WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – West Liberty University head wrestling coach Danny Irwin is putting the finishing touches on a deep and talented recruiting class.
After seeing his Hilltoppers spend the entire 2019-20 season in the NCAA Division II Top 25 – including several weeks among the Top 10 – during his debut season with the Black and Gold, Irwin is determined to take the resurgent WLU program to the next level in Year Two.
The highly-regarded head man is bringing in an interesting mix of high school seniors and collegiate transfers who share one common goal – helping Hilltopper wrestling continue to #ClimbTheHill.
This is the first of a series of articles introducing Irwin’s latest additions to the West Liberty wrestling room.
“This group of student-athletes comes from great families and really got the recruiting ball rolling for us this year,” Irwin said. “A couple of these guys have been committed to me before I came to the hilltop and that means a great deal to me. Their commitments and the success we had as a team this season really put us in a strong position to lock in a class that will make waves for years to come.”
BRETT GOFF (141/149) was a three-year letterman and Ohio Division II district qualifier who went 27-12 as a senior 145-pounder at Geneva High School. A team captain, Goff missed the bulk of his sophomore and junior seasons due to injury but battled back to lead his team to five tournament titles in his final year.
“Brett is another good one who comes to us out of a competitive room,” Irwin said. “He has had his fair share of setbacks with injuries in high school but that has made his perseverance that much stronger. That determination and fierce desire to compete really stuck out to us. Those are key ingredients to the type of high-performing individuals we want at West Liberty.”
JOEY MILLER (133/141) is a four-time state finalist and three-time West Virginia Class AAA state champion from Musselman (W.Va.) High School. Miller’s only state tournament loss in four years was a 4-2 heartbreaker against nationally-ranked Brayden Roberts in the 126-pound finals as a sophomore. Miller won at 126 as a junior, followed that up with a 138-pound title this year and Miller was also a 2017 NHSCA Virginia Beach All-American.
“Joey is an exciting wrestler who has really performed well in the biggest environments,” Irwin said. “He is also a leader who cares a ton about his teammates. We have no doubt he is going to make a huge impact on and off the mat.”
ZAC SAMSON (165/174) was a three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer for perennial West Virginia mat powerhouse Point Pleasant High School. A multi-year team captain, Samson helped Point Pleasant roll to the 2020 Class AA state championship with a runner-up finish at 160 pounds.
“Zac stood out to us early as someone who wants to be pushed in all aspects of his life.,” Irwin said. “He comes out of a fierce wrestling room at Point Pleasant which should make his transition into a room like ours that much smoother. Not only does Zac bring a ton to the table, but his commitment raises our stock in what is one of the best high school programs in this region of the country.”
ANDREW SHELEK (141/149) was a three-time West Virginia Class AAA state finalist and a 2020 OVAC Tournament champion at nearby Wheeling Park High School. All three of his state championship losses came at the hands of high school All-Americans, including a hard-fought 9-7 setback against fellow WLU signee Joey Miller in the 2020 meet. Shelek defeated a three-time Ohio state runner-up in the 2020 OVAC finals and was a 2019 NHSCA Virginia Beach All-American.
“Andrew has been fun to watch ever since I came to the Ohio Valley,” Irwin said. “He’s already accomplished a great deal on the mat in addition to being a football stud at Wheeling Park. It’s rare for middleweights to compete at that level in both sports but it’s that desire to compete that I believe will put Andrew in national contention early in his career.”
JONAH SMITH (157/165) is a two-time Ohio Division I state tournament qualifier and three-time TRAC champion from Findlay High School. Smith placed seventh at 138 as a junior in the Ohio state meet and had qualified again this year at 145 before the tournament was canceled. Smith won the Tri-State Border Invite, defeating a four-time Michigan state champion in the finals. He also had several impressive wins at the mammoth 2019 Ironman, knocking off state champions from Hawaii and Virginia along with a Missouri state runner-up and a third-place finisher from Oklahoma.
“Jonah was our early diamond in the rough pickup and his senior season results certainly bore that out,” Irwin said. “He had marquee wins all over his record sheet while his only losses came to the top tier of opponents in the country. Jonah has a crazy amount of athleticism and is just an overall great person to be around.”
CANON WELKER (157) was a four-time state qualifier and three-time state placer during a stellar career at Wheeling Park High School. Welker capped that career with a third-place finish at 160 pounds in the 2020 West Virginia Class AAA state championships, helping lift the Ohio County Patriots to a runner-up finish.
“Canon has always been solid but really came into his own the last year or so,” Irwin said. “He comes from a great wrestling family and has been on board with me since Day One. You could say he was the one that has thrown the most fuel on the fire because he was on other key pieces letting them know that with our coaching staff they could reach all their goals. I am excited to help Canon continue to develop and make his next set of goals come true.”