As close as it gets

East Fairmont’s Morgan Murphy works the arms from the top position against Parkersburg’s Matt Littleton during the 171-pound match Saturday. Murphy beat Littleton, 7-3, but the Bees lost the dual in a tie-breaker to the Big Reds.

Parkersburg High’s wrestling team brought its elite status to East Fairmont High School Saturday afternoon in a much anticipated No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against the host Bees.

While the Big Reds have the statewide winning tradition, Scheny Schenerlein’s squad entered the dual as the second-ranked Class AAA team.

It was John Geary’s Bees who garnered the top position in the West Virginia Wrestling Coaches Association team poll the last few weeks.

And after 14 matches between the state’s top-ranked teams, wouldn’t you know it? East and Parkersburg were deadlocked at 33 points each.

“Boy, I tell you what,” said Schenerlein. “That was exciting.”

Fierce. Physical. Intense. Entertaining.

It was everything a wrestling match is supposed to be, especially when No. 1 meets No. 2.

But in the end, one team had to be declared victorious. And that team was Parkersburg.

There are 14 different criteria that are stated in the rule book to decide a tie if teams have identical scores following a dual competition.

The Big Reds were the winners because of criteria No. 3, which states: The team having accumulated the greater number of points for falls, defaults, forfeits or disqualifications shall be declared the winner.

Parkersburg finished with four (three pins and one forfeit). East had three (two pins and one forfeit).

Each team won seven matches.

“We were without three guys in our lineup, you know, and we have a lot of work to do, too. But that’s the best match we’ve wrestled all year,” Schenerlein said. “I thought we were a little timid all year, but today we came out physical and wrestled that Big Reds’ style. Some people don’t like it, but that’s how we do it. And we’ve won 19 state championships.”

East suffered its first dual loss of the season, but set a new school record for wins with 24 after going a school-best 23-1 a year ago.

However, the Bees’ goal of finishing with a perfect record in duals is no longer feasible.

“We’re not happy about it. We hope the kids are not happy about it. And we told them not to be happy with this,” Geary said. “It’s the halfway point of the season. We have to step it up and still get after our No. 1 goal (a team state title).”

Geary tinkered with his lineup, bumping up six individuals to wrestle at weight divisions 125, 130, 135, 140, 145 and 152.

In those classifications, East won five of the six bouts to take a 24-6 lead. At 125, which is where the match started, Zach Morton stepped up to win a 4-0 decision. Jobey Knapton then earned a major decision with a 9-0 win at 135, which was followed by Steven Robe’s 16-0 technical fall in the third period at 140. Eric Morris and Mason Bailey rounded things out with pins at 145 and 152, respectively.

Drew Jenkins suffered the only loss after moving up a class. Last year’s 112-pound state runner-up was trailing a close match before being pinned in the third period by Parkersburg’s Brandon Wilson, who was fifth at 119 a year ago.

“Jenkins would have probably pinned the guy at 125, who knows?” Geary said. “Plus, we wanted Drew to wrestle Wilson because he’s tough.”

During the final eight matches, though, Parkersburg flipped the script on East by winning six matches.

Ryan Ewing sparked the turnaround with a 6-3 win over Pat Murphy at 160 despite Morgan Murphy responding with a 7-3 decision over Matt Littleton as the Bees held a 27-9 advantage.

After an East Fairmont forfeit at 189, Jenson Valentine lost a seesaw bout to Sean Chichester in the waning seconds of the third period by a 10-9 margin. Then Zach Nolan won by pin at heavyweight, and Kyle Bratke did the same at 103 for a 30-27 Big Reds’ lead.

“And then Jenson’s match, if we just don’t tie up there at the end we win that,” Geary said. “Hesitate for five seconds and that’s all it takes. So that’s the difference in that match.”

Jordan Nolan capped the run with an 8-3 decision of Hunter Wood at 112 before a Parkersburg forfeit at 119 tied the match up at 33-all, setting up the tie-breaker situation that favored the Big Reds.

“We’re young, too, but I was glad to see our guys come together as a team today,” Schenerlein said. “Last year and the year before, we kind of were a bunch of individuals. We had some good teams. But today they really got behind each other, and I’m really happy for them.”

All Geary is left to do is second guess himself.

“We bumped some people around to try and win the match. Maybe that was a mistake. I don’t know,” Geary said. “But, like I said, we went for the win in a dual. It didn’t work out, but it was close.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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