Wesley Byard vs. Greg Lyman

North Marion’s Wesley Byard (right) tilts Hedgesville’s Greg Lyman on his back for three nearfall points during the 171-pound championship match Saturday. Byard won by a 16-0 technical fall to become a two-time champion.

Everyone knows how good East Fairmont’s wrestling program is right now.

But I’m here to tell you, West Fairmont and North Marion have some solid individuals as well even though they do not have as many as the Bees do this year.

Head to head in a dual, there is no comparison between East and West or East and North Marion.

In fact, the Bees already disposed of the Huskies, 52-16, and could likely do the same thing to the Polar Bears on Feb. 1.

And I know it’s early, but I’m getting the feeling that Marion County could very possibly have the Class AAA state championship, and at least one individual champion from each of the three schools.

Now I’m sure there are some of you out there who think that may be a little bit of a stretch. Well, it’s not.

Let me prove it.

I’ll first begin with John Geary’s Bees, who already have a returning state champion in Morgan Murphy as well as two runners-up in Drew Jenkins and Eric Morris.

Furthermore, Jobey Knapton has yet to lose this season and is probably the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 130 pounds.

“Jobey, I thought, was outstanding in his win over (Parkersburg’s Brandon) Wilson,” Geary said. “He got my vote for Most Outstanding Wrestler.”

Mason Bailey has just one loss at 145 while Zach Morton (119), Steven Robe (135) and Jenson Valentine (215) have only two losses a piece. All four will contend for state titles. And you can’t forget about Pat Murphy and Hunter Wood.

“Mason is tough. He’s the real deal. The future looks bright for him,” Geary said. “He should be the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state at 145 pounds — hands down.

“I’m real proud of Zach getting a pin in the finals. That’s huge for us. Hopefully, that will give him confidence going into the next tournament, and he can keep it rolling.”

As for the Huskies, unbeaten Wesley Byard, Erick Hinerman and Garrett Hickman lead the way for what otherwise makes up a young and inexperienced squad.

Byard was rated as the No. 1 wrestler at 160 pounds last season as a junior only to get upset in the opening round of the state tournament.

Needless to say, Byard is on a mission to make up for that mistake even though he rebounded to place third.

Now at 171 pounds, the senior isn’t about to take anyone lightly as Byard has his sights set on finishing his career off with a AAA championship.

“He’s very focused right now, and he does make it look easy,” head coach David Tennant said. “I hope my young kids see that in him and want to be like that some day.”

All Hinerman has done is place third at states in each of his first two seasons on the mat. And despite being in a tough-as-nails weight division at 160, you simply can’t count Hinerman out.

Hickman, meanwhile, proved to his coach at Winner’s Choice that he could bounce back from a tough loss and finish strong, which could send him a long way at 152.

Finally, longtime West Fairmont coach Mark Delligatti has seen his squad grow and progressive throughout the season thus far, especially heavyweight Joe Satterfield, Thomas Long, Bubby Caputo and Thomas Long.

In particular, though, Drew Retton has yet to lose against an in-state opponent and is riding high after winning the brutal 160-pound division and being named the Winner’s Choice Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Delligatti has said all along, especially after last season, that Retton has all the tools to garner the top podium position in Huntington. This is Retton’s last go at it.

“Drew’s a good athlete. He’s a leader,” Delligatti said. “He’s a winner in whatever he participates in. He gives everything he can.”

So with all of that said, do not be surprised when Marion County is well represented at the state tournament next month.

And when, not if, that happens, remember where you heard it first.

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

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