Knights matmen earn silver and gold
Tyler Consolidated has the second state champion wrestler in its history, and it’s first runner-up ever.
The Silver and Black mat squad sent only two wrestlers to represent Tyler Consolidated at the State championships held Feb. 26 through the 28.
But the two of them, Cullen Grover at 215 and Nate Taylor at 140, wrestled their hearts out and surprised everyone with their first and second place finishes. Taylor’s outstanding efforts landed him in the runner-up spot, while Grover, getting stronger as the tournament progressed, out dueled everyone in his weight class to claim the state championship.
Grover came into the tournament as the Region I champion and was in a favorable position to win at least a place finish. He was in the top bracket and the high-ranking 215 pounders were, for the most part, in the lower bracket.
Grover started out a little rocky against Kris Wariner, the fourth place finisher from Petersburg. He got a nosebleed in the first stanza, which simply refused to stop. After stuffing his nose with cotton to stop the bleeding, Cullen found it hard to breath. However, he gamely continued and went on to score a 7-0 decision.
In his next match he faced Matt Thompson of Point Pleasant. Again, the Tyler Countian fell behind in the match as he was taken down straight to his back and found himself being pinned. Grover squirmed out of it, scored a reversal, and soon had Thompson on his back for a fall.
Assured of a place finish, Grover next faced a long-time foe, Aaron Wood of Grafton. The winner of this match was assured a place in the championship finals. Cullen again gave up the takedown and fell behind. Once again, the Tyler matman battled back and finally edged out his opponent by one point, 7-6.
In the championship match Cullen faced Patrick Nary of Herbert Hoover. Sticking with his formula, Grover lost the takedown to Nary, and then began his comeback. After tying it up 2-2, he took control for good, scoring three back points on his opponent.
Nary was able to get two reversal points in the final seconds of round three, but it didn’t matter. Grover became only the second wrestler in Tyler County history to wear the crown of West Virginia state champion.
In the 140-pound division Nate Taylor simply dazzled opponents and spectators alike with his performance. Finishing third in his region, Taylor started picking off the wrestlers in his bracket one by one until he had reached the finals.
He started by registering a major decision, 11-2 over Grafton’s Tristan Reneau who had finished second in Region II. His next opponent was Harley Hamrick of Calhoun who was the champion of Region IV.
Hamrick had defeated Taylor in a close match at LKC’s earlier in the year. This time however, Taylor wrestled a much more aggressive style and turned the tables on the Regional Champ by a 5-4 decision.
Another Regional Champion now stood in Taylor’s path, this time the champion of Region III, Chris Setiff of Shady Springs. The Silver Knight matman wrestled a well-constructed match and ended up on the top end of a 2-1 score, assuring him a place in the finals.
The final match turned into a hard fought bout between two evenly matched opponents with Setiff holding off the Tyler contestant by a 2-0 score. With an effort to be pleased about, Taylor accepted his runner-up award.
“I don’t know where to start!” exclaimed Head Coach Larry Richie. “There are so many things I could say about these two wrestlers! What they did is unbelievable. I would dare to say it is almost without parallel in the history of our school’s wrestling program.”
To find Tyler Consolidated’s last state champion, one would have to go back 10 years to find Jason Snider’s grand achievement in the 152 lbs. category in 1999.
“We knew that Cullen had a chance to do well at States, but we also knew he faced some very stiff competition and he would have to be at the top of his game. As it turned out, he was, and his win was very gratifying.
“Nate, well, I can only say remarkable,” added Richie. “We estimated his chances of placing at States as somewhere between slim and none, probably closer to none. Did I ever underestimate him!
“It isn’t that we didn’t know he had the ability. We have long known that, but up until now we haven’t been able to draw it out of him. At states it came gushing out, and he won the admiration and respect of every wrestling fan in that stadium. The exploits of Nate and Cullen at the West Virginia state wrestling championships will not be soon forgotten!”
As many know by now, Grover’s championship match marked not only the end of his career, but that of Coach Richie’s as well. It couldn’t have been scripted any better for Grover who was happy to send Richie out in style.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “He’s a really inspirational man, not only as a wrestling coach, but as a teacher and a mentor. He’s really taught me everything I know about wrestling.”
Richie started coaching wrestling in Tyler County, first at Sistersville High and continued post-consolidation.
Oak Glen kept their winning streak going as they finished first in the AA-A division for the 13th year in a row by amassing 156.5 points. The race was a little tighter this year however as Point Pleasant with 136.5 and Calhoun County with 125.5 made a challenge for the title.
This was the first year that the Golden Bears didn’t lock up the title by the end of the second day.
Even though only two wrestlers qualified, Tyler Consolidated finished thirteenth in the field of 42 schools with 43 points. At the end of Friday, they were in the No. 11 spot. The No 12 entry went to the Frankfort Falcons with 44.5 points.