By RICK THORP
WHEELING - After securing back-to-back titles in the Ron Mauck OVAC Tournament, Wheeling Park's Cody Amos hopes to break a string of back-to-back runner-up finishes in Huntington.
Amos is one of two area wrestlers that will look to follow back-to-back runner-up finishes with a state championship at the 65th annual West Virginia High School Championships at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Action begins this evening with first-round matches and continues through Saturday.
All told, 53 grapplers from nine area schools will take to the mats for the opening round.
Amos and Oak Glen's Zach Brown are the only two qualifiers to have finished second the last two years.
Amos' coach, Sean Doyle, is optimistic about the junior's prospects this weekend.
''Cody is again ranked No. 2 in the state to the kid that beat him the last two years - Adam Bicak,'' Doyle said.
''Cody is working on some different things to work and beat him. The last two years he's kind of taken the same approach and it didn't work. Hopefully, this year will be different.''
One thing that will be different is that Amos and Bicek, should they meet, won't do so in the finals, but rather the semifinals.
Amos won the 170-pound championship at the Region One Tournament last week at Parkersburg South, while Bicak, the Ripley senior, won the crown at the Region 3 crown at the Ripley regional.
Amos is one of 10 Wheeling Park wrestlers slated to compete in Huntington - the most of any area Class AAA school.
Of that group, only senior Kodiac Garcia has placed in the top six. Garcia, sixth at 145 pounds two years ago, will compete at 160 this year.
Luke Braunlich (182) is the other senior on the roster for the Patriots.
Besides Amos, Danny Colby (152) is the other junior on Park's state roster.
Sophomores competing for Park include Jonny Davis (132), Eric Banks (138) and Geremy Paige (195).
Banks upended Parkersburg South's Briar Shively to win the regional title.
''He deserved it,'' Doyle said. ''He's matured a lot and didn't perform well (at states) last year.
''He's been putting in a lot of work and getting some rewards. He's excited about the tournament.''
The Patriots have two freshmen competing - Dallas Baciak (106) and Dylan Taylor (126), who was second at the OVACs last month.
John Marshall brings seven wrestlers to Huntington, five of which are sophomores or freshmen.
Shane Stewart (106), Casey Mowder (113) and Quentin Blatt (120) are rookies, while Dylan Hall (132) and Cullen Ebbert (220) are the sophomores.
Ebbert finished fourth in the former 215-pound division last year.
Thomas Schwing (195) is the lone senior for the Monarchs, while Cody Boles (138, junior) also brings veteran leadership.
Brooke also has seven wrestlers in the state fold, led by junior Nathan Dawson (195).
Dawson, a reigning OVAC winner, finished second last year at 189 and fourth two years ago at 171.
Junior Matthew Beaman was sixth last year at 103.
Others in the mix for the Bruins are senior Jake Higgins (145), juniors Jake Schwertfeger (152), Skippy Scurry (160) and J.J. Bennett (220) and sophomore Preston Wise (285).
Oak Glen again has the most area wrestlers in the Class AA/A field with nine.
Brown (120), a senior, who finally broke through for an OVAC title this year, hopes to do the same this week after back-to-back runner-up finishes at 112 and 103.
Senior Kole Koper (138) was sixth last year at 130 and sixth in 2010 at 125. Classmates Dylan Davis (22) and Tyler Brown (120) posted fifth- (215) and fourth-place (112) finishes two years ago.
Rounding out the Golden Bears lineup are senior Teddy Adkins (170), juniors Kyle Mack (126) and Brodie Bittinger (160) and sophomores Josh Cornell (106) and Avery Flowers (132).
Four seniors will lead the Cameron contingent of eight participants.
Taylor Neely, who was fifth last year at 189, will compete at 195 this week.
Other seniors in the mix include Andrew Hale (170), Austin Worsens (160) and Tyler Schwerfeger (152).
The lower weight classes for the Dragons are dominated by youngsters. The group consists of freshmen Dalton Wood (106) and Kyle Schlieper (120), sophomore Hunter Yoders (138) and junior Dillon Blake (145).
Weir senior Darren Starr (285) will be the school's top hope for a state crown. Two years ago he was fourth at heavyweight.
Another senior, Hunter McLaughlin (126), was sixth last year at 125.
Weir's other qualifiers are senior Ethan Barnes (220), junior Reno Castelli (138) and sophomores Cory Poling (113) and Shain Livida (195).
Weirton Madonna has two competitors including senior Christian Roe who will be a championship threat at 195. He was second at 189 last year.
Junior James Fulciniti (132) will also wrestle for the Blue Dons.
Bishop Donahue is represented by junior Jordan Bonar (160) and Andrew Cunningham (145), while Magnolia has juniors Gage Deem (152) and Jared Wright (182) in the mix.