Ethan Hardy has closed out his high school wrestling career as a state champion.
The Washington High School senior faced quite a challenge in the 132-pound weight class, taking on University High School (Morgantown) freshman Luca Felix, but all it took was an escape point for Hardy to claim his crown.
Hardy won a 1-0 decision over Felix to win the WVSSAC Class AAA crown last week at Huntington’s Mountain Health Arena, also known as Huntington Civic Center.
“Ethan’s a very coachable wrestler,” Washington coach Codie Gustines said. “He put in a lot of time, as did the rest of the team. We wrestled well as a team.”
Hardy’s efforts helped Washington earn a top-10 finish in the 28-team field. Parkersburg South won the team title with 264 points. Spring Mills finished second at 172.5. Wheeling Park got third (155).
But the accolades didn’t stop there for Hardy. At the conclusion of the tournament, he was voted most outstanding wrestler.
This is Hardy’s first state championship. He’s finished third at three other state tournaments.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” Hardy, who plans to continue to wrestle and play golf in college, said.
Typically, having a 1-0 decision hold up during a regular-season match, much less a state championship bout, doesn’t always happen. In Hardy’s championship bout against Felix, he earned an escape point during the second period.
Hardy said he seemed a little puzzled why Felix took the neutral (standing) position for the third period. “It was a close match the whole time,” he said. “When he took that position in the third period, I had to wrestle hard, try to keep his hands off of me. It was that way the whole match.”
Hardy was going to have to either widen his point lead or keep Felix from scoring in any fashion. Felix did get Hardy off his legs a few times during the match. A takedown would’ve forced Hardy to try and rally back for the win.
Not an easy task once your opponent gains the advantage on the mat.
“But we were able to defend him off,” Gustines said.
The route Hardy took through the 16-wrestler bracket provided its share of challenges.
He opened state play with a 3 minute, 44 second pin of Huntington’s Jesiah Winters, which set up a match against defending state-champion Nate Shelek, of Wheeling Park. Hardy outlasted Shelek in a 10-4 decision.
The semi-final match against Parkersburg South’s Trent Jones was equally as challenging. This match could’ve gone either way, but Hardy prevailed in an 8-6 decision, setting up the championship match against Felix, who advanced through the bracket with a 22-6 technical fall and respective pins of 2:42 and 3:50.
Facing an up-and-coming freshman, who had breezed past his previous opponents, Hardy could ill-afford to take anything for granted. He didn’t take any unnecessary chances against Felix and prevailed.
Kade Bradbury finished second for the Patriots at 145, pinned by Parkersburg South’s Gage Wright in 10 seconds in the championship match. Hunter Locke (126) finished fourth.