CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington Coach Richard Harper has three wrestlers who know what it takes to be successful on the big stage. His other two qualifiers will soon find out.
But for senior Jake Smith, junior Jensen Lorea and sophomore David Pancake, the expectations are high entering the 66th annual State Tournament at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington. The three-day event begins with the first round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and continues through Saturday.
The Patriots are led by Smith, who will wrestle for NCAA Division I Cleveland State next fall. Smith (37-0) enters the event after capturing the Class AAA Region 3 championship at 160 pounds last weekend in Ripley. He will face Preston senior Brandon Poling (35-4), who finished fourth in Region 1, in the first round.
Smith will look to win his second consecutive state championship after winning the title at 145 pounds last season. He was a runner-up at 135 pounds in 2011 and placed third at 112 pounds in 2010.
"Jake is in the driver's seat, there's no doubt about it," Harper said. "He's been around long enough to know there's still a lot left to do. He's going in with the mindset he knows who he's got and who he will have to face to get to the finals. He's seen the guys before, so that gives him a big advantage."
Lorea (36-6) is making his third consecutive trip to the State Tournament after winning Region 3 at 126 pounds.
He will open the event against Cabell Midland freshman Adam Whitmore (28-14), who finished fourth in Region 4.
Lorea finished fifth at 126 pounds in 2012 and was a qualifier at 112 pounds in 2011.
"Jensen knows what it takes and he has been wrestling really well," said Harper, who is in his ninth season guiding the Patriots.
"If he stays focused and wrestles like he's capable of wrestling he can accomplish anything he wants to do. He's got a good shot with his draw."
Pancake (30-13) will look to place after being a qualifier at 106 pounds last season. He was a runner-up in his region at 120 pounds and will see Region 1 third-place finisher and Brooke senior Matthew Beaman (34-5) on Thursday.
Making their first State Tournament appearances for the Patriots are freshman Sam Moore and junior Jack Skidmore.
Moore (29-11) finished third in his region at 106 pounds and will face Region 4 runner-up and Point Pleasant junior Caleb Leslie (23-12) in the first round.