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West Virginia Prep Teams Begin Conditioning for Winter Season

Basketball, wrestling, swimming preparing for season

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Central boys’ basketball players take part in conditioning on Monday. Pictured are, front, Garrett Mayle. Back from left, Seth George, Eli Tucker and Leyton Toepfer.

WHEELING — John Marshall girls’ basketball coach Brock Melko finally got to share a positive message with his team on Sunday night after a year of what seemed like non-stop bad news.

“See you tomorrow,” Melko said in a text to his team. “It was a good feeling to send out a positive message for once. For the last year every time I got in touch with them I would be the Debbie Downer, so it’s nice to deliver some good news for a change.”

That good news of course was that on Monday, high school sports in West Virginia returned to the gyms, pools and wrestling mats for winter sports conditioning for the first time since being delayed on Nov. 13, 2020.

The teams get one week of conditioning in before practices start up next Monday, not leaving much time to get players as well-conditioned as usual but coaches and players all over the state will take what they can get.

“It’s better than nothing,” Wheeling Central boys’ basketball coach Mel Stephens said. “It lets them get their legs under them before starting practice. The kids have been doing what they can on their own but it’s good to get them back in the groove.”

With the short amount of time, the Wheeling Park boys’ basketball team was wasting no time getting after it.

“We’re doing things a little different,” Park coach Michael Jebbia said.

“We can’t use a basketball so we’re trying to install some defensive drills to speed up the process a little bit. Usually, conditioning is lifting, running and we’ve sometimes gone to the Y.M.C.A. in the past but this is better than nothing and our older guys are doing a good job of leading the way.”

The Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central boys’ teams reached last year’s state tournament, which was canceled due to the COVID outbreak. Both teams are eager to get back what was taken from them without any major interruptions.

“The guys were cut short last year,” Stephens said.

“They are looking forward to this. They’ve been waiting patiently and once we get started, hopefully we can continue to play without many interruptions.

“We’re hoping with Ohio County and the whole state starting to trend downward with vaccines getting out, hopefully things slow down so we can play a little bit. Hopefully things get better and better until things get back to somewhat normal.”

Jebbia reminded his team to simply take care of business one day at a time.

“For awhile there I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to do anything,” Jebbia said. “To see Ohio go through things pretty well across the river was tough for our kids to see.

“It seems like our state is improving but I just told the guys to worry about Monday and work as hard as we can today.”

As for the players, the typical groaning of long tiring sprints during conditioning turned to thankfulness on Monday, especially for seniors.

“I just feel so good to be with my team again,” John Marshall senior Lakyn Groves said. “I missed them so much. With Ohio playing it’s weird that we’re just getting started but we’ve been playing together at the park and stuff. Sometimes we go out and run together but I’m just excited to play with my best friends again.”

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