Small-Town Wrestlers with Big Time Talent
I started to really get into college wrestling 2-3 years ago when a buddy of mine mentioned getting season tickets for Ohio State. As I started going to matches, I found myself analyzing the lineup and determining what weights we needed to recruit most. In football, recruiting is easy because several different types of media outlets cover who are the best players and where they are going or potentially going to play. I figured wrestling would be the same but unfortunately, I was wrong. There are a few people that cover recruiting in wrestling but for the most part information is very hard to come by. I have reached out to coaches at both the high school and college level but they would say they cannot comment on who was being recruited or where they were being recruited.
At this point, I decided to take a different approach. I started following as many high school coaches in and around Ohio as possible. I figured Ohio State would be able to find the higher profile wrestlers, so I wanted to focus on the smaller programs that may be over looked. This was when I came across coach Johnathan Bonecutter and the Point Pleasant Wrestling Program in West Virginia.
Coach Bonecutter took over the program in 2010 and immediately took the program to the next level by winning state titles in 2010, 2011, and 2012 in AA/A. In 2013, Point Pleasant was moved to AAA to compete with the larger high schools in the state. Point Pleasant initially struggled and finished 6th that season. Coach Bonecutter had higher expectations for his program, so he put together a star-studded staff including: head assistant coach Jed Ott, who was a standout wrestler at West Liberty college; assistant coach Dave Bonecutter, who wrestled at Campbellsville University in Kentucky; assistant coach James Casto, who was Point Pleasant high school’s first 2x State Champion and 4x State Placer; and assistant George Smith, who coached in Lakewood, Ohio and Clovis area in California.
It took a few years but Point Pleasant won the state title again in 2019 with the help of individual titles from sophomore-Isaac Short (106), freshman-Derek Raike (120) and freshman-Justin Bartee (126). Point Pleasant had the team title wrapped up after the third session, which is impressive considering there are 5 total sessions in the state tournament. They ended up finishing with 203 points which was 83 points ahead of the second-place team. Having two freshman win state titles was what caught my eye, so I reached out to Coach Bonecutter and he loved that I was trying to bring some exposure to his wrestling program. After speaking with him, I started to realize just how special these two young men could be for their program and college wresting.
Justin Bartee: Sophomore 138 pounder | Point Pleasant High School, Point Pleasant, WV
As an 8th grader in 2018, Justin competed in the NHSCA Middle School Nationals where he won the consolation bracket finishing in third place.
As a freshman at Point Pleasant high school, Justin Bartee won the state title in the 126-pound weight class, pinning his opponent in the second period. Justin finished the season 36-0, the second wrestler in school history to finish the season undefeated.
Justin continued his stellar year by returning to the NHSCA High School Nationals March 29th-31st. He competed in the freshman division as a 132 pounder. Despite wrestling in a higher weight class, Justin finished runner up and clinched All-American status, only the 6th in school history.
As a Sophomore, Bartee moved up to the 138-pound weight class. Bartee is 41-3 this season and was crowned Champion of the WSAZ tournament and runner up at the Top Gun tournament. Bartee also just broke the school record for takedowns in a season with 152.
Derek Raike: Sophomore 132 Pounder | Point Pleasant High School, Point Pleasant, WV
Derek is a friend and training partner of Justin Bartee and has had an impressive amount of success at such a young age.
Derek is a 5x WSAZ Champ, 9x West Virginia State Champ, and 2018 NHSCA Middle School Champion where he pinned his final opponent in 28 seconds. Derek was also a gold medalist at the AAU Disney Duals June 24-28, 2018.
As a freshman at Point Pleasant High School, Derek won the state title in the 120-pound weight class pinning his opponent in the second period. Derek finished the year with an impressive 46-1 record.
As a Sophomore, Raike moved up to the 132-pound weight class and is 36-0 so far this season, making him 82-1 for his career. Raike’s only high school loss came in his freshman year against Drew Munch from Wyoming Seminary. Munch also won Ironman this year. Raike has racked up many impressive wins including; a pin against Amon Ohl from St. Joe Catholic, who placed at the Powerade tournament; a pin against Braydon Johnson, AAA state champion from Parkersburg South high school; and a pin against Jordan Watters, the defending Top Gun Champ from West Allegheny high school. Raike’s last loss came at the Disney Nationals in June 2019. It was a 6-4 decision against Jackson Disario who is now wrestling at Stanford.
These two young men still have two years of high school left but they both have bright futures in the sport of wrestling if they choose to pursue it at the next level. Obviously, I am an Ohio State fan but I would love to see these two young men prosper in college regardless of the program.
Written by Brandon Dodson
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