Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP WRESTLING ; Battle-Tested St. Albans Ready for WSAZ Invitational

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

PREP WRESTLING ; Battle-Tested St. Albans Ready for WSAZ Invitational

Article excerpt

St. Albans wrestling, as a program, is arguably as good as it has ever been.

In fact, there might not be much of an argument. The Red Dragons boast seven ranked wrestlers heading into this weekend's WSAZ Invitational at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, including Class AAA's No. 1 at 106 pounds in Brandon Holt and No. 1 at 145 pounds in Josh Humphreys - last season's state champion at 120. The team is ranked No. 7 in this week's West Virginia Coaches Association/ Class AAA poll and is coming off a strong showing at the Top Gun tournament last week in Alliance, Ohio. This, however, is not the Red Dragons' ceiling. Not if coach Daren Gilfilen can get his way.

"I think the most [wrestlers] we've ever had ranked was five, maybe even four, he said. "Hopefully our program is turned around for good.

SA will be among the teams to watch when the competition starts at 1 p.m. Friday and runs through Saturday evening, but far from the only one. Forty-one teams from West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina are scheduled to take part in the return of the two-day event that had to be canceled last season due to a snow storm.

All 12 Kanawha Valley schools with wrestling programs - Buffalo, Poca, Winfield, Hurricane, Nitro, St. Albans, South Charleston, Sissonville, Herbert Hoover, George Washington, Riverside and Capital - are expected to compete. Perhaps more than any other KV team, St. Albans will be looking to gauge where it stands against top competition with the postseason regional and state tournaments in the not-too-distant future.

Gilfilen said the Red Dragons are healthy and battle tested heading into the weekend. In addition to Top Gun, where Humphreys took runner-up and 160-pounder Michael Milam finished third in his weight class, the Red Dragons have dualed at top-ranked Parkersburg South and been to Powerade - a massive late-December tournament in Pennsylvania that brings in teams from as far away as California. Gilfilen said the WSAZ Invitational is a chance to get that big tournament feel against perhaps more even competition.

"It pushes our kids, he said. "Kids that go up there and wrestle in the big tournaments and either get beat out or don't place as high as they hoped for, they want to do a little better against in- state competition. …

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