HUNTINGTON — The West Virginia high school wrestling state tournament is staying in Huntington through at least 2024, according to a release from the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
That means Huntington gets to continue its tradition that has been built for more than two decades and the city gets to reap the financial rewards of its work, which are going to be vital as the city works its way back from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
The 2020-21 event is scheduled to take place March 4-6 at Mountain Health Arena.
Following the announcement, WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan gave reasons as to why Huntington continues to be the host of the tournament.
“When you show up, you know that those guys are going to take care of the tournament and run a great event,” Dolan said. “No. 1, they have a large staff of volunteers, obviously led by Bill Archer. They take care of a lot of things for all schools.”
Dolan said the fine details behind the scenes are what have allowed Huntington to thrive as the host of the state’s premier wrestling event for its high schoolers.
From a planning standpoint, Archer and his staff have adapted with technological advances, such as live online scoring, while keeping the nostalgic feel of its in-house scoring display. They’ve also budgeted for rooms for athletes to dress in, weigh-in areas and trainer areas that make the event unique and memorable for participants.
In addition to those fine details from Archer and his staff, Dolan said the facility itself has gone through proper upgrades in terms of looks and accessibility to continue progress for the sport’s marquee event.
Dolan also lauded the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau for their efforts in infrastructure, which includes making sure that hotels are secured for those dates and that communication with teams is swift because there is not much turnaround time from the regional to state level, which makes planning difficult, in some cases.
“A lot of teams don’t know how many athletes they are bringing, so it’s a cooperation between (host) Huntington High School, the county, the city and the visitors bureau,” Dolan said. “It’s a team effort and it takes a lot of people and time to make an event like that work.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic being a concern as athletes prepare for the 2020-21 school year, the wealth of knowledge and experience that Archer’s staff has in hosting events of this magnitude also helped with making sure the event stayed in Huntington for another four years.
“Knowing that you don’t have to worry about ample staffing because they have enough people to take care of it, that’s big,” Dolan said. “Everything considered, they are the right hosts for the event. The staff is great, it’s the perfect size arena for our event and it’s got a great feel to it.”
Last season, Parkersburg South won the Class AAA title, Point Pleasant won the Class AA title and Greenbrier West earned the Class A title.
The West Virginia wrestling state tournament is one of three state championship events hosted in the greater Huntington area. Others are the West Virginia cheer state championships, which take place at Cam Henderson Center, and the West Virginia cross country state championships, hosted in Ona by Cabell Midland High School.