Mention the name Parkersburg South to any Mountain State sports fan and the first thought that pops into their head is wrestling.
And with good reason.
Since winning its first state wrestling championship in 1975, South has added 16 more to its trophy case.
Compare that to the other high-profile sports at the school -girls basketball has two titles, boys basketball and football one each.
South is the only school that has won four straight Class AAA state wrestling championships, a feat it accomplished from 1999 to 2002.
Now, it is on the verge of repeating that incredible accomplishment.
The Patriots are the three-time defending state champions.
After its performance in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tournament that concluded on Saturday, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't make South the heavy favorite to again win consecutive state title No. 4.
Most observers will tell you the OVAC is a more difficult tournament to win than the state tournament itself. Yet, South dominated. Other than runnerup Steubenville, not another team came within 100 points of the Patriots.
South now has been to the OVAC three times and has won the team title all three years.
This time, the Patriots brought home more than the team title.
They set the all-time tournament scoring record. And in doing so, they also swept the major individual awards.
Start with senior 126-pounder David Jeffrey, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler. When the state tournament is contested next month in Huntington, Jeffrey will be heavily favored to become the first four-time state champion in Parkersburg South history. When Patriot wrestling fans discuss who was the best wrestler in the history of the school, he must be included in the conversation.
Then there's 182-pounder Steven Brogle. Not only did he repeat as the OVAC champion, for the second year in a row he won every match by pin. He spent less time on the mat than any other champion and thus repeated as the winner of the coveted Hercules Award. Joining Jeffrey and Brogle as individual champions were teammates Lance Hill (106) and Tyler Karcher (120).
South's formula for winning titles is simple. The Patriots not only turn out quality wrestlers, but they also overwhelm you with quantity.
They always have their superstars. But those stars are backed by a strong supporting cast that gets those all-important second through sixth place finishes that add up on the scoreboard. Plus, the Patriots would be even stronger if a couple of potential state champions hadn't incurred serious injuries.
Wrestling is a tradition at South. It was the one sport at the school that instantly was competitive. Rod Oldham turned South into an immediate and respected program. One that has flourished since its humble beginnings.
It has a large and loyal fan base that has followed it to tournaments from Nevada to Florida. They're proud and they're loud. You'll always know when there is a South wrestler on the mat the noise level in the arena will go up by several decibels.
South has won 105 straight dual matches. It has done so taking on all comers. No padding the record. It isn't necessary.
If -or should that be when -the Patriots claim state title No. 18 next month -it in all likelihood will mark the 200th state high school championship in the history of the city of Parkersburg.
Don't be surprised to see South fans wearing their No. 200 T-shirts before Saturday night's finals get under way.
Contact Dave Poe at email@example.com