CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coach Geoff Hamrick hopes his Clay County wrestling team can buck the trend this weekend at the Class AA/A Region 4 championship.
The Panthers, ranked No. 5 in the WVMat.com poll, are seeking their first region title after coming up short the previous three seasons. Clay County finished runner-up in 2012 and 2011 and third in 2010 with Point Pleasant winning the championship each year.
The Big Blacks, who won three consecutive state titles in Class AA/A, made the move to Class AAA this season, which has opened the door for the Panthers. But Region 4 still has its share of competition.
On Feb. 2, Clay County finished second behind No. 3 Wirt County at the Little Kanawha Conference championship in Elizabeth, while No. 8 Calhoun County finished third and No. 9 Williamstown placed fourth. Roane County finished seventh and Ravenswood was ninth at the 11-team event.
The Tigers compiled a score of 190.50, compared to the 180.50 by the Panthers.
Each of those six teams will be competing in the one-day event at Roane County in Spencer. Matches begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The 12-team field also includes Buffalo, Herbert Hoover, Parkersburg Catholic, Poca, Sissonville and Wahama.
"Wirt edged us out by 10 points," said Hamrick, who is in his second season guiding the Panthers. "We came in on Monday after the LKC tournament and I don't want to say our heads were hung because we wrestled well there. It could have been different if a couple matches would have went our way. We competed with them.
"We feel we're just as good and competitive as they are. I fully expect to go in there this weekend and win it."
A pair of seniors, Justin Triplett and Alex Suite, lead the Panthers.
Triplett enters the event with a 35-1 record and is ranked No. 2 at 113 pounds. He was a state champion last season at 106 pounds with a 34-0 record. In 2011, he was a runner-up at 103 pounds with a 42-1 mark.
His lone loss this season came against Cody Goff of Grafton in the championship of the Braxton Invitational on Jan. 12.
"It has been a real strong year for Justin," Hamrick said. "He lost a close match and it gave him a hunger that he needed. I am looking forward to seeing him potentially being back in the finals and meeting Goff again."
Suite has a 26-3 record and is ranked No. 2 at 132 pounds. He was a state champion in 2012 at 126 pounds with a 37-4 record and was a State Tournament qualifier in 2011 at 130 pounds.