By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Less than a month ago, five from Marion County captured West Virginia state wrestling titles.
Now several of the champions, plus a couple more of the county’s top contenders, are ready to challenge themselves on the national level during this weekend’s NHSCA National High School Wrestling Tournament in Virginia Beach.
More than 3,000 wrestlers from 47 states will compete during the three-day event, with the top eight in each weight class earning All-America status.
But it certainly won’t be easy.
As a testament to how challenging the tournament is, consider that North Marion’s two-time state champion in the 120-pound division Ryan Elliott has won just four total matches in his three years at the event.
“It’s a little different down here,” said Elliott. “Everyone is at a little bit of a different level.”
Elliott will be joined by East Fairmont’s 138-pound state champion Dalton Michael and one of Fairmont Senior’s state champions in Anthony Alvaro.
Also competing for North Marion will be Tyler and Ryan Arnett, Kyle Elliott, Joe Efaw, Roger Cummings and Caleb Kuhn.
Joining Michael from East Fairmont will be Hayden Stewart. The senior was winning 3-0 in his state championship match earlier this month when he broke his left middle finger. The injury cost him his shot at the title, as he was forced to forfeit.
“The injury left me pretty hungry knowing what I should have accomplished,” said the 152-pounder.
He added that the tournament will be an excellent opportunity to compete in front of college coaches. For a senior like Stewart, that may help with recruiting in the short-term. But for a younger athlete, like his teammate Michael, it provides wrestlers with early exposure.
Michael said he is looking forward to wrestling against some better competition to help prepare him for next season.
But the sophomore added, “I would love to place and get All-American status; that's my goal right now.”