by Jamie Harris
Last Thursday, March 2 the 2023 Class A/AA State Wrestling Championships were held at the Mountain Health Arena in Huntington, which ended late on Saturday night. The Berkeley Springs Indians sent eight wrestlers with hopes of adding more state champions and place winners to the long list of Indian wrestlers that have accomplished this dating back to 1962. For several of the wrestlers it was a long awaited chance for redemption and for one it was a 365 day wait to get revenge.
Action started Thursday night and things started off rough for the Indians. Daniel Clark (113) lost 5-1 to Milton Funkhouser (East Hardy). Jacob Morgan (120) lost in overtime to Tyson Pena (Roane County) 5-0. Aiden Cain (138) lost by major decision 15-2 to Austin High (Sissonville). Will Gageby (144) lost a 12-5 decision to Caleb Nichols (Independence).
The losing stopped at the 150 lb. weight class as Isaac Harris picked up an 18 second pin over Christian Bryant (Clay County). Evan Zombro (157) pinned Theodore Gallihan (Moorefield) at 1:59. Gabriel Clark (175) won by 8-2 decision over Jackson Davis (Braxton County). Brady Wilt (215) picked up a pin over Bradyn Cox (Independence) in 5:03.
Wrestling picked back up Friday morning with the championship quarterfinals and first and second round consolations. In the consolation round Clark, Morgan and Cain were eliminated from the tournament with losses. Gageby bounced back with a pin over Cameron Abrogast (Sissonville). Gageby was eliminated in the second round of consolations to Moses Gray (Greenbrier West) 8-3.
In the championship quarterfinals Harris got the Tribe rolling once again as he recorded a 11-2 major decision over Kase Stewart (Wahama) to advance to Friday night’ s championship semifinals. With that win Harris advanced to his fourth straight semifinals and a guaranteed state placement. Zombro followed up with a pin over Kaden Helmer (Shady Spring) in 1:37 to advance to his second straight state semi-finals. Clark kept the wins going as he picked up an 8-1 decision over Channing Lowe (Wirt County) to advance to his third straight state semifinals. Wilt lost a 4- 3 overtime thriller to Noah Casto (Clay County) and dropped to the consolation round. Wilt would bounce back with a 2-1 win over Caleb Kuhl (Winfield) to ad-vance to the third round consolations later on Friday night.
The championship semifinals started at 7:30 p.m., on Friday night and Harris started the Indians off taking on Point Pleasant’ s Aiden Schoon. Schoon took a 2-0 lead but Harris came back with a reversal to tie the score at 2-2. The score would remain that way until the third period where Harris picked up an escape to take a 3-2 lead. Harris would keep the pressure on Schoon for the rest match and finally kicked down the door in the semifinals to pick up his first state semifinal win 3-2 and advance to his first state finals and much anticipated showdown with #1 Judah Price (Independence) on Saturday night.
Zombro would be up next and he would face Jim Green (Man High) in another thrilling match. Both wrestlers would pick up escapes to tie the score at 1-1. The score would stay that way as the match headed to overtime. Again in a flurry of action both wrestlers were scrambling and Zombro would come out with the takedown to pick up the 3-1 win. After waiting 365 days Zombro would get his long awaited rematch with #1 Josh Woyan (Point Pleasant). Woyan pinned Zombro in the closing seconds of last year’s state title match.
Clark would take on region rival Adam Angel (Cameron). In another tight match Angel held a 3-0 lead in the closing seconds of the third round. Clark would get a stall point and was working into position for a reversal as time expired. Clark would drop to the consolation semifinal bracket Saturday morning.
Wilt would take on East Fairmont’ s Evan Helm in a battle of Region I 215’s with a chance to earn all-state honors. In another thrilling match that went into overtime Wilt punched his ticket to the podium with a 2-1 win.
On Saturday morning the consolation semifinals started off. With wins Clark and Wilt would wrestle for third. A loss would have the grapplers wrestle for fifth place. Clark would face Jackson Davis once again and the Indian fans would be treated to another overtime match. However this time Davis would avenge his Thursday night loss by taking down Clark to win 3-1 Wilt would take on Point Pleasant’ s Luke Moffit and lose by the score of 8-2.
In the fifth place match Clark bounced back and picked up a 5-2 win over Lane Watson (Roane County). With the win Clark became a three time all-state place finisher for the Indians. He finished the season with a record of 18-7 and a career record of 117-36.
Wilt would take on Scott Worstell (Nitro) and lose by the score of 6-2. Wilt finished his season with a record of 39-13 and his first state placement.
Saturday night the state championship finals would kick-off after the parade of champions. Just like the normal routine senior Isaac Harris would start the Indians off against Judah Price of Independence. If any of the readers are football fans the name Judah Price is no mystery as the senior Patriot wrestler was all everything in football this season including leading his team to the Class A A football state title. However, this match was one that everyone was looking forward to as Harris had finally got to the state finals and both wrestlers were in search of their first state title.
The match got started and Price got the initial takedown. Harris would get the escape to cut the score to 2-1. The score would remain that way at the end of one.
In the second period Harris chose down and once again picked up an escape to tie the score at 2-2. Price would get another takedown to go back up 4-2 but Harris came back with another escape to cut the score back to 4-3 at the end of the second.
Price chose bottom to start the third. Harris kept Price grounded for the start of the third before the Independence wrestler would get an escape to make the score 5-3.
As the match got under a minute to go and fans around the arena cheering on both wrestlers the battle for control took place. Harris went for a takedown and the quick Price countered with another takedown to secure the hard fought 7-3 win.
Harris saw his season end with a state runner up finish, a season record of 41-6, and a career record of 152-29. Not only that, Harris became only the sixth Berkeley Springs wrestler to place all four years at the state wrestling tournament. Harris will continue his wrestling career at the collegiate level next year with Emory & Henry College a Division II school.
Evan Zombro has waited a year for a chance at revenge after his last second state finals last year to Point Pleasant’ s Josh Woyan. The wait was over and the two wrestlers locked horns in the much anticipated rematch.
Zombro jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Woyan picked up an escape to cut the score to 2-1 at the end of the first period. In the second period Woyan chose bottom.
At the start of the referee’s whistle Woyan picked up a quick reversal to take the 3-2 lead. Zombro would regain the lead with a reversal of his own to go back in front 4-3. Woyan would get the Point Pleasant fans to roar with another reversal to take back the lead at 5-4 at the end of the second period.
The start of the third period Zombro chose bottom knowing that this period would determine the final outcome of the match. Zombro would pick up an escape to tie the match at 5-5. Both wrestlers would start battling again for positioning trying to secure a takedown that could possibly determine the state championship. This time Zombro would be quick on his feet and picked up the two point takedown to go up 7-5.
As the match was winding down Zombro found himself in the same situation as last year. Ride out the Point Pleasant wrestler and win a state title, make a mistake and lose the state title. This time Zombro would have a little luck in his favor on a reset as Woyan picked up his third caution of the match that gave Zombro some breathing room with the score at 8-5.
This time Zombro kept his composure and clamped down on Woyan as time ran out sending the sophomore into a celebration mode as the Indian fans roared with excitement.
At last Zombro had his ultimate payback with a state title which is the 37th in Berkeley Springs history. Zombro finished his season with a record of 39-5. In an interview with the press, Zombro thanked his coaches for making him work hard and his drill partner and teammate Isaac Harris for helping him achieve his goal.
With their placements this year at their respective state tournaments Kaydence Tranter, Isaac Harris, Evan Zombro, Gabriel Clark and Brady Wilt became the 157th, 158th, 159th, 160th and 161st state place winners in Berkeley Springs wrestling history. The legacy continues as the Tribe wrestlers keep history rolling.
As a team Berkeley Springs finished in sixth place in the Class AA team scores with 68 points. Fairmont Sr. (206) took the team championship unseating four time defending champion Point Pleasant. Point Pleasant (177.5) and Independence (177.5) finished tied for second. Braxton County (129) and Oak Glen (117) rounded out the top five teams.