FAIRMONT - If you've been paying attention to our wrestling coverage this season, you know there has been a common theme. Whether it's Keyser coach Colin Rotruck or Frankfort coach Jason Armentrout, both were consistent all season when evaluating their team's performances.
By Chapin Jewell
FAIRMONT - If you’ve been paying attention to our wrestling coverage this season, you know there has been a common theme. Whether it’s Keyser coach Colin Rotruck or Frankfort coach Jason Armentrout, both were consistent all season when evaluating their team’s performances.
In so many words, it wasn’t always about the results per se, but rather about getting better week to week, and more specifically, hoping that their wrestlers would be wrestling their best in time for regionals.
Well, this past weekend, regionals finally arrived. Held over a two-day period, Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Fairmont Senior Field House on Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont, wrestling placements at regionals determined whether a wrestler qualified for the state tournament in Huntington.
In talking with Keyser’s Colin Rotruck and Frankfort’s Jason Armentrout, the two coaches were in agreement with one point - the reputation for toughness and competitiveness garnered by West Virginia’s AA/A Region One, the region Keyser and Frankfort compete in.
According to Frankfort’s Armentrout, “Regionals was a different kind of brutal, and it has been that way since the last reclassification and realignment. Northern West Virginia can be a very unforgiving atmosphere.”
Keyser’s Rotruck shared a similar sentiment when he referenced the “extreme toughness of our region” as the reason his qualifiers were “primed to make a deep run at the state tournament.”
The regional tournament was composed of 17 teams, with each team generating a team score along with their individual wrestlers being placed according to performance. Wrestlers finishing in the top six according to weight class “placed” and earned a spot on the awards podium.
Those wrestlers finishing in the top four earned a trip to the state championship tournament to be held over three days at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and Convention Center in Huntington (Feb. 21-Feb. 3).
East Fairmont earned first place honors with a team score of 196.50, Oak Glen was second with a score of 175.50, Fairmont Senior was third with a score of 155.00 and Keyser finished fourth with a score of 125.00. The Frankfort Falcons finished 12th as a team with a score of 68.00. Also of local interest, Petersburg finished sixth with 116.00 points while Berkeley Springs finished 14th with 39.00 points.
Keyser coach Colin Rotruck was pleased with his team’s fourth place finish and performance, as he should be in the field of 17. According to Rotruck, “I was pleased with my team’s performance this past weekend and for the whole season. This was one of the youngest and inexperienced teams I have coached in 15 years. I thought we had tremendous growth and we have a lot of momentum going into next season.”
Rotruck continues, “We finished the season with a 20-5 record. At regionals, I felt as though we were peaking at the right time for most of my team. For the five that we qualified for states this year, all of those wrestlers either met their expectations or exceeded them.”
For his part, Frankfort coach Jason Armentrout was pleased with the performance of his very young team, both on the season and at regionals. According to Armentrout, “Even though we only had one wrestler qualify for states, I was pleased with how the others wrestled. This was the first regional tournament for most of the guys on this year’s team.”
Armentrout continues, “I was pleased with how the kids wrestled and conducted themselves. Freshmen Iryll Jones and Kris Sherman placed and showed great maturity and the ability to handle gut check situations in their final matches.”
Keyser finished in fourth place as a team and had seven wrestlers reach the awards podium, with five of the seven placing in the top four and advancing to the state tournament. Frankfort finished 12th as a team, had four wrestlers reach the awards podium, one of which advanced to the state tournament.
Individually for Keyser, Tyler Mason and Tristin Fox earned second place finishes in the 152 and 182 pound weight classes, respectively, advancing to the state tournament. Mason had a record of 32-10 entering the tournament while Fox was 37-4.
In addition, Adam Kephart and Jimmy Ratliff earned third place finishes in the 195 and 285 pound weight classes, respectively, also advancing to the state tournament. Kephart had a record of 24-15, Ratliff 28-15 entering the tournament.
Aaron Lyons was the final Golden Tornado wrestler to advance to the state tournament with a fourth place finish in the 170 pound class. Lyons entered the tournament with a record of 22-17.
Also for the Golden Tornado, Stone Kesner finished in fifth place and Wade Johnson sixth place in the 113 and 120 pound weight classes, respectively. Kesner entered the tournament with a solid record of 21-18 while Johnson entered at 15-14.
Individually for Frankfort, Noah Kiszka was the only Falcon to advance to the state tournament. Kiszka did so in dramatic fashion, earning a first place finish in the 152 pound weight class with a close 5-3 decision over Keyser’s Tyler Mason in the championship match.
Both Kiszka and Mason earned close one point decisions in their semi-final matchups to reach the championship. Kiszka entered the tournament with a record of 30-2.
According to Frankfort’s Coach Armentrout, “Noah Kiszka was awesome. It is never over with him. From the first whistle to the last whistle, he is always scrapping and fighting and working to make things happen. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do at states this year. Last year was a learning experience for him, it created a hunger inside of him to get back there and win.”
In addition to Kiszka’s top finish at the podium, the Falcons saw three other wrestlers place on the awards podium. Freshmen Iryll Jones and Kris Sherman both earned fifth place finishes in the 106 and 132 pound weight classes, respectively. Jones entered the tournament in his inaugural campaign with an impressive 30-7 record, Sherman began tournament play with an equally impressive record of 36-7. Connor Parish also earned a fifth place finish in the 138 pound class. Parish entered the tournament with a record of 33-12.
For some, the season ended in Fairmont. Some see their careers end through graduation, and the underclassmen will begin their preparation for next season with the hopes of top four finishes to come and a chance at the state tournament.
As for the six Mineral County wrestlers who advance, the hard work and dedication continues this season for a few more weeks. Who will earn a spot on the awards podium, who will earn top honors as a state champion? Stay tuned, we’ll know for sure on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Wrestling is an incredible sport, it doesn’t always earn the headlines it deserves, but in many ways it is a sport like few others. All eyes are on the individual; you fail or succeed based solely on your own merits with no assistance during the match from teammates. If you haven’t been to a wrestling match or tournament, consider a trip to Huntington for the state championships. If you can’t make the trip, be sure to get yourself to some wrestling matches next season.
Rest assured, you can be proud of your Mineral County wrestlers for their performances this season. Better yet, both Keyser and Frankfort are young, the future is bright.