MOUNDSVILLE - Saturday afternoon's West Virginia Class AAA Region One wrestling tournament turned into a three-horse race with Wood County rivals Parkersburg South and Parkersburg battling Wheeling Park for the team gold.
When all was said and done it was the southern Patriots that again found a way to pull it out, gaining a close victory on the Big Reds and Park.
In one of the day's best matches, South's Tyler Newhart-Koreski used an overtime takedown to record a 4-2 victory against Max Chefren to clinch the team title at the John Marshall Field House.
Coach Donna Dixon's Patriots finished with 222 points, seven more than Big Reds' 215, while Wheeling Park was third with 201.5. Both South and Parkersburg will send all 13 wrestlers to next weekends state wrestling tournament while Coach Jack Doyle's Patriots will have 11.
"I am very happy with the way we wrestled," Doyle saidd. "We had projected coming down here that we might end up with nine going to the state tournament and we got 11.
"Honestly, I feel real good about our position and I feel like there is a posibility this team could make a run for the top two when all is said and done."
Park's first of three individual champions came at 120 with Dallas Baciak improving his record to 37-2 by pinning Parkersburg's Joey Butcher in 2:21 to claim his title. Unfortunately teammate Jonathan Skeens wasn't as lucky, getting turned by South's Austin Harris in 3:29 at 126 in his bid to upset his way to a title.
John Marshall's Dylan Hall (29-7) recorded his team's only title at 138 when he got the better of Wheeling Park's Austin Digiandomenico at 138 by a 13-6 margin. Digiandomenico had upset University's Cody Hamlin (37-8) in the semifinals.
The ensuing two matches featured Park wrestlers with outstanding records who needed to knock off very talented grapplers to gain titles. Dylan Taylor (37-3) succeded in his bid with a 7-1 victory against Dylan Richards (40-6) of Parkersburg at 145.
However, Jonny Davis (29-4) was not as fortunate at 152 where he dropped a 13-0 major decision to the Big Reds' Trapper Hays, who is unbeaten in 45 matches.
The Patriots' Eric Banks claimed the third Wheeling Park championship at 160 with a quality 4-1 victory against the Hawks' Liam Bal (32-8) to improve to 22-1.
Coming into the day it looked like the 220-pound weight class qas going to be one of the most hotly contested and it did not dissapoint. John Marshall's Cullen Ebbert (33-3) punched his ticket to the final with a hard-fought, 11-9 overtime decision against Park's Geremy Paige (22-3), while unbeaten Terrance Fanning (34-0) of Preston defeated South's Logan Dilliner (35-13) by a 4-0 count.
Fanning eventually won the title with an impressive 6-0 victory against Ebbert while Paige took third by scoring a 14-4 major decision on Dilliner.
Brooke's Preston Wise (33-5) took South's Thomas Hall (38-8) to the limits before falling 3-1 in the heavyweight final.
"We had a bunch of kids wrestle their butts off, and ended up with three championships by quality wrestlers and kids in Baciak, Taylor and Banks," Doyle added. "We also lost a couple of tough finals.
"But overall, I believe we lost a couple of tough finals that the kids wrestled a full six minutes and that is all we can ask. We are leaving here happy.
"We have some pretty good kids that finished third in this one, and who knows what could happen next week. It really is something that anything can happen and I believe we have a chance."
Dixon was pleased as well with her team's championship, coming into a season that had some non-believers.
"I am very, very pleased with this," Dixon said with a smile. "At the beginning of the year there were people who didn't think we would do that well this season, but these boys have wrestled their hearts out all season.
"We are taking our entire team to the state tournament and I just hope they go out and wrestle their hearts out one more time, which I know they will."
Brooke, which finished sixth, advanced six wrestlers while John Marshall finished seventh and will take three to the state tournament.