HUNTINGTON- The dream of a state title remains alive for five area grapplers as ''Championship Saturday'' of the 66th annual West Virginia High School Wrestling Championships begins.
All told, six OVAC wrestlers punched their tickets for tonight's finals, set for 6 p.m., at Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Consolation semifinals and third- and fifth-place bouts, featuring 25 OVAC entrants, start at 10:45 a.m.
Brooke’s Nate Dawson, right, battles Wheeling Park’s Geremy Paige in a Class AAA 195-pound semifinal Friday night. Dawson won, 3-2, in overtime and will defend his crown tonight.
Dallas Baciak and Jonny Davis will battle for Class AAA championships for Wheeling Park.
Nate Dawson goes after his second straight crown for Brooke, while John Marshall's Cullen Ebbert and Morgantown's Taylor Ortiz will take the stage later in the evening.
Madonna's Garrett Hypes is the lone Class AA-A finalist.
Baciak topped Point Pleasant's John Raike in his 113-pound semifinal. The Park sophomore (35-4) trailed 6-4 heading into the third period, but quickly turned the tables by pinning Raike 20 seconds into the final period.
''If you've ever watched Dallas the whole year, you'll understand the score doesn't matter and he understands that,'' Park coach Jack Doyle said.
''Very few people he'll wrestle in the state can stay with him for six minutes and that's exactly what happened.
''He wore (Raike) out and he was ready to break. And in the third period Dallas had plenty of energy. And when he put (Raike) on his back lights out.''
Davis, the Region One champion who is 33-6, advanced by pinning Winfield's Isaac Reed in 5:34 at 145 pounds. He'll face Huntington's Justin Arthur for the championship.
Dawson (44-5) defeated Park's Geremy Paige, 3-2, in a thrilling 195-pound overtime bout. He will go for the repeat against Preston's Terrance Fanning in a rematch of the Region One championship. Fanning won that match, 6-3.
''I wrestled three times and he's gotten better every time,'' Dawson said of Paige, who he finished 3-0 against this season. ''I did what I had to do out there.
''This is huge. It's all I think about. I want to be a two-time champ.''
Ebbert also went to overtime and prevailed, 3-2, against Buckhannon-Upshur's Daniel Nolte at 220 pounds. The Monarchs junior improved to 41-3.
''Cullen has had a good season and we'd like to see him finish it off with a state championship,'' Monarchs coach Ted Zervos said. ''He only has three losses this year, two to the same kid at Steubenville. He s been wrestling well all year and focused on he wants to achieve.''
Ortiz, who was third last season, topped Nitro's David Smith, 4-1, to reach the 285-pound final. He'll face Ripley's Daryl Hicks.
Parkersburg South was shut out of the finals, but has nine alive in the consolations. They are: Logan Ball (106), Lance Hill (113), Braidon Knotts (120), Jordan Quiocho (132), Dylan Alexander (145), Jake Alexander (152), Briar Shively (160), Matthew Dixon (195) and Thomas Hall (285).
Still alive for Park are: Dylan Taylor (138), Danny Colby (160) and Paige.
Cody Amos, the third-place finisher at 182 pounds last year, saw his prep career come to an unfortunate end when he was injured against Lewis County's Ryan Carson in the quarterfinals.
Dillon Shaw (152), Skippy Scurry (182) and Preston Wise (285) are still afloat for Brooke, as is John Marshall's Zach Tubaugh (132).
Isaiah Hood (126), Scott Lopez (132) and Nate Constante (170) are still alive for University.
Hypes (28-3) is in the 152-pound final by virtue of a 6-3 decision against Liberty-Raleigh's RK Elam. He'll face unbeaten Malik Boatwright of Greenbrier West for the title.
Oak Glen is alive in the consolations thanks to Danny Wyke (113), Josh Cornell (120) and Kyle Mack (126).
Dalton Wood (106) and Dillon Blake (145) remain in play for Cameron, while and Jared Wright (195) is alive for Magnolia.
The host Highlanders are on the verge of winning their first state championship and snapping South's four-year winning streak.
Huntington has 152.5 points, 16 better than second-place Parkersburg. Wheeling Park is sixth, Brooke 12th and John Marshall 13th.
Greenbrier West tops the AA-A leader board with 115.5, followed by Independence (95.5). Oak Glen is 12th.