by Dan Newman
HUNTINGTON -- Grafton's Chris Leach fell short of a state high school wrestling championship by the slimmest of margins Saturday at the Huntington Civic Center.
The Bearcat junior (44-3) lost to Wirt County's Josh Cross, 1-0, in the Class AA-A 135-pound championship match.
It was memorable tournament for more than one reason for Cross (37-5). His girlfriend, Erica Dye, earlier became the first female to win a first-round state tournament match.
Grafton teammate Corey Auvil and South Harrison's Drew Toth also had aspirations of winning a state wrestling championship entering the weekend.
For now, the standout juniors also will have to wait until next season. Each finished third in their respective Class AA weight classes.
Auvil handily defeated Frankfort's Drew Myers, 10-1, in the consolation round semifinals and then defeated Oak Glen's Jason Roberts, 11-0, in a matchup of regional champions.
"Corey has had some of his best matches here this weekend," said Grafton coach and Corey's father, Rod Auvil.
"In his freshman year, (Roberts) beat him, so really it was sweet revenge for Corey."
Grafton senior Ben Taylor also faced off against an old acquaintance, first-round opponent Heath Cliver of Clay County, for fifth place in 275-pound class Taylor won via a pitfall in the second matchup after defeating Cliver, 10-2, on Thursday.
"I'm really happy with fifth place at this tournament," Taylor said. "I tried to do the same thing against him that I did last time, which was just to be careful and aggressive."
Anthony Spadafore was Grafton's only other wrestler to compete in the consolation round, finishing sixth at 152.
"Anthony was our biggest surprise by placing," Auvil said. "I'm really proud of him and all of our guys for the way they competed."
Toth claimed his third-place finish by defeating Spadafore, 10-4, and Ritchie County's Nat Smith, 1-0.
"Toth left it all on the mat today," South Harrison coach Steve Daniels said. "Last night was a tough one (a 5-4 loss to Matt Holdsworth of Oak Glen), but he handled (Saturday) like a true champion. The breaks don't go your way sometimes, but he showed lots of character."
Toth was happy with the way things went and already knows what he wants for his senior season.
"I'm going to be a state champion next year," Toth said. "I've just got to keep working hard. I'm happy with third, though. It feels good."
Philip Barbour also had two wrestlers going for Class AAA all-state honors on Saturday.
Senior Josh Burner (189) finished sixth after narrowly losing 2-1 to Nicholas County's Robbie Key.
Philip Barbour's Matt Corder claimed fourth place, defeating Fairmont Senior's Holland Dotts, 4-2, before losing to Parkersburg South's Aaron McKinney by technical fall in the third period.