WHEELING - The chase for gold begins tonight as 63 OVAC athletes take the mats for the 66th annual West Virginia High School Wrestling Championships.
Matmen will open the first round at 6:30 at Huntington's Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Action continues all day Friday and Saturday until 28 champions are crowned, 14 each in Classes AAA and AA-A.
Wheeling Park tops the immediate area in Class AAA qualifiers with eight. John Marshall has seven, while Brooke boasts six.
Parkersburg South - eying its fifth straight state championship -has 12 participants, with University seven and Morgantown two.
Oak Glen has nine qualifiers, while Cameron and Magnolia have six and three, respectively. Clay-Battelle, Tyler Consolidated and Madonna all have one each.
All weight classes include an area wrestler, with the exception of 182 and 285 in Class AA-A.
South's Logan Ball was the Region One champ and is part of a weight class that includes seven freshmen.
Huntington's Logan Grass, last season's runner-up, is one of the favorites. But he'll see competition from Wheeling Park's Tyson Lira, the lone senior among the 16 qualifiers in this weight class.
Park sophomore Dallas Baciak was runner-up to South's Lance Hill, who won the 106 crown last year. That duo helps comprise this class, which also includes John Marshall's Zach Tubaugh.
Huntington's Jordan Allen won this class last season and returns with a 28-1 record.
Wheeling Park's Austin Digiandomenico and Brooke's Matthew Beaman help comprise this class.
Beaman joins South senior Braidon Knotts in the Lower Bracket, while Point Pleasant's Guy Fisher is with Digiandomenico in the Upper Bracket. Fisher has a 29-3 record for the Big Blacks, who moved up to Class AAA this winter.
Brooke senior Chance Pattison qualified after finishing fourth at regionals. He's joined in the field by University's Isaiah Hood and South's other Knotts - Kyle.
John Marshall's Casey Mowder finished fourth on a strong regional field that also included South's Jordan Quiocho and University's Scott Lopez. Lopez was an OVAC finalist.
Park sophomore Dylan Taylor returns after finishing second to South's David Jeffrey at 126 pounds last season.
JM's Dylan Hall is also on Taylor's side of the bracket.
South senior Tyler Richards will compete in the other bracket, which includes the Region One winner in Parkersburg's Skyler Terrell.
Park's Jonny Davis looks to avenge a first-round loss last season. He was Park's lone regional champion.
John Marshall's Quentin Blatt and South's Dylan Alexander will provide competition.
Brooke's promising freshman, Dillon Shaw, brings a 39-5 mark into the class.
John Marshall senior Cody Boles returns to Huntington after falling in his 138-pound first-round bout last season.
South is represented by senior Jake Alexander.
South's Briar Shively jumps up to 160 pounds after finishing third at 138 last year.
Park's Danny Colby moved up one weight class after falling to Musselman's Cody Spinks in the 2012 152-pound final.
John Marshall's Jacob Wood and University's Nate Constante are two of the seniors in this class. They are joined by South junior Drake Mills and Morgantown freshman Logan Wotring.
Cody Amos is another Park wrestler looking to atone for last year, where he finished third at 170.
He's joined by University's Aaron Waldron and Brooke's sensational senior, Skippy Scurry.
Brooke's Nathan Dawson hopes to repeat in this weight class. Last year, he defeated JM's Thomas Schwing in the finals.
This season, his competitors include Park's Geremy Paige and South's Matthew Dixon.
John Marshall's Cullen Ebbert was fourth last year and brings a regional championship and 38-3 record in tonight.
Anthony Frisco represents University.
Brooke's Preston Wise aims for a crown here, as are Morgantown's Taylor Ortiz and University's Jeff Howdershelt.
The first of Oak Glen's qualifiers, Ryan Debee, wrestles here along with Cameron sophomore Dylan Wood.
Another Golden Bears sophomore, Danny Wyke, appears in the Upper Bracket where he'll battle Herbert Hoover's Camren Duncan.
Oak Glen's Josh Cornell returns to Huntington with a 32-7 record.
Oak Glen's Kyle Mack was fifth here last season. He's joined in the Upper Bracket by Cameron sophomore Kyle Schlieper.
Another Golden Bear, junior Avery Flowers, competes in the Lower Bracket, while Tyler Consolidated's lone entrant, Joe Henthorn, wrestles in the Upper Bracket.
This class includes Oak Glen sophomore Nick Tice and Clay-Battelle's Colton Moats.
Oak Glen and Cameron are represented in this class by sophomore Patrick Arneault and Cameron senior Dillon Blake, respectively.
Madonna senior, and lone Blue Dons representative, Garrett Hypes, is one of the favorites.
He's joined by Cameron senior Ivan Hall.
Austin Warsinsky was sixth for Cameron at this weight class last season. This season, the Dragons' hopes hinge on senior Devin Starcher.
Another senior, Oak Glen's Brodie Bittinger, is in the bracket opposite Starcher.
Oak Glen's final qualifier, freshman Noah Flowers, is the lone area grappler in this class. He finished fourth at regional and is peaking at the right time with a 9-22 mark.
Region One's third and fourth-place finishers - Waylon Miller and Jared Wright - are the Ohio Valley's hopes. Miller has a 12-8 mark for Cameron, while Wright is 20-6 for Magnolia.
Magnolia's Tyler Baker brings an 8-11 record and fourth-place regional finish into this weight's Upper Bracket.