Park Wrestling Ready for Start of 2021 Season
Patriots earned state runner-up in 2020
WHEELING – Almost exactly a year ago, Brian Leggett and his Wheeling Park wrestling squad were competing at the state tournament. When the weekend came to an end, the Patriots secured runner-up honors in the Class AAA field.
Little did they know, that was going to be their last match for just over a year.
“I can remember this time last year at the state tournament, the talk of COVID was starting,” Leggett said. “You could start seeing people talking about it and it just wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar yet. Then we get back and we were getting ready for our national tournament in Virginia Beach, that’s really when COVID took over and our nationals got canceled. Unfortunately for Ohio, they lost their state tournament. We felt horrible for those guys”
The Patriots won’t have to wait much longer to go after a state championship as the West Virginia High School winter sports season kicks off in the first week of March. Wheeling Park is slated to start on March 3 when they host a tri-match with University and Bridgeport.
The Patriots bring back a solid core of wrestlers who placed at the state meet.
“It’s been a year since that and we’ve been itching like crazy to get back in the wrestling room and on the mat,” Leggett said. “I’m returning a really good solid group of guys. We have many state placers retuning in our lineup. We’re excited to get all those guys back. With that, we have really good core of freshmen coming in, so we’re excited to get those guys.”
Although West Virginia hasn’t competed in 2021 yet, Ohio winter sports have been in full swing since it was originally schedule.
While wrestling always took proper health and safety precautions even before COVID, Leggett has been taking the initiative to see what Ohio has been doing in terms of doing anything different in terms of staying out of quarantine.
“We’re known for being safe because you have to watch out for the skin issues and all those things. We take hygiene and everything like that, being sick and staying away from guys in wrestling pretty seriously,” Leggett said. “We kind of plug that same formula in to COVID too as well. I’m really close with some Ohio coaches as well like Coach (Michael) Blackburn of Steubenville. I talk to him regular abut some of the things they’re doing and how they’re able to stay the path. We’re going to use some of those things keeping our guys in a small little bubble where they’re not out at other friends house just to make sure we get our wrestling season off without any hiccups.”
The Patriots have eight wrestlers back on this year’s roster that placed at the state tournament including sophomore Erick Brothers Jr., who claimed the lone individual state title as a freshman in the 182-pound bout.
Seniors Stevie Mitchell (145) and Charlie Tamburin (220) claimed individual state runners-up last season while junior Nate Shelek (120) placed third.
Junior Cody Taggart (113) finished fourth in his weight class while sophomore Quinton Velas (106) secured fifth.
Sophomore Adam Angel (170) finished sixth classmate Braydn Lucas (126) was a state qualifier.
The Patriots return 63 points from last year’s total score, the second most among the Class AAA field.
Leggett and Co., though are aiming for something a little higher.
“That’s what we strive for each day,” Leggett said. “Our guys want to be state champs and we’re chasing that title. We definitely have the team to do it this year and we’re super excited to compete. I just want these guys to showcase the talent they have and how hard they’ve been working even through all of COVID.”