Lexington and White Knoll will have the highest Midlands profile at the Class 4A traditional state tournament this weekend at Rock Hill High.
The neighboring rivals both have six wrestlers entered in the season-ending event that will crown individual champions in 14 weight classes. Tournament team scores will be tallied, but are not officially recognized by the High School League.
Lexington’s top title contender is junior Alex Morales, who claimed a Lower State title last week and enters the finals as the No. 1 ranked man at 160 pounds. Morales was a fourth-place finisher at 160 a year ago.
Joining Morales are Wildcats teammates Russell Taylor (103), Steven Steinbacher (112), Garrett Corbett (119), Scott Tyndale (125) and D.J. Crawford (189). Steinbacher, Corbett and Tyndale are also making return trips to state. Steinbacher was the consolation champ at 103 last season and Corbett finished fourth at 103 in 2008.
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The White Knoll contingent features first-time qualifiers Chris Jefferies (21-19 at 112), Jamal Lackey (40-8 at 130), Zack Dicus (28-7 at 140), Chad Lee (31-13 at 152), Phillip Austin (35-10 at 171) and Asa Gossett (32-12 at 215).
Dutch Fork heavyweight Marshall Williams figures to be the other Midlands headliner. Williams stands at 45-0 in his quest for a second straight 285-pount championship. He is the first DF wrestler to win a state title at the heavyweight position is looking to become the seventh wrestler in program history to retire with at least two state championships on the books.
Colin Studemeyer (38-7 at 130) and John Brannigan (34-4 at 135) are theDutch Fork entries. Studemeyer is making his first trip to state, while Brannigan had the cut for the third year in a row. Brannigan was a fourth-place finished at 125 last year.
Sumter and Irmo have four qualifiers apiece.
Matt Devine (41-13 at 130), Hayden Raabe (45-10 at 145), Trevor Jahnke (48-7 at 215) and Josh O'Connor (50-4 at 285) are the Gamecocks state entries. Jahnke, the Lower State runner-up, probably has have the best shot at a place finish.
Irmo’s Kyle Manross, a state runner-up at 119 a year ago, has one last shot at state glory this weekend. He was the Lower State runner-up at 130 last week. Louis Biles (103), Aaron Bell (145) and sophomore standout T.J. Dudley (171) are the other Yellow Jackets state entries. Dudley, ranked No. 1 by scmat.com, is the man to beat at 171. He placed fourth at state at the same weight as a freshman.
Spring Valley senior Nate Weaver (37-5 at 215) rounds out the Midlands state field.