Encountering Cougars in the wild is one thing, but coming face-to-face on the wrestling mat will make one quiver with the fearless and ferocious attack by East Hardy Wrestling impacting the region with grit and determination as 26 grapplers pounce forward to make a bid for the state tournament in Huntington.
East Hardy returns a dozen wrestlers from last season’s winningest program including Hardy County’s first female state qualifier junior SierraMarie Miller.
Those coming back to the wrestling squad are: seniors Cole Pusl and Patrick Helsley, juniors SierraMarie Miller, Dayton Miller, Hunter Ames, Conner White, Sky Spell, Braden Orndorff (freshman year), sophomores Dale Hockman, Caleb Childers, Erik Flynn and Damian Iman.
The toughness of the Cougars will be hard to handle as 14 wrestlers are coming over from the football field and being caged up in the Den will wreak havoc on the mat: Damian Iman, Cole Pusl, Mason Miller, Dayton Miller, Miles Kidwell, Erik Flynn, Braden Orndorff, James Shipe, Patrick Helsley, Brennan Miller, Caleb Childers, Matthew Harman, Kollin Quarles and Dale Hockman.
East Hardy Wrestling had three place winners at the Region II Tournament last season led by SierraMarie Miller with a fourth place medal for the state berth, followed by juniors Dayton Miller and Hunter Ames with sixth place medals. Sky Spell and SierraMarie Miller won regional medals in 2017.
East Hardy Wrestling head coach Stevie Miller and assistant coach Mason Gray have been working with the wrestlers in the weight room on a consistent basis to help develop their strength and conditioning drills prepare them for the grueling time on the mats.
Coach Miller has three of his children on the squad: SierraMarie, Dayton and Mason with each having 11 years of wrestling experience.
Spell has 11 seasons of wrestling experience, followed by Dale Hockman and Patrick Helsley with eight years apiece.
Coach Miller has been involved in the youth wrestling program for over a decade and assistant coach Mason Gray, who was a wrestler at James Wood High School in Virginia, have maintained relationships with area programs over the years to build a quality schedule for the Cougars.
East Hardy Wrestling co-captains for the season are Patrick Helsley, Dayton Miller and SierraMarie Miller.
They all had one goal in mind to improve each day and to send more wrestlers to the state tournament.
For the upcoming wrestling season the projected roster’s weight classes will be: freshman Shane Riggle 106lbs, junior SierraMarie Miller 113lbs, sophomore Victoria Ames 126lbs, junior Erin Riggle 132lbs, sophomore Courtney Shank 138lbs, sophomore Damian Iman 138lbs, junior Sky Spell 145lbs, junior Ryan D’Amico 152lbs, senior Cole Pusl 152lbs, freshman Mason Miller 160lbs, junior. Conner White 160lbs, senior Patrick Helsley 170lbs, freshman Brennen Miller 170lbs, freshman Miles Kidwell 170lbs, freshman J.B. Shipe 182lbs, sophomore Hunter Funkhouser 182lbs, sophomore Erik Flynn 182lbs, junior Dayton Miller 195lbs, sophomore Caleb Childers 195lbs, junior Hunter Ames 220lbs, freshman. Mathew Harmon 220lbs, sophomore Kollin Quarles 285lbs, junior Luke Phillips 285lbs, sophomore Dale Hockman 285lbs and junior Braden Orndorff 285lbs.
There is an inaugural girls state invitational tournament this season and East Hardy has four wrestlers who could participate: junior veteran SierraMarie Miller and first-year grapplers junior Erin Riggle, sophomores Victoria Ames and Courtney Shank.
Miller, Riggle and Ames played volleyball together forming a bond and were quick on the court which will help with movement on the mat.
East Hardy juniors Sky Spell, Hunter Ames, SierraMarie Miller and Dayton Miller have been the most successful at the regional level which will help in mentoring the team.
The lineup for the Cougars is very solid from top to bottom, so there is potential for many victories this season.
East Hardy starts the season at Central High School in Woodstock, Va. tonight and will be participating in the 35th annual Max Horz Border Wars Invitational in Berkeley Springs this weekend.
East Hardy travels to Hampshire on December 28, then visits Cameron on January 4 prior to the Baker Brawl.
The only home match for the Cougars will be the inaugural Baker Brawl on January 11 featuring in-state teams Moorefield, Martinsburg and Hampshire in addition to four Virginia squads Central, Strasburg, Woodgrove and Page County.
The Cougars visit Berkeley Springs, Martinsburg and Moorefield in addition to competing in the Viking Smash held in Petersburg.
East Hardy coach Stevie Miller took time to answer questions for the upcoming season:
What are your goals and expectations for the team? I would like to have several wrestlers qualify for the State Wrestling Tournament and place in the top six this year. I have been coaching wrestling for 11 years and my goal has been every year to improve the quality of the wrestling at East Hardy. Coach Gray and I want to develop the student athletes on and off the mat to help them to reach their individual goals.
What is your team motto? Our team motto is the same every year “No Fear”. Our kids love the sport and we walk onto the mat each time without fear of our opponent or the outcome of the match. Our goal is to prepare and perform to the best of our abilities each time we step on the mat.
How exciting is it to start the Baker Brawl and how has the response been for teams coming? The Baker Brawl has been a goal of our program since Scott Mongold and I started the East Hardy Youth Wrestling program in 2008. We knew it would take time to get the wrestlers, the parents and the community ready to have a tournament at the high school. We have developed a wrestling culture at East Hardy over the years and we feel like it time to take the next step by hosting a tournament. Our wrestlers, parents, fans, and Athletic Boosters all support our program. So we feel like this is the next step in our program development. We have had a good response to our first tournament. We have Moorefield, Hampshire, Central (VA), Strasburg (VA), Woodgrove (VA), Page (VA), and Martinsburg schedule to attend.
How much experience does each wrestler have and what are some of their attributes that will benefit in the matches? We have a wide variety of experience on our team this year. We have some kids that have wrestled since the age of four years old and we have several first year wrestlers on the team. A large majority of our team wrestled in our youth program for me for years. So I have been with most of these wrestlers for many years. This allows me to know what moves each one needs to work on and what they feel comfortable with on the mat. The main attributes that our team brings to the table is the willingness to work hard. Our wrestlers lift weights and prepare all year long to be competitive on the mat.
What are the weight classes for each wrestler?
Fr. Shane Riggle 106lbs – speed and flexibility-2nd year
Jr. SierraMarie Miller 113lbs- experience and fierce competitor-11 years
Soph. Victoria Ames 126lbs- willingness to try and learn new things- 1st year
Jr. Erin Riggle 132lbs- aggressive and willing to learn-1st year
Soph. Courtney Shank 138lbs- works hard and willing to learn-1st year
Soph. Damian Iman 138lbs- works hard and dedicated-3 years
Jr. Sky Spell 145lbs-strength and experience-11 years
Jr. Phillip Ryan D’Amico 152lbs- very technical and quick feet-3 years
Sr. Cole Pusl 152lbs- great movement and mat awareness-6 years
Fr. Mason Miller 160lbs-experience and good body awareness-11 years
Jr. Conner White 160lbs- student of the sport and good work ethic-2nd year
Sr. Patrick Helsely 170lbs- experience and fearless-8 years
Fr. Brennen Miller 170lbs-willingness to try and learn new things-1st year
Fr. Miles Kidwell 170lbs-ethusiastic and willing to learn-1st year
Fr. J.B. Shipe 182lbs-moves well and intense-1st year
Soph. Hunter Funkhouser 182lbs-strength and long limbs-2nd year
Soph. Erik Flynn 182lbs-strong and intense- 2nd year
Jr. Dayton Miller 195lbs-experience and strength-11 years
Jr. Caleb Childers 195lbs-good mat awareness and dedication-4 years
Jr. Hunter Ames 220lbs-stregnth and good attitude-4 years
Fr. Mathew Harmon 220lbs-smart wrestler and strong-7 years
Soph. Kollin Quarles 285lbs- Willing to learn and try new things-1st year
Jr. Luke Phillips 285lbs- good attitude and willing to learn-1st year
Soph. Dale Hockman 285lbs- experience and strength-8 years
Jr. Braden Ornorff 285lbs-smart and willing to learn-2nd year
What impresses you the most about your team? I am impressed by the work ethic of this team. Coach Gray and I push them hard in the weight room and on the mat and they don’t complain or quit. They are constantly pushing themselves to improve at whatever task we give them.
How proud are you to see the growth of female wrestling in your program and the state with the new invitational? I am very excited to see female wrestling grow in our program and across the state. We had five senior females last year on our team and we feel like that helped to push the WVSSAC to start the female innovational. With the invitational starting this year I hope to have more females come out for our team in the future.
What are some of the unique moves and techniques that will help your wrestlers succeed? Coach Gray and I believe that having good fundamental are the key to being a successful wrestler. So we teach our wrestlers a variety of fundamental moves and just keep drilling them. In the end each wrestler will pick moves that he/she are comfortable with. Each wrestler will develop their own style and set of techniques to use on the mat.