Prep wrestling: Hoover's Weese poised for big finish
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Herbert Hoover has reigned over Class AA/A wrestling in the Kanawha Valley in recent years, and if there is one wrestler poised to bring home a state championship this season it is the Huskies' Zane Weese.
Weese, a senior, progressed from a state qualifier as a freshman to a fifth-place finish at 195 pounds as a sophomore to runner-up at 220 last season. The loss in the state championship match to Berkeley Springs' Matt Parkinson was the only defeat Weese suffered as a junior, and getting back to the Saturday night session of the State Tournament in the Huntington Civic Arena and becoming the 10th wrestler in school history to win an individual championship is high on his priority list.
"That's the best feeling," Weese said. "That's everything you want to be doing. It doesn't get better than that, that's the reason everyone wrestles. (Winning a state title) would mean everything. All four years I've been here that's been my goal. To accomplish that would bring me a lot of happiness."
Weese, who is nursing an injured toe as Hoover prepares to open its season Saturday at Hurricane's Mike Ellis Invitational, is in the tough spot of not having a teammate his size to practice with. So, without another Husky of comparable size and skill Weese is left to test himself.
"I got a little bit more confidence and I lifted more. I worked harder and wrestled more in the offseason," Weese said. "It's been different. I usually have people to push me. Pushing myself is good for me and it helps the younger guys on our team."
Hoover Coach Heath Perry said he think Weese can make a run at an individual championship this season but knows he will have to battle to get back to Huntington.
"He managed it last year and I think he can do it again," he said. "Just like everyone else he's going to have to wrestle smart and be in shape."
A strong program at Elkview Middle School has provided some depth among the underclassmen for Perry. Heavyweight Payton Carey was the middle school champion at last season's WSAZ Invitational, while fellow freshman Chase Stover was a runner-up at the prestigious tournament. Perry said Stover would likely wrestle at 106 and that another freshman, Brody Thomas, would likely be the Huskies' participant at 182.
"(The middle school program) is a big help," he said. "They go straight from little league into middle school and they've got four, five or six years of experience before they ever get up here. There's no substitute for experience in wrestling."
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HOOVER'S 18th-place finish at last season's Class AA/A State Tournament was the highest by a Kanawha Valley team. No team from Kanawha or Putnam County team has placed in the top 10 in the class since the Huskies finished eighth in 2011.
Hoover's fourth-place finish in 2007 ties the school with two other programs for best finish by a Kanawha County team in the small school division since wrestling split classifications in 1976 (Sissonville in 1996 and Dunbar in 1980).
The last time a team other than Herbert Hoover was the valley's top AA/A team at the State Tournament was 2002, the Huskies' last year as a Class AAA school, when Winfield took 21st.
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SEVEN STATE champions return in Class AA/A after winning titles at Big Sandy Superstore Arena last February.
Of those seven, five are seniors - Williamstown's Dalton George (126), Fairmont Senior's Anthony Alvaro (145), Greenbrier West's Malik Boatwright (152), North Marion's Ryan Elliott (120) and Grafton's Cody Goff (113).
Greenbrier West's Dustin Yoakum (132) and Ritchie County's Jacob Monn (106), both juniors, are the other two returning state champions. Calhoun County's Casey Ritchie was the only freshmen to reach the championship round last season, falling to Williamstown's George in the 126 final.
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WAHAMA'S Kane Roush is in the running to be a four-time state place winner. The White Falcons' senior took sixth place at 140 as a freshman, runner-up at 152 as a sophomore and third at 160 last season.
Independence's Colton Ward and Williamstown's Jake Tracewell also can become four-time state placewinners. Ward finished fifth at 119 as a freshman, fourth at 132 as a sophomore and second at 132 as a junior. Tracewell was fifth at 140 as a freshman, fourth at 138 as a sophomore and runner-up at 145 last season.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.