By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Fairmont Senior’s senior duo of Anthony Alvaro and Vincent Delligatti were almost expected to win state championships. But Brent Barber? That was the highlight of the weekend for a Polar Bear team which tied for fifth overall and had four of its six wrestlers place.
Barber, who just finished his second season as a wrestler, claimed the team’s third individual state championship with a win over Caije Nichols of Roane County in overtime in the last match of the evening. The intensity of the bout matched the intensity of emotions and the circumstances under which he wrestled.
As the junior grappler won the match, his teammates and family shared in the sheer joy of the win by shedding tears of their own as Barber’s great-grandfather, Leo DeMary, had passed away just a week before.
During that same week, Barber had placed third at the regional tournament to punch his ticket to the state tournament. But Barber wasn’t even going to wrestle in that tournament, one of his family members said.
Johnna Uveges, Barber’s aunt, said that the two sat together in the hospital as DeMary passed. On the ride home, Barber told Uveges that he wasn’t going to wrestle the following day at regionals. But after dealing with a personal issue herself, Uveges told Barber that he needed to do it. For his grandpa.
What happened the next few days and the following week at the state tournament, Uveges said, was just unbelievable.
“He just had this drive about it,” she said. “I just felt like my grandpa was there with him.”
Alvaro and Delligatti both said the feeling that overcame them all was indescribable.
“In those last few seconds, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced,” Alvaro said. “Brent winning felt better to me than me winning. I couldn’t even explain the feeling.
“He walked off the mat crying and it brought a tear to my eyes. We shared a great moment.”
For Barber, it was a burden lifted.
Asked what he felt afterward, the 285-pound heavyweight answered, “A sigh of relief.”
Uveges said that the win brought the family together in Huntington and brought the moment full circle.
“We were all in tears. Even my dad, who never cries,” she said. “It was just meant to be that we suffered a tragedy and now we have something to celebrate.”
Barber hopes that he can give his family more to celebrate when he steps back onto the mat next season.
Fairmont Senior’s combination of Alvaro and Delligatti have packed a lethal punch for the Polar Bears this season. But now, the two seniors will go out together having achieved personal accolades and team records.
Alvaro set the school record early on in the season for the Polar Bears and couldn’t have had a better finish to his senior season, he said.
“Anthony Alvaro may be the best pure wrestler in the state at any weight class,” Fairmont Senior coach Mark Delligatti said. “He doest things that you can’t really teach. He does things with his natural God-given talent.”
The 145-pound wrestler won the state title in dominant fashion just one year after winning his first state title. The first go-around was fun, he said, but the second time was all about business.
“When you’re there the first time, you have a little mixed emotions, but when you’re there for the second time, there’s none of that,” he said. “It’s just like another tournament.”
The matches went smoothly for Alvaro all weekend. After winning his semi-final match, he looked over to the mat beside him, intently watching to see who his opponent would be. After seeing Cody Clifton of Independence win, he knew it was time to go.
Clifton is the only wrestler in the state of West Virginia to have beaten Alvaro in the past two seasons, so payback was a must.
“He won that match and then went over and hugged his coach, and that’s when I started getting jacked,” Alvaro said. “I looked down and smiled and walked up in the stands and started getting ready for the finals.”
The finals for Alvaro were another breeze, winning, 11-2, and capping off his senior season the right way.
All that was left was for his teammates to get wins. And they did. Starting with Vincent Delligatti.
The senior 220-pound wrestler won the state championship one season after being let down by a third-place finish at the state tournament, a loss that hit him hard and fueled him.
“I told him, hey, you’ve got another year. Just pick yourself up and get after it again,” his dad, and coach, Mark said. “And that’s what he did.”
The win came in the form of a 2-1 decision over Zane Weese of Herbert Hoover, giving Vincent his 150th win and also making him the winningest member of the Delligatti family, a family with a long-standing wrestling tradition.
“It’s great,” he said, laughing. “It’s a little bit of bragging rights.”
But for Vincent and Alvaro, the best way to end the weekend was by putting together a great team effort.
“It was great that Anthony won but it was extremely awesome for Brent Barber to win it. It was only his second year of wrestling,” Vincent noted.
Alvaro also added that the performance of Brent Wyne, a senior who placed fourth, was exciting, as well.
“He wrestled like a whole different person,” he said. “It was exceptional.”
In all, the seniors were happy to have passed on the tradition of winning at the state level to the younger guys on the team, Alvaro saying, “It was the big year we were all expecting.”
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.