PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Welcome back … eventually.
Point Pleasant High School is headed back to the Class AA ranks for the next four years after the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission released its classification guidelines for the 2016-2020 sports seasons last Thursday.
The re-classification, which is based on enrollment figures over a four-year span, means that PPHS will finish this school year at the Class AAA level before starting back into the AA ranks in the fall of 2016. Point will remain at AA through the spring of 2020, with new enrollment projections expected in late 2019.
Point Pleasant — which is currently the smallest of 33 Class AAA programs in the state — saw its enrollment figures drop by 31 kids, going from 782 now to a projection of 751 over the next four school years. PPHS was also one of 10 schools to be re-classified as a AA competitor next fall.
In all, nine current AAA programs — Lincoln County, Winfield, Oak Hill, Shady Spring, Elkins, Nitro, Logan and Lewis County — were switched into the Class AA field, while Man was the lone single-A program to get a bump up to AA.
Ravenswood, Mount View, Webster County, Tolsia, Ritchie County and Summers County were the six double-A programs to get bumped down to Class A starting next fall. No schools moved up to Class AAA.
Currently, there are 38 AAA schools, 40 AA programs and 49 single-A schools in the state. The new tabulations break down as 29 AAA schools, 44 AA programs and 54 Class A schools starting next fall.
PPHS assistant principal Kent Price — who also serves as the school’s athletic director — was pleased to hear of the re-classification to Class AA. As he noted, it’s just a natural fit for the kids and community of Point Pleasant.
“With our enrollment, we just feel like we are headed where we need to be to be competitive. That’s across the board for all of our programs,” Price said. “We are all really excited to be headed back to double-A for the next four years and hopefully beyond.”
Point Pleasant representatives have confirmed that the school has already been in contact with league administrators about rejoining the Cardinal Conference at the start of the next school year, but nothing has been officially decided as of now.
As it stands, PPHS will be the 14th largest AA school over the next four years — with Lincoln County serving as the biggest double-A school with 871 kids. Man will be the smallest AA program with 460 kids.
Cabell Midland is still the largest school in the state with 1,965 students, while Ripley rounds out the Class AAA field with 933 kids. Ravenswood (433) will be the largest of the 54 Class A programs, with all but 10 of those schools participating in varsity football.
PPHS wrestling coach John Bonecutter led the Big Blacks to three consecutive Class AA championships from 2010 through 2012, but was never given an opportunity to capture a four-peat after being bumped up to Class AAA in 2013.
The Big Blacks have finished sixth, sixth and ninth as a team in each of the last three AAA state meets, and have also produced one individual state champion (Trevor Hill) during that same span.
Bonecutter has never made excuses about the move up, but rather used it as motivation to make his program stronger. Now, as they head back down to Class AA, the Big Blacks might be even better as the move forward.
Bonecutter, like most of the PPHS coaches, is thrilled to be going back to the middle division. But, as he noted, he’s still going to make sure his troops are seeing quality AAA opponents for years to come.
“I think moving back to AA is a great thing for our school and community, mainly because we will compete with other schools our size. It is difficult to compete year-in, year-out with schools that are double or triple our size,” Bonecutter said. “From a wrestling standpoint, not much will change with our schedule. We will continue to wrestle the same tough schedule we always have. We still plan on wrestling Huntington, Ripley, Parkersburg, Cabell Midland and Parkersburg South, as well as competing in the top tournaments in the state.”
Both Wahama and Hannan remained at the Class A level, and each school had some interesting adjustments in their enrollment numbers. Like Point Pleasant, WHS saw its numbers drop 30-some spots from 283 kids now to 246 kids over the next four years.
Hannan was the only Mason County school to see an expected increase in enrollment, going from 176 kids now to 196 kids over the next four years.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.