By Logan Arneson, Contributing Writer
Each year, West Liberty University hosts the West Virginia Invitational for wrestling. The NCAA Division II No. 16 Hilltoppers will come out looking for success on the mat.
The West Virginia Invitational will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27 in the Academic Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC). Their competition will come from the other four schools at the invitational: Wheeling Jesuit University, Ohio Valley University, West Virginia University of Technology and Alderson Broaddus University.
Although most of the Hilltoppers’ competition will come from these schools’ wrestlers, some Hilltoppers may face off against each other in a few matches.
Head wrestling coach Mitch Smith has been putting his wrestlers through intense practices to prepare for the tournament. As for errors made by the team in past competitions, Smith said, “The coaching staff has been able to address some areas of weakness for the team to work and we have been covering those areas.” Strengthening techniques and focusing on the small details in the practice room is key for developing well-rounded wrestlers.
Moving up in the national rankings to No. 16 adds to the drive the Hilltoppers have to dominate and come out on top over their competition. However, being nationally ranked can have some downfalls too. “Anytime being ranked as a team or individual, it adds a target to your back,” said Smith.
Along with the team being nationally ranked as a whole, the Hilltoppers have three individuals who are nationally ranked themselves: Corey Secrist is ranked at No. 12 in the 125 pound weight class, Darius Bunch is No. 1 for 133 pounds, and Logan Kemp is No. 12 for 197 pounds. The West Virginia Invitational is a solid tournament to showcase not just their talents but also the team’s talent as a whole.
“The confidence within the program right now is at a high level. The team and individuals will always be motivated, because the expectations are set at a high level for our program,” Coach Smith said. Performing in front of their home crowd in their arena only adds to the motivation for victory.
Practicing hard and competing in duals has helped them prepare for the level of competition the Hilltoppers will see this upcoming weekend. Coach Smith expects to have a champion in each weight class and believes that wrestling on the hilltop at West Liberty will push them to perform even better.
Come out and support your Hilltopper wrestling team, or follow them online for updates on the wrestlers.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com