Apr. 23—PLEASANT VALLEY — Throughout his upbringing as a wrestler, Blake Boyers was surrounded by greatness.
In middle school, he watched former East Fairmont icon Dalton Michael win Class AA/A state titles in 2014 and 2016. As he started high school, he caught the tail end of Bees' superstars Cole Laya and Brock Whorton who had dueling runs to the all-time program mark of three state titles as the duo won championships in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
For all the prestige Boyers encountered at East Fairmont on Thursday, he somehow managed to surpass them all and etch his name into both the Bees' and the statewide record books as the program's greatest ever legend with a historic fourth state championship in four high school seasons.
"It's everything for me," Boyers said. "My dad's been coaching here for however long, and I've been coming to the matches and stuff (for years) and watching all the wrestlers. So it's just really cool that I get to be remembered like that."
Boyers' all-time title triumph on Thursday came in the form of a 3-0 decision over Point Pleasant's Mackandle Freeman to complete his career grand slam, a feat just 20 wrestlers in state history have accomplished and one that has never been reached in East Fairmont program history.
The career-defining moment for Boyers at Thursday's state tournament in Huntington was cemented when he notched a first-period takedown of Freeman for a 2-0 lead and then added a third-period escape for good measure to capture the 138-pound Class AA/A state title. The 138-pound championship gave Boyers the ultra-rare four state titles in four separate weight classes over his four high school seasons, an achievement matched by 13 other wrestlers in the state's history.
"I've always just kept it the same," said Boyers, who posted a 19-0 record this season to finish with a career mark of 136-18 (.883). "I've just kept doing what I've been doing."
That consistency has forever been the hallmark of Boyers' career on the mat, the single-most element to which one can attribute his now-historic levels of success, which also includes three regional titles and three conference titles to go with his four state championships. Whether it's a ho-hum regular season match or a routine practice session, whether it's a championship bout or an individual training session in the offseason, Boyers never strays in his focus nor relents in his work ethic. He's maniacal, diligent, and disciplined, a true everyman's champion whose most defining trait is not otherworldly athleticism nor beyond-belief explosiveness, but rather unshakeable and undeniable intangibles.
"He's very self-disciplined and very self-driven to just get everything he can out of every practice," said his father and coach, Adam Boyers, last season. "He goes as hard as he can all the time — he doesn't take sprints off or skip exercises — and you don't have to ride him for him to do that because he just has that drive."
"You have to be relentless everyday. Everyday you have to stay focused — you can't get distracted by outside things — and you have to be relentless with the task at hand," Blake said at the start of the season. "You have to have a narrow mindset and really focus in on what you want to get accomplished."
Ever since Boyers' hand was hoisted into the air and he was declared the 126-pound state champion at last year's state tournament in February 2020, the target for both Boyers and his opponents became clear going into his senior season. Boyers wanted history and the nearly-unprecedented 4-for-4 career grand slam. And his opponents, well, they all wanted Boyers himself and a shot to dethrone the three-time champ.
"I remind him he's always going to get everybody's best match," Adam Boyers said after last month's Big 10 Tournament. "I mean everybody is going to come out and give him their very best, so he's got to be ready for it every time and just stick to what he does — stay focused and just work."
While everyone geared up to take aim at Boyers, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic took aim at everything else, placing the 2020-21 wrestling season and Boyers' quest for a fourth state title into limbo. Still, even when faced with a season that may not happen and a personal training routine that required an overhaul, Boyers never stopped working. He drilled solo in his basement where he has a small wrestling mat, he said, practicing the technique of his shooting form and rehashing the minutia of his footwork. He churned out basic, at-home core exercises, such as push-ups and pull-ups, and scoured everywhere for workouts to stay in shape.
"It was hard," Boyers said. "But you just have to make the most of it. You have to be dedicated and stay dedicated and just work.
"Everyday, you got to get something done."
When the season finally started, Boyers' regular season matches were few and far between. He completed just nine matches prior to the start of the Big 10 Conference Tournament on March 26. Even still Boyers ripped off a dominant 3-0 run, which included a pair of pins and a win by tech fall, to take the Big 10 Conference 138-pound title. Two weeks later at the Class AA/A Region I Tournament, Boyers rolled again a 3-0 mark to take the 138-pound crown, never conceding even a single point along the way.
Then, finally, this week Boyers made his long-awaited return to the WVSSAC Class AA/A State Tournament in Huntington where his fourth career state championship and place in history lied just four more victories away. He tore through his pair of Day 1 opponents on Wednesday, winning each of his first and second round matches by pins in just over a minute.. Then on the second and final day on Thursday, he vanquished his semifinal opponent, Kolton Parsons of Wirt County, by way of a 4-2 decision in the morning session before he came through on the biggest stage yet again with the 3-0 shutout decision of Freeman for the 138-pound title.
"There have been a lot of challenges, ones we knew were coming but that we had never faced before," Boyers said earlier this season. "But I'm glad I could get through them."
Email Bradley Heltzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.