2023-24 All-Area Wrestling Team: Wrestlers hold on to history: Christian, Scott and McClelland celebrate successful seasons with honors

Apr. 18—CANNONSBURG — When The Daily Independent gathered up the 2024 All-Area wrestling team for a group photo, there was a key face missing.

The day of the photo shoot brought a touch of chaos as schools dismissed early for the threat of inclement weather.

Amidst that, Ashland's Cole Christian was delayed in leaving school for the photo shoot and walked through the doors to the Boyd County gym after his fellow All-Area grapplers had dispersed.

Christian was all smiles despite the snafu.

And why wouldn't he be? The senior Matcat pinned a grand end to his wrestling career.

For the first time in his storied career at Ashland, Christian placed at State.

"That was one of my goals all throughout high school," Christian said. "I was super close to placing last year, just one match away, but I got it this year in dramatic fashion pinning a guy in overtime. It was a super fun experience. I got to hug and thank my coaches, thank my brother, it was really good."

It was a worthy end to a stellar season for Christian. He took sixth place at State after winning the Region 8 championship with four straight pinfall victories.

Outside of KHSAA action, Christian also competed in the WSAZ Invitational where he placed third in the 285-pound division and defeated 27 other heavyweights in the Hatfield & McCoy 32 tournament to take first place.

All of those accomplishments add up to Christian being named The Daily Independent's Wrestler of the Year in the 157 — 285 pound weight classes.

"It means a lot to me," Christian said of the honor. "It shows that people around me recognize the hard work I've put in, the contributions I've made. It just feels really good that somebody acknowledges your hard work like that."

All of Christian's accomplishments, both this year and throughout his time on the mat, have come through his share of adversity.

The heavyweight, who finished with a 50-7 record in KHSAA matches, said the obstacles come from within and are sometimes the most difficult to get past.

"There were a lot of mental barriers to overcome," Christian said. "Last year, I didn't place at State and that opened the door for some doubt to creep in. Doubt about whether I could do it, whether I could break through and be at that elite level. So, just overcoming that and being confident in my matches, hustling on every match, it's a big accomplishment."

Another wrestler with some big accomplishments is Johnson Central's Zac Scott.

The 113-class wrestler took second place in his weight division at State, after winning the Region 8 title.

The eighth grader finished the season with a record of 38-6 and nabbed The Daily Independent's Wrestler of the Year for the 106-150 pound weight classes.

"I put in a lot of hard work throughout the offseason," Scott said. "It feels pretty good to know all of that paid off."

Scott's accomplishments this season came while he not only battled the competitors on the mat but also battled the scales to make sure he stayed in the 113-pound division.

"Cutting so much weight is a huge obstacle," Scott said. "It's just mentally tough having to do that. You just have to stay strong and not break and keep your nutrition right."

With the season behind him and plenty of seasons left to focus on getting even more accomplishments, Scott already has an ultimate goal in mind for his wrestling career.

"In the end, I'd like to get a chance to go Division I," Scott said. "I've been trying to get my name out there, going to big tournaments and stuff like that. It's all about staying strong and putting in the work."

One guy who knows all about putting in the work is Boyd County coach Clayton McClelland.

McClelland has built the Boyd County program by leaps and bounds over the years. The Lions have become one of the top programs in the region.

"It's a testament to the kids that we have, the other coaches that we have," McClelland said. "The sport of wrestling is really growing in our area and our program has absolutely been fortunate. Hopefully, we keep progressing that way."

The Lions fielded 10 wrestlers on the All-Area list this year, including a pair of grapplers who won their weight division in the region.

Boyd's success this season earned McClelland the title of The Daily Independent's Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

"It's an honor," McClelland said. "We have a great program here at Boyd County. We're really fortunate and blessed to have a good group of kids that were locked in this season."

A lot of the Lions' grapplers have been at the mat game for quite some time. The experience factor has been a big benefit to McClelland's team.

"I've had a lot of these kids for five or six years now," McClelland said. "They started in youth and middle school and worked their way up. They've celebrated each other and really grown close."

McClelland says that his crew's tightness has helped increase the team's focus and helped them find the mental edge.

"Whenever it came their time to wrestle, they were able to dig down and find a way to work," McClelland said. "And they pull for each other. This group of kids is really tight-knit. They've worked really hard this season."

One All-Area wrestler in particular that stands out from McClelland's team is Destiny Walters.

Walters is the first female athlete to be named alongside all male athletes on the wrestling All-Area team.

Walters (21-3) earned her spot on the list by finishing runner-up for the Region 4 girls' title in the 235-pound division. Walters placed fourth in her weight class at the first girls state competition.

"She did a fantastic job from start to finish," McClelland said. "She had a great record and just found a way to keep winning. To have her recognized on this side of the state, where girls wrestling isn't as popular yet, is a testament to her and the work she's put in."

Walters joins nine other Boyd County wrestlers on this year's team. Bentley Brown (38-16 at 126 pounds), Jaydon Dehart (35-18 at 138 pounds), Chase Gillum (43-12 at 144 pounds), Jack Hogsten (41-10 at 190 pounds), Tony Leader (50-6 at 157 pounds), Maverick Moore (30-10 at 106 pounds), Kaiden Nottingham (38-21 at 132 pounds), Zander Nottingham (23-6 at 113 pounds), and John Walters (46-7 at 165 pounds).

Johnson Central had the most wrestlers on this year's team with 11, including Scott.

The other 10 Golden Eagles on the team are Logan Castle (41-7 at 190 pounds), Seth Davis (38-9 at 175 pounds), Braylon Dewire (14-11 at 126 pounds), Dakota Ferguson (35-12 at 132 pounds), Peyton Lyons (28-9 at 215 pounds), Carson Matney (32-13 at 106 pounds), Dalton Matney (41-3 at 165 pounds), JD Morris (38-9 at 138 pounds), and Ryan Smith (37-12 at 120 pounds).

Ashland had the next most on the team with three.

The other two Matcats joining Christian are Carson Gillum (32-15 at 150 pounds) and Nathaniel Williams (12-9 at 144 pounds).

West Carter had a pair of grapplers earn their spot on this year's list.

The two Comets grapplers are Davin Skinner (35-6 at 157 pounds) and Ethan Swearingen (27-12 at 120 pounds).

Rounding out the All-Area team is East Carter's Joseph Cooper (23-4 at 285 pounds).

The newspaper's sports department selected Wrestlers and Coach of the Year.

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