One should have faith to take a leap on Leap Day.
Moorefield junior captain Isaac Van Meter jumped into the arms of his coach-father after winning the Class AA-A 170-lb. State Wrestling Championship on Leap Day during the 73rd Annual WVSSAC State High School Wrestling Tournament at the Mountain Health Arena in Huntington and the Yellow Jackets added a fifth place medal making a statement with four grapplers placing third as a team and East Hardy’s solo wrestler gained experience in the state journey.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
Perseverance and believing in finishing the mission for a state title were among the characteristics in developing the focus and passion to reach the pinnacle of the wrestling ladder.
“It is really satisfying to know that all my hard work has paid off. This is the hardest I’ve worked in all the years of wrestling and it is truly a dream come true. I just had to keep wrestling hard and wrestling fast and just worked with what he gave me,” Class AA-A 170-lb. State Champion Isaac Van Meter remarked.
“Moorefield is the best time in the world in my opinion. They are very supportive and friendly and I love it. It was very nerve racking coming in here, but glad I came out on top. I almost broke into tears jumping into his arms, because he has coached me all my life and I don’t know what I’d do without him. My dad and Jesus Christ are the biggest parts in this championship.”
Improving on technique through each match enabled these wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament and fight for more opportunities to gain accolades.
“Excited, relieved. [Isaac] He has been on a progression, third as a freshman, second as a sophomore and champion this year as a junior. He was ranked first in the state wire to wire all year long. He helped the baseball team win two state championships, but he is a humble kid and goes about doing things the right way,” Moorefield Wrestling coach T.J. Van Meter stated.
“As for me as dad and as coach, I’m excited or him and happy, but also a sense of relief. When you are ranked number one, you have that target on your back and everybody knows who you are and brings their best shot. It is a great feeling to watch him grow and to be in this journey together. It has been a very rewarding experience for all of us, you saw all the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins out here supporting him. There have been many teammates, practice partners and coaches who have worked with him along the way that have given him encouragement. We appreciate all of that support. Coach Thad Walker over in Virginia, who has worked with Isaac over the years, preaches position, points, pin, in that order. We have adopted that philosophy. Be in a good position to not give up any points, score your points when available and if it is there, take the pin. This is Isaac’s third trip to the state tournament, but his first year pinning anybody. As you rise to that top level, it is harder to toss people around and get quick pins. That was a very good wrestler he faced in Ian Bush, he gave Isaac everything he could want in a match and he is only a sophomore. When I shook his hand, I told hime he will be a state champ. There are a lot of quality wrestlers in the state of West Virginia. Any one of those on the podium could have won the title and for Isaac to show up the way he did with all the pressure and execute the game plan in a championship match was tremendous to watch. When he got the reversal and back points in front of us, that was the turning point. When he ran over into my arms, I thought about all the work he has done for 13 years to get to this point. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hold him with my upcoming surgery, but in the moment we celebrated. It is always nice to win a state championship whether in baseball or wrestling.”
Hardy County had five representatives at the state tournament: Moorefield Wrestling team was comprised of junior captains Isaac Van Meter (45-2) garnering the state title and Kevin Wetzel (30-17) along with sophomore Tyberious Clayton (46-11) winning the fifth place medal and freshman Layne Spitzer (40-13) plus East Hardy junior Dayton Miller (34-14).
The Yellow Jackets placed third overall in the Class A state tournament field with 49 points gained by their four wrestlers.
There was a nautical theme of tugboats throughout downtown Huntington which reminded the wrestlers of how much they needed to pull and carry themselves both mentally and physically to reach the podium.
“It is satisfying. Wrestling at its core is an individual sport with team components to it, but we had quality over quantity here in Huntington. There were teams like Point Pleasant running away with the state team title with 14 of their guys qualifying and we only had four, but the four we brought were very good wrestlers,” Coach Van Meter commented.
The adventure at the state tournament began on Thursday with 224 matches on eight mats for the first round of action and the final championship round was kicked off with a parade of champions featuring the title contenders for the final session and the title holders from the inaugural girls wrestling tournament including East Hardy’s SierraMarie Miller.
Spitzer was the first Hardy County wrestler to set foot on the state tournament mat in the 106-lb. weight class battling against Wirt County’s Phillip Balis as the Yellow Jackets quest took a triumphant opening step forward.
Balis held a 6-3 lead in the second period, but Spitzer managed a takedown and pin at the 2:17 mark advancing with tears of joy as he embraced coaches T.J. Van Meter and Larry Schoonover.
“It was emotional getting that first win. I was just so happy my dad and mom and step-dad were here to watch me. I am so glad they were here. I wish I could have beaten Ethan to get on the podium in my first year, but I will get there next year, I guess. I love representing Moorefield. This atmosphere was wild. I could hear my teammates cheering for me. It was nerve racking being lifted in the air, not knowing how I was going to land,” Moorefield freshman Layne Spitzer said.
Clayton was up next in the 152-lb. weight class facing off against Ritchie County’s Kayden Procacina, who he would eventually battle again in the consolation semifinal.
Procacina on by major decision 10-2 over Clayton in the first round bout, but Clayton stayed the course swimming through the consolation bracket to earn a fifth place medal.
Both locked together and danced out of bounds, then Clayton attempted to shoot and Procacina countered with a move around the waist knocking them down to the mat.
Procacina was caught by Clayton eating the mat, but flipped the tables for a reversal.
In the second period, Procacina added two takedowns and Clayton notched an escape as Procacina was spinning around on top.
Clayton was on the top trying to flip Procacina twice in the third period, but both times the momentum shifted out of bounds.
Wetzel competed in the 160-lb. weight class for the Yellow Jackets with an opening round match against eventual state champion Ben Kee of Herbert Hoover, while Van Meter wrestled simultaneously on the adjacent mat in the 170-lb. weight division against Lincoln County’s Nathaniel Amburgey.
Kee moved his arm around the back of Wetzel’s neck and shifted his weight across the chest applying enough pressure to earn a pin.
Van Meter was quick to latch on the neck and bring Amburgey down using an assassin hold to secure the pin shifting around on top for the tap out at 1:05.
East Hardy’s Dayton Miller lost to eventual state runner-up Jacob Williams from Nicholas County during the opening round of the state wrestling tournament for the 195-lb. weight class as Williams notched a pin at the 1:25 mark.
Miller tried to lock around the neck, but Williams lifted him up before slamming down to the mat.
Miller was caught in a power-half and wasn’t able to escape as Williams took the title.
On Friday morning, Spitzer was back on the mat for the quarterfinals against eventual state runner-up East Fairmont’s Geno Casuccio.
Spitzer made the first move grabbing around the neck, but Casuccio countered lifting the right leg of Spitzer and turning to put him on the mat and pushed with his head flipping Spitzer for a pin at 0:52.
This loss put Spitzer in the consolation second round against Philip Barbour’s Matthew Shahan and a 12-nil major decision victory created a local match-up with Petersburg’s Ethan VanMeter, who denied Spitzer a podium finish with a 10-3 decision.
The area match-up continued as Wetzel battled against Petersburg’s Jacob Perez in the first round of the consolation bracket.
It was a tight match battling each other for takedowns, reversals and back points creating a 12-11 lead for Wetzel prior to pinning Perez at the 3:34 mark of the second period.
Wetzel earned points for a takedown and back points during that stretch of action landing at the feet of the Moorefield coaches as they shouted instructions.
Wetzel reached around the neck and locked his legs around the torso of Perez turning him
Wetzel and Perez exchanged hugs before the referee lifted the hand of Wetzel signifying the win and as the wrestlers were departing the mat in a sign of good sportsmanship.
“It is amazing, it is great, a good time. I love being here and to finally win is great. During blood time, everybody is cheering and it gets your blood pumping. Next year it is going to be me, I am going to show everybody I can do this. It is a great feeling out here. You can throw a chair out here showing everybody what you are capable of,” Moorefield junior captain Kevin Wetzel commented.
Winfield’s Evan Fuellhart locked around Miller’s neck yanking down and tightened the grip with a power-half to secure the pin midway through the first period eliminating Miller in the consolation bracket.
“Dayton lost his second match yesterday to bring East Hardy Wrestling’s season to a close. We are proud of all the hard work and effort he has put in this year to be a state qualifier. I am excited for next year already. We will be back next year with more state qualifiers,” East Hardy Wrestling coach Steve Miller commented.
“The atmosphere here was crazy and loud. I have to work harder in my matches next time,” East Hardy junior Dayton Miller added.
Van Meter was on the mat for the championship bracket quarterfinals against Greenbrier West’s John Parks.
Van Meter went down on his knees looking for an opening before charging to grab the left leg of Parks, who attempted to break free putting his hands down on the mat to no avail as Van Meter lifted him over his head and back sending him down on the mat.
Parks was on the top position, but Van Meter spun around and locked around his waist before shifting to topple him over his back again whilst on his knees in the second period.
Parks tried to maintain a grasp on Van Meter’s foot, but Van Meter muscled out of bounds.
Van Meter wrapped around the neck and the left leg for a cradle securing the win by pin at the 3:32 mark of the second period.
Spitzer went to work in the consolation second round against Philip Barbour’s Matthew Shahan opening the match tucking his arms under Shahan trying to shift him off his feet.
Shahan went on his knees and made a reversal, then put his arm around Spitzer’s backside turning him upside-down as Spitzer reached around both legs shifting the momentum to gain a reversal.
Spitzer latched around Shahan’s arms next pulling them backwards, then applied pressure sitting for back points and Shahan survived that initial attempt at a pin by bridging.
Spitzer recalibrated by wrapping his legs around the torso and used a cross-face hold as his arm kept Shahan from elevating and the pinfall occurred.
Spitzer gave his coaches high-fives at the end of that match.
Clayton pinned Ravenswood’s Preston Menas at the end of the first period to begin the consolation bracket with a nice reversal turning into a cradle, then faced off against Herbert Hoover’s Zakarie Bailey.
Clayton reached around Bailey’s chest holding the arms back forcing Bailey on his back and Bailey made a bridge to escape after back points were given.
Later in the match, Bailey was sitting and had Clayton across his lap putting one arm across the neck of Clayton and reached for the leg in an attempt to put a cradle together, but Clayton shifted pushing forward turning to face up and arching his back over top of Bailey.
Clayton spun around to the top and was able to counter pulling Bailey’s arms back at the conclusion of the match to advance with a 4-1 decision.
Wetzel wrestled against Notre Dam’s Brent Robinson, who came into the match with a specially designed pair of socks which would change in each of his matches to another work of art.
Both locked around the head with Robinson forcing the action out of the circle.
Robinson took the top position and Wetzel worked on leverage pushing his hands down on the mat and powering up with his legs to stand up and eventually escaped.
Robinson earned takedown points and built a 7-1 decision win keeping Wetzel out of medal contention and would go on to take fifth place on the podium.
Wetzel and Robinson congratulated each other on a well-fought match and embraced with a hug.
“Kevin [Wetzel] is a three-time state qualifier and it is big for him to get the win here this weekend. He has turned into a a quality wrestler for us and finally broke through with the win. He continues to build and we expect big things from him next year as a senior working in the weight room. We believe he will be a factor down here next year. Coach Larry Schoonover and I have worked with Layne [Spitzer] since he was four or five years old in his youth days. We have been chomping at the bit for him to get to the high school level and he was one of those kids you identify early on who will make an impact and be a quality wrestler in his career. He is just the third wrestler in our programs history to qualify as a freshman. It was big time for him to come down and get quality wins here. All those wins factor into the team score,” Coach Van Meter said.
Spitzer battled against Petersburg’s Ethan VanMeter in the third round of the consolation bracket.
VanMeter notched a takedown, then lifted Spitzer in the air bringing him down to the mat again.
In the second period, Spitzer got an escape before being tangled and lifted above VanMeter’s shoulders.
Spitzer was able to escape once more, but VanMeter countered with a takedown.
VanMeter utilized a reversal and a takedown in the third period to finish with a 10-3 victory en route to a fifth place finish for the Vikings.
Clayton came out in the third round consolation match against Berkeley Springs’s Vaughn Shaw with his singlet on backwards on Friday night.
Clayton went for a shot and Shaw grabbed around the torso gaining leverage for a flip for back points.
Clayton executed a reversal latching to his back holding around the neck, then Shaw tried to spin around within the hold as time expired in