Bowen’s march to state tourney begins with WSAZ Invitational
HUNTINGTON — Huntington High senior wrestler London Bowen is no stranger to the WSAZ Invitational.
Friday’s kickoff to the 41st annual high school/middle school event at Big Sandy Superstore Arena was Bowen’s sixth time in the double-elimination tournament.
But, in a way, it was new territory.
Bowen, who has wrestled most of this season in the 120-pound weight class, moved up to the 113-pound class. It’s a move that bolsters the Highlanders’ lineup with Devin Doss taking the 120-pound matches while another top wrestler moved into the 113-pound class.
“We decided it would help the team and that I could drop down easier,” Bowen said. “I just started a new diet and I have to work harder.”
The normal teenager diet of fast food and candy doesn’t work for Bowen.
Instead, he is taking in more protein and keeping his carbohydrate intake much lower. A deviled egg, granola and yogurt will be breakfast. A sandwich for lunch with chicken, rice and vegetables for dinner. Sometime down the road, protein shakes will become part of his routine.
“Part of the hard work is finding what you’re good at and working on that,” he said.
The fruits of the new diet and hard work could be a state championship at Big Sandy in the Feb. 21-23 tournament. Bowen finished as a state runner-up at 120 pounds last year and is focused on winning this time.
“London has tunnel vision, and when he focuses on something, that becomes his world,” Huntington High head coach Rob Archer said.
The WSA Z Invitational kicked off wrestlers’ drive toward state titles.
“WSAZ is up there, but there are tougher tournaments that we’ve been to,” Bowen said. “The big thing with WSAZ is it is a springboard toward state.”
Bowen won his first match Friday but was defeated by Daulton Lawson of Johnson Central. Archer said Bowen took the loss hard despite Lawson being a defending state champion in Kentucky and having defeated Bowen by a larger score a year ago.
Still, Archer said Bowen went back to the Huntington High team room and began working out to blow off steam from the loss, nearly making him late for his next match, a contest he won.
These events in the final month of the season also mark the end of Bowen’s wrestling career.
He started wrestling after elementary school when he got bored with swimming. His father wanted Bowen to get into another winter sport.
“It was either wrestling or hockey and, well, there’s no place around here to play hockey,” he said. By the time Bowen was in sixth grade, wrestling had grown on him and he stayed with it.
He first learned about wrestling from Huntington East Middle School coach Shannon Jeffers.
“He’s been a fighter since day one,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers and Archer both describe Bowen as a “character” and relate stories of their student’s growth from middle school to a young man in his senior year.
Bowen will take his 4.4 GPA on to West Virginia University where he will major in computer science and one day become a game designer or software programmer.
Until then, Bowen will ride out the final month of a season he hopes will conclude with him in the top spot on the state tournament medal stand come February.
High school/middle school wrestling
Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Huntington Saturday schedule: 10 a.m., session 2; 6 p.m., session 3; 8:15 p.m., championship finals
Admission: $8 adults, $7 students, free under age 6