WHEELING - The battle at the top in the state's largest class should make some compelling viewing for today's final round of the West Virginia High School Golf Tournament at Oglebay's Robert Trent Jones Course.
Two-time defending champ Wheeling Park (229) trails University (225) by four strokes with Cabell Midland (235) and George Washington (238) nipping at their heels. All told, 35 strokes separate the top team from the bottom team (Elkins at 260) among the eight in the class.
For the Patriots and Hawks, both members of the same conferences and the same region, Tuesday simply provided more of the same.
Wheeling Park’s Cole Hand putts during action of the West Virginia State Golf Tournament on Tuesday at Oglebay.
''Every tournament it seems like we play them,'' said University's Cale Wheeler, who carded a 74, tied for the third-best score in the class. ''It's definitely a rivalry. I think we're the best two teams in the state.''
In the last three weeks, Wheeling Park won the OVAC Class 5A Tournament by 12 strokes on University at Oglebay, then the Hawks turned around and beat the Patriots by five last week at the regional at Preston Country Club.
They're back on Wheeling Park's home fairways for this one.
''They're the best team in the state and on top of that, they get to play their home course,'' Wheeler said. ''It's real tough. It's one thing to beat them, but on their home course, it (would make) it all that much better.''
Wheeling Park's Cole Hand shot 72 and was the only player in the field to make par.
Teammate Thadd Obecny II, a junior who is a two-time overall medalist in this event, was second at 73, followed by the University duo of Wheeler and Eric Wirth, along with Winfield's Chris Williams, all at 74. GW's Will Evans and Cabell-Midland's Jacob Bearhs both shot 75.
Hand's day began brilliantly, as he started on Hole 16, drained a 40-footer for eagle on 17 and birdied Holes 2 and 5, meaning he was 3-under-par through his first eight, counting a bogey on 18.
He gave all three back with bogeys on 7, 8, and 15 before settling for even par. It was a failure on No. 8 that messed up his day, he said.
''I hit two shots to get 50 yards away, didn't hit a very good approach shot, then I three-putted,'' Hand said. ''It went downhill from there.''
Still, the Patriots are certainly within striking distance.
''It's going to be who can manage their game the best (today),'' Wheeling Park coach Don Headley said. ''We're down four. We're definitely not done. The name of this game is you have to put two rounds together.''
Madonna coach T.J. Brancazio figured his guys would have to play out of their minds to make a run at defending champion Charleston Catholic.
That didn't happen Tuesday, as the Blue Dons had three scores in the 80s and sit in second place at 15 back. The Irish, who shot 236, were led by Christian Casingal (75) and Aaron Persily (76), the lowest scores in the class.
Madonna's Alex Colantonio shot 80, the fourth-best score in AA.
''It would take a small miracle,'' Brancazio said of a comeback during today's second round. '' Charleston Catholic is very good.''
The Blue Dons trailed the Irish by 18 after last year's first day and wound up 19 back.
Michael Rogers shot 81 despite two double bogeys and a triple for the Blue Dons.
Of note, Buffalo's Blaik Caplinger carded an ace on hole No. 11. He shot 83 and trails leader Casingal by eight.
Poca (246) dashed out to a three-stroke lead on Roane County (249), led by Travis Covert's 78, which tied Ritchie County's Sydney Snodgrass and Bluefield's Evan Smith for tops in the class.
Roane County's top scorer was Alston Spears with an 81.
Fairmont Senior is third, eight strokes back at 254.