HUNTINGTON - Located in the bowels of John Marshall High School is the wrestling team's old practice facility.
While the mats have moved to more spacious digs behind the school, the walls are still adorned with many of the names that helped create the mystique of Monarchs wrestling.
At the top of wall, the coaches are listed, along with the years they served. It's a short, but illustrious list that includes three members of the West Virginia chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and a protege that hopes to join them someday.
PHOTO BY RICK THORP
Former John Marshall coaches turned assistants, from left, Bill Hinegardner, Ed West and Ed Dugas look on during second-day action of the W.Va. State Wrestling Tournament on Friday in Huntington.
This weekend, all four are together as they have been the past few years. Four coaches, while generations apart in some cases, keeping the JM tradition alive.
It's not often a fan sees every head coach a school has had at a meet. But that's the case at John Marshall. And current coach Ted Zervos wouldn't have it any other way.
''The tradition we have at John Marshall is second to none,'' he said during a break in the action Friday at the 65th annual West Virginia High School Championships.
''We have a lot of consistency with our coaching. In the 44-year history of the school we've only had four head coaches. And the three that coached before me continue to be a valuable part of the program.
''They're on the coaching staff and are at practices every day.''
Bill Hinegardner, Ed Dugas and Ed West bring a combined four decades of experience to the JM program.
For Hinegardner, who coached from 1968-82, being a part of the program helps ensure stability.
''We have a good time with it,'' he said while watching matches from the coaches' seating area with Dugas.
''It's a good way to spend my time. I enjoy it. It's just a couple of hours a day.''
While the time Hinegardner and his peers spend with the wrestlers may be short, the impact is huge, according to Zervos, who won a 119-pound tile for Hinegardner in 1982.
''When you have that kind of consistency the program never reaches a low when you may not have the horses.
''It's pretty humbling to have them in your practices. You take what they say to heart.''
Hinegardner led the Monarchs to four state championships (1972-74, 1979) and produced 20 state champs.
Dugas assumed the reins in 1982 and guided JM to seven top-5 finishes in the state tourmament.
West, who currently coaches the Monarchs softball team, succeeded Dugas in 2001. His 2002 squad finished third in Huntington.
For Hinegardner, coaching for one of his former wrestlers is a treat.
''Everybody is still on the same page,'' he said. ''It makes you feel real good really good.''
Huntington has been the home of the West Virginia High School Championships since 1988 and, if Tournament Director Bill Archer has his way, it will remain in Cabell County for years to come.
Archer, Huntington High's former wrestling coach, said Huntington will bid to keep the event when the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission accepted site contract proposals this spring.
In addition to playing host to the state tournament, Big Sandy Superstore Arena also stages the WSAZ Invitational each January.
The folks that operate the state tournament in Huntington bring a wealth of experience to the event. That's been part of the reason the tournament has returned each year. A quality facility has also helped.
That quality facility, built in 1977, is in the midst of a major upgrade. The upgrade includes new seating, which is on display this weekend.
''The seats we had pretty much had been here since (the arena) opened,'' Archer said. "These are better and much more stable and that makes the sight lines better, too.''
A source in the Wheeling Park camp said Friday it's possible an attempt could be made to bring the championships back to Ohio County, where they took place in 1979, 1982-83 and 1986-87.
A decision will be made after it is determined whether or not the Wheeling Nailers will remain a tenant at WesBanco Arena.
The ECHL club is searching for a buyer after the team's current owners, Jim and Rob Brooks, announced the franchise was up for sale earlier this year.
WesBanco Arena has played host to the OVAC Championships since it was built. The facility also plays host to the Wheeling Park Duals and now the OVAC Dual Meet Championships.
Jackson Stepping Down
Parkersburg South coach Paul Jackson is stepping down for the second time.
"(Today), I'm done," he said Friday.
Jackson guided the Patriots for most of the 1990s, before retiring in 1997 with five state titles. He returned in 2007, leading the program to three more state crowns. A fourth could come today.
''It will be tough for a while,'' Jackson said, ''but it's time for me to enjoy life.''
Rick Thorp can be reached via e-mail at RThorp@News-Register.net