CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coach Mike Wheeling will have five wrestlers representing Capital at the 66th annual State Tournament this week, the most he has had during his eight seasons guiding the Cougars.
The most Capital had qualified under Wheeling prior to this season was four in 2011. The Cougars qualified three wrestlers in 2008 and '09.
Three freshmen - Christian Price, Kavin Kincaid and Tyler Burke - will make their debuts at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington for the three-day event, which begins with the first round at 6:30 p.m. today and continues through Saturday. But the Capital coach believes his rookies are ready to take the big stage.
"These kids have faced upperclassmen all year," Wheeling said. "We call it BFS: Bigger, faster, stronger. It's been hard getting them to understand that upperclassmen are bigger, faster and stronger and you have to get your kids to believe 'I belong here in this position.' "
Price (37-14) finished fourth at 113 pounds at the Class AAA Region 3 championship last weekend at Ripley. His first-round opponent will be Musselman junior P.J. Dolan (38-10), the Region 2 champion.
A fourth-place finisher at 126 pounds in his region, Kincaid (32-18) will face Region 4 champ and Winfield sophomore Bryce Humphreys (42-2).
Burke (27-14) finished fourth at 285 pounds last weekend and will face Region 2 champion and Jefferson senior Lane Harder (27-2).
"Tyler gives up at least 60 pounds every time he walks onto the mat. Guys are a lot bigger than him, but he's done a good job handling it," Wheeling said. "It may take him a while, but he has the potential to become a state champion."
Wheeling said his freshmen have done a good job of transitioning from the middle school level to the high school ranks.
"They were the studs of the class last year in eighth grade and next thing you know they go to the bottom of the food chain and it's up to them on how long they want to be down there," he said.
"They just have to go out there and give it their best. They're underclassmen and this is a big stage; walking into the arena is a different atmosphere. They have to go out there and do what they have done all season and hope that's good enough."