By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
John Geary has plenty to brag about ... though it will take some coercing to get it out of him.
In nearly two decades as the wrestling coach at East Fairmont, he’s coached about a dozen state champions. Several have gone on to wrestle at the collegiate level, including Mason Bailey (Navy), Hunter Wood (Army) and Jesse Roman (West Liberty) to name a few. And just last season the Bees did well at the state tournament, where they took third as a team despite an injury to Hayden Stewart, a wrestler who would have contended for a state championship.
But perhaps the best way to understand the type of program that Geary has built is to ask him his expectations for this year.
“We lost six outstanding seniors,” he said. “It’s a little bit hard to replace them. We’re in a little bit of a rebuilding mode.”
Rebuilding, huh? So you expect to finish the middle of the conference? Have a strong post-season if you’re lucky?
“Hopefully nobody gets injured and we can place in the top five at states,” he said.
So much for a rebuilding year.
The Bees return seven seniors this year in Josh Beebe, Matt Hopwood, Jordan Leonard, Zachery Moffatt, Brody Nestlerotte, Dalton Russell and Stewart.
“Those seniors are going to give us some good leadership,” Geary said. “They’ve all been wrestling for a long time.”
Nestlerotte and Stewart are returning all-state place winners. They’ll be joined by another in sophomore Dalton Michael.
The team also features five juniors, six sophomores and eight freshmen.
Geary said that the 28 athletes is among the biggest teams he has every coached. It will allow the Bees to fill out all 14 weight classes, including the 106-pound division which is often the hardest to find.
It will be especially helpful to fill all of the weight classes in dual meets, such as the Hedgesville Duals on Friday and Saturday, where the Bees open their season.
“It's important to fill those weight classes, because when you don’t you are forfeiting six points,” Geary said.
Overall, Geary hopes that this team, which is among his biggest, can also turn into one of his best.
“When you have that mixture of veterans and underclassmen, it can make for a good season,” he said.
After almost 20 years of coaching, he ought to know.
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.