Defending state champion Lexington leads the Midlands contingent into the Class 4A state wrestling playoffs that begin Saturday at various sites.
Lexington and Lugoff-Elgin host four-team, two-round events. White Knoll, Spring Valley, Dutch Fork, Irmo and Richland Northeast will be in action on the road.
Lexington, champions of Region 4, squares off against RNE in an all-Midlands first-round match. Bluffton takes on Goose Creek in other first-round match. The early winners then tangle in a second-round bout.
The Wildcats (26-6) are ranked No. 3 in the big-school division by scmat.com. Seniors Jackson Myers, Andrew Szalwinski, Daniel Bannister, Trev Comstock and Andrew Carnes and junior Michael Manning are the LHS headliners.
Jackson and Szalwinski are defending state individual champs. Jackson, who is ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds, is looking to become the third three-time gold medallist is school history – matching the feat by Clay Cavanaugh (1992-94). Jackson’s previous wins came at 113 last season and 106 in 2012. Szalwinski is shooting for a title at132 after prevailing at 120 a year ago. He was the 113 runner-up in 2012.
Bannister (No. 1 at 182), Comstock (No. 3 at 145), Carnes (No. 4 at 195) and Manning (No. 3 at 170) are all contenders for medals at the individual state tournament in a couple of weeks. Bannister and Carnes were state qualifiers last season but did not place.
Lugoff-Elgin finished the regular season with a 15-19 record – the first losing grade for the once elite program in memory. But the Demons rated a host spot by winning the Region 5-4A title. L-E takes on Woodmond (16-19) in the first round with Mauldin (12-3) going against ninth-ranked Fort Mill (16-3) in the other opener.
Chris Jackson (17-2 at 126), Noah North (35-11 at 132), Andrew Mills (22-10 at 138) and Alex Todd (37-11 at 182) are the Demon standouts. Jackson is ranked No. 2 at 126 after posting a fourth-place performance at state a year ago at 120.
Seventh-ranked White Knoll (28-3) takes on Conway (18-20) at Summerville with the goal of meeting the host, second-ranked Green Wave (29-1) in the second round.
Rian Burris (29-7 at 120), Austin Palmer (31-2 at 138), Liam Smith (29-3 at 152) and Patton Gossett (34-1 at 285) are the top Timberwolves performers. Gossett is heavily favored to win his second straight heavy weight gold medal at the tradition state tournament.
Spring Valley (14-10) faces Laurens at Rock Hill with the winner likely to go against the host, top-ranked Bearcats (38-2) in the second round. Senior Brandyn Thompson (31-2 at 220) and Rene Rodriguez (30-5 at 285) are the veteran foundation of a young Vikings team.
Irmo and Dutch Fork have road trips in the Lower State bracket.
Irmo (18-29) meets Ashley Ridge (20-4) in a first-round match at Sumter. Dutch Fork (11-7) is set to face Carolina Forest in a first-round match at Wando. DJ Leonardi (56-6 at 106), Jalen Bell (53-6 at 182), AJ Robinson (37-16 at 285) Marcus Johnson (34-21 at 126) are the big guns at Irmo. Parker Grizzle (33-3 at 138), Justin Mitchell (29-2 at 145), Kelly Kircher (31-8 at 126) and Josh Davis (34-7 at 132) are the DF stars.