Summers of South Harrison by fall, then lost to sixth place medalist Bryce Wamsley of Liberty Harrison in the consolation quarterfinals by fall.
Moorefield and East Hardy have talented young wrestlers who will make huge strides next season with Huntington already coming into focus.
Braxton County won the Region II Championship with 230.5 points, while Moorefield finished in 15th place with 18 points and East Hardy was 17th overall with nine points.