Cardinal Newman regained the high ground in SCISA wrestling last weekend, nipping Hammond 39-36 in the championship match.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals look to close out a memorable season under new coach Evan Moxie with a strong showing at the season-ending state tournament. The tournament begins at 9 a.m. with the championship finals tentatively set for sometime around noon.
Defending individual champions Desean McMillian, Mitch Pennington and Evan Mikula and undefeated newcomer Seth Ham lead the way for the Cardinals, who have won five of the last six SCISA championships.
“It took the team a little time to adjust to a different style of coaching, but it’s been a phenomenal experience for me coaching and teaching here at Cardinal Newman,” said Moxie, an Ohio native who spent the past few seasons running the show at Lugoff-Elgin.
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“We have a chance to have a very good showing at state.”
McMillan, the reigning heavyweight champion, brings a 26-7 season record to state. Last week, his dramatic pin of Donald Fawcett in the final bout clinched the team title for CN.
Pennington (25-10) was the 113 winner a year ago. Mikula (19-14) is looking to secure his second straight title at 120.
Ham, a sophomore transfer from Lugoff-Elgin, has gone 30-0 in his first SCISA season and is heavy favorite for gold at 182 pounds.
Bernie Herbkersman (26-7), Matt Hayes (24-7), Garrett McNerney (14-12), Nate Pettit (22-6) and Nick Winterstein (18-9) are also title contenders. Herbkersman is looking to break a string of three straight losses in state title bouts. Hayes was the runner-up at 106 a year ago. McNerney was the consolation champ at 170.
If nothing else, Hammond hopes to come away with more gold medals than their archrivals.
The Skyhawk stars are returning champions Gantt Castles, Ray Castles, Lang Phillips and Calhoun McDougall. Gantt Castles, a junior, is shooting for his fifth straight championship, his second in a row at 126. Ray Castles beat Hayes in the 106-pound finale a year ago and the two could clash again at 113. Castles beat Hayes, 6-3, at last week’s team title meet. Phillips won at 145 last season and was second at 126 in 2012. McDougall has three medals on his resume, including his first gold strike last season at 195.
Junior Cody Sims, a two-time state runner-up (at 182 and 170), is looking for his first big prize in the 220 weight class.
Otherwise, Ben Lippen and Heathwood Hall have title hopefuls.
Sophomore Cullen Carlin and senior Jon Howell are Ben Lippen’s top contenders. Carlin was the 220 winner last season. Howell has one last chance for gold after claiming silver and bronze medals in previous outings.
Heathwood Hall’s best shop figures to be at 145 pounds with top-ranked Reed Pansegrau.