HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Parkersburg has long been a town synonymous with wrestling, and while Parkersburg South has won four of the last five Class AAA titles in the sport, Parkersburg High has been in a drought of sorts.
The Big Reds last won a team state championship in 2008 and own 21 overall, more than any school in West Virginia.
A year after winning their last title the Big Reds too 17th place. The low point, however, came in 2011 when Parkersburg finished 27th in the state.
Two seasons ago that trend started to turn. The Big Reds finished fifth in 2012 and second last season in the big school division at the state tournament behind Huntington, which claimed its first state wrestling title. The Highlanders hosted Parkersburg on Thursday in an early-season matchup between two of the state's preeminent programs.
"Those couple years we had some bad luck with injuries and we were really young," Parkersburg Coach Chris Way said. "A combination of those things, which kind of put us down, and at the time before that, we won multiple state championships and a lot of times some of the guys behind them quit wrestling because they don't get to see the lineup.
"There was a little void there in the classes but we came back strong."
Huntington won Thursday's dual meet 38-32 on an evening where 12 wrestlers that placed at last year's state tournament, including two state champions - Huntington juniors Logan Grass (106 pounds) and Jordan Allen (120) - were in action.
With that much talent on the mat, it was little surprise that most of the matches were competitive and the result was in doubt until the final match.
Huntington and Parkersburg entered the 285-pound match tied at 32-32. The Highlanders' Nigale Cabell pinned the Big Reds' Charlie Conley to provide the difference.
"He loves to compete," Huntington Coach Rob Archer said of Cabell. "I felt confident in the fact that he likes the limelight and it wasn't his first time wrestling heavyweight and going last.
"I didn't feel confident he would get the pin but I was confident he would win. I knew nerves wouldn't get him."