CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jake Smith won two state championships during his tenure as a wrestler at George Washington - first at 145 pounds as a junior in 2012 and then at 160 last season as a senior - and his graduation and move to the collegiate ranks at Cleveland State meant there would be room for new leaders to emerge among the Patriots.
So far this season, GW has several wrestlers performing well with sights set on a spot in the state tournament.
Last weekend, the Patriots finished sixth out of 12 teams at the West Virginia Duals in Parkersburg. Eight Patriots are ranked in this week's Class AAA West Virginia Coaches Association/wvmat.com individual rankings, including three place-winners from last season's state tournament, and GW moved into the team poll at No. 8.
"These kids got to see the success (Smith) had and that's driven them to want to be there too," GW coach Richard Harper said. "We've got about 10 kids that bust their butt and work hard. They're really dedicated to the sport and they've and got some high expectations."
Sam Moore (sixth at 106 last season), senior Jensen Lorea (third at 126) and junior David Smith (third at 285 before transferring to GW from Nitro) are among the top 10 ranked wrestlers in their weight classes. The addition of the former Wildcat has only added to an already strong group, Harper said.
"He's a big asset," he said. "He's a heavyweight that can move and has a lot of skill. He helps the other kids we've got, like Jack Skidmore at 220. The chemistry from football they have together has worked out well."
Skidmore is ranked eighth at 220 this week. Smith is fourth at 285. GW's other ranked wrestlers this week include Philip Sharp (third at 106), Moore (third at 113), David Pancake (fifth at 120), Levi Smith (10th at 126), Lorea (second at 132) and Hunter Jones (fourth at 170).
"The whole season is practice," Harper said. "You get those matchups to see if you can beat that kid. By the time state tournament gets around what can we do to win that match."
GW is off this weekend and returns to action at the two-day Winner's Choice tournament on Jan. 17 and 18 in Fairmont.
RIVERSIDE IS ALSO off this weekend before a trip to Fairmont for Winner's Choice on Jan. 17, with the Warriors coming off a second-place team finish behind Kentucky's Johnson Central at Nitro's Pat Vance Invitational.
Chase Hanshaw took home an individual championship at 195, where he is ranked 10th in this week's Class AAA rankings. The Warriors, however, are not a one-man team.