WESTON — An appendectomy kept Isaiah Holyfield from a shot at the state wrestling tournament as a junior in 2012.
But the Robert C. Byrd heavyweight has his sites set squarely on not just a berth in the 2013 state tournament, but the Class AA title itself.
Holyfield, who is now 34-1 on the season, figures he’ll get his biggest test between now and the state tournament today in the finals of the Big 10 Conference wrestling tournament at Lewis County High School.
He advanced to the semfinals of the tourney by pinning Lewis County’s Aaron Ryan in a matter of seconds in his only appearance Wednesday of the two-day event.
“The (Logan) Bowman kid from East Fairmont has given me two real good matches this year,” Holyfield said. “He’s better than anyone in Class AA in my region.
“I’m really looking forward to the match.”
Of course, Bowman, who brought a 40-5 record into the Big 10 event, will have to reach the finals himself for that to happen.
Regardless, Holyfield, who is ranked third among Class AA heavyweights behind Richard Woods of Herbert Hoover and Donovan Vance of Liberty Raleigh, believes he has what it takes to claim the Class AA crown.
One reason for his confidence is his stature.
Barely 6-feet tall and 275 pounds, Holyfield believes being shorter than most other heavyweights gives him an advantage.
“Being short helps me with balance and leverage,” Holyfield said. “I’m a little quicker than most guys my size, too.
“I’ve put in a lot of work to get myself to this point.”
Holyfield’s father, Michael, a volunteer assistant for the Eagles, believes his son’s knowledge of the sport is a key as well.
“He’s been wrestling for a long time and he’s a smart wrestler,” Michael Holyfield said. “He just doesn’t make mistakes out on the mat.
“He’s got a great power base because he’s short, and we’ve steered him away from mistakes that shorter guys tend to make.”
Holyfield, who was also a starting offensive guard and defensive tackle on RCB’s state-semifinalist football team, would like to play both sports at the next level.
“There’s some interest from both sports,” Holyfield said. “I’d like to find a school where I could get scholarship money for both.”
Holyfield will meet Liberty’s Ryan Moore in today’s semifinals, while Bowman will tangle with Grafton’s Ryan Helmick.
Five wrestlers were back defending Big 10 crowns from last season, and four of them advanced to today’s action.
Top-seed Austin Stanley of North Marion will battle Preston’s Tyler Cottrell in 132-pound semifinal action, while Fairmont Senior’s Anthony Alvaro will face Casey Johnson of Preston in the 145-pound semifinals.
Lewis County’s Ryan Carson is back as a No. 2 seed and advanced to semifinal action in the 182-pound class, where he will face North Marion’s Tyler Arnett, and East Fairmont’s Jesse Roman will battle North Marion’s Chance Haught in the 195-pound semifinals.
One 2012 champion won’t be in the upper bracket today, as Lincoln’s Austin Weaver fell to Fairmont Senior’s Denzel Pitts in 182-pound quarterfinal action.
North Marion grabbed the team lead with 92.00 points. Marion County rivals Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont were close behind with 86.50 points and 80.00 points, respectively, while Lewis County was fourth with 68.00 points.
Today’s action will begin at 5 p.m. Weigh-ins are set for 3:30 p.m. with the coaches’ scratch meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 304-626-1444 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org