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Area grapplers to settle state tournament berths

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

As the state regional wrestling tournaments get under way this afternoon, the events across the state take on different meanings for each team.

For those like Grafton and Philip Barbour, which fill nearly all of their weight classes, there is the opportunity to represent their respective schools in next week's state wrestling meet in Huntington.

For most others in the area, a more individual approach is taken.

Still, wrestlers from around the area get their chance for a state tournament berth as the top four wrestlers from each weight class will advance.

"The way we look at it, practice is practice and the regular season is just practice where you keep score," Robert C. Byrd coach Tim Queen said. "This is what these kids are working for. They know if they don't place high this is it. Their season is over."

The Eagles will be part of the Class AAA Region II tournament held at East Fairmont High School. Weigh-ins are at 8:30 a.m., and wrestling is set to start at 11:45 a.m.

Two Robert C. Byrd wrestlers, juniors Mookie Mayer (189 pounds) and Jeff Mayer (119 pounds) have state tournament experience.

Mookie Mayer advanced to the state tournament last season, while Jeff Mayer earned a berth as a freshman. In addition, Queen said sophomore Marshall Zinn (145 pounds) could also advance with a good performance.

The Eagles will join Big 10 runner-up Philip Barbour, East Fairmont, Elkins, Fairmont Senior, Hedgesville, Jefferson, Martinsburg, North Marion, Preston, Keyser and Musselman.

In Class AA-A Region II, Grafton and Braxton County headline the event, which will take place at Braxton County High School.

The Bearcats are coming of off a third consecutive Big 10 title and are led by 135-pound junior Chris Leach, who has a 37-2 record this season. Junior Cory Auvil (112), sophomore Adam Leach (130), senior Ben Taylor and freshman Trampus Efaw (134) could earn berths in Huntington.

South Harrison junior Drew Toth (152) is also a strong contender to advance.

Liberty will send four wrestlers to Braxton County -- freshman Jason Robinson (119), sophomore Matt Gibbs (125), freshman Dustin Mutschelknaus (130) and senior David Sell (171).

"I've told these kids from the start of the season that they have to take an individual approach," Liberty coach Tom Hilton said. "We don't have the numbers to do anything as a team, so you've got to get them to realize that."

Liberty, Grafton and Braxton County will be joined by Clay-Battelle, Frankfort, Petersburg, Webster County and Berkeley Springs.

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