POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - John Bonecutter took over the Point Pleasant wrestling program in 2010 and perhaps not coincidentally the Big Blacks ended Oak Glen's 13-year reign as Class AA/A wrestling state champions that season and started a three-year title run of their own.
Point Pleasant was caught in the reclassification by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission prior to the 2012-2013 school year and bumped up to Class AAA. In roughly a season-and-a-half in the big school division the Big Blacks have not backed down and proven they belong among the elite in West Virginia high school wrestling no matter the class.
"As far as I'm seeing from them, they don't look like they're scared at all," Huntington coach Rob Archer said. "Double A, I know was a different division, but they seem like they're wrestling the same aggressive style. All the coaches on their staff do a great job. They don't look like they've been worried about the transition at all. Their kids were ready to go to AAA."
Defending Class AAA state champion Huntington, the current No. 1 team in the West Virginia Coaches Association/wvmat.com Class AAA poll, made the trip to Mason County on Wednesday with the Highlanders taking a 37-25 dual meet win against the Big Blacks.
"It's going to be a little more difficult at times but we're up to the challenge," Bonecutter said. "This is the youngest team I've ever coached, but we've got a lot of hard working kids. Tonight I don't think we wrestled particularly well, but Huntington has a way of making people look that way."
The Big Blacks are ranked No. 7 in Class AAA this week, with 10 individuals appearing in the top 10 rankings for their weight classes. Austin Rutter (152-pounds), Josh Hudson (160), Jon Peterson (182), Guy Fisher (126), Andrew Roach (138) and Hunter White (145) each recorded wins against the Highlanders. Of those, Roach is the only one not ranked this week.
"To be honest with you I think they're much better than they're ranked," Archer said. "They're getting not enough credit and we're getting too much. The two of us are even closer than it was tonight."
Prior to taking over Point Pleasant's high school program in 2010, Bonecutter was in charge of the Big Blacks' junior high team. That helped ease the transition when he and his staff made the move.
"We've had a great program," Bonecutter said. "Me and my assistants, this whole staff, was the junior high staff before we came up here. We've had a lot of those kids for a long time. If you look at our bitty league level, we've got a great system. You look at our travel team and we have a great travel team. You move up and we've got a good middle school program and it just feeds right in.
"I like the direction we're going right now. Somebody told me one time if you follow the Ohio River all the way from Wheeling down to Huntington you're going to find the top teams. There may be a little truth to that. Something in the water maybe."
Point Pleasant will travel to Fairmont this weekend for the prestigious Winners Choice tournament, which Bonecutter said is his favorite tournament each year.
"Winners Choice is a brutal event and is my favorite tournament on our schedule," he said. "I absolutely love the tournament. I think seven of the top 10 AAA teams are going to be there this weekend, so you'll see where you're at, and that's what you want to do. There's going to be no cakewalks, that's for sure."