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.