Wheeling Central moves from Weir, Oak Glen section to Class AA | News, Sports, Jobs

WHEELING — Announced Friday by the WVSSAC, the Wheeling Central boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will transition to Class AA for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

The Maroon Knights have competed in the AAA class for the past two seasons after expanding the sport to four classifications in 2019.

“It’s a decision that we kind of made at the start of the season last year,” said central sporting director Donnie Murray. “Coach Mel (Stephens) and Coach Roberta (Olejasz) have both decided to move to AA.”

When the expansion occurred, Central, a Class A school at the time, was initially placed in Class AAA by WVSSAC’s competitive balance formula. There was a rule in place, however, that prohibited teams from moving up two rankings, meaning Central would have been placed in Class AA before the 2020-21 season.

Murray, Stephens, the longtime coach of the boys’ team, and then-girls’ coach Penn Kurtz, however, decided to allow the move to the AAA class.

“A big part of the reason I wanted to move to AAA was, in a perfect world, I kind of hoped it would allow us to match up with (the AAAA class schools) Wheeling Park, Brooke and John Marshall,” said Murray. “Just to organize local games, kind of prime time games. They kept playing their regular schedule that they had (previously) and it just didn’t work out, so a lot of our schedule stayed relatively the same.

Another idea Murray had regarding the move to AAA class was how the regions would be aligned. Class AAA Region I, Section I included Central, Oak Glen, Weir and North Marion. Murray said he thinks Section II of the area will include schools in the nearby Fairmont area. Instead, Region I, Section II was made up of the East Keyser, Hampshire, and Berkeley Springs begging schools.

“It was largely in hopes of a good section alignment,” Murray said of the move to AAA class. “We thought Region II, the Fairmont area, would be a bit divided and that would be the other part of our region. Then when they came out with the regions, they actually paired us up with begging from the east. This pushed our regional games to anywhere between two and three hours.

The schools in the Fairmont area are all contained within the two sections of Region II.

In terms of the schedule, Murray said he expects very little change going from class AAA to AA.

The biggest change, he said, came when they initially left Class A and lost local opponents like Cameron, Paden City, Valley and Hundred.

The Maroon Knights will now be in Class AA Region I, Section I with Magnolia and St. Marys. Ritchie County was in the Division last season, but moved to Division II.

Section II of the region will include Ritchie, Williamstown and Parkersburg Catholic.

Class AAA Region I, Section I will remain the same with Weir, Oak Glen and North Marion.

Wheeling Central was the only school in the state to see its boys’ and girls’ teams switch classes this offseason. Notre Dame, Trinity and Westside will see all of their men’s teams move from Class AAA to Class AA.

The Maroon Knights could be on the move again in two years, however, when the WVSSAC pilot period ends. Murray said that at that point, the competitive balance formula could move the Knights back to class AAA again or allow them to stay in class AA.

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