Region 4-3A heavyweights Lugoff-Elgin and Chapin have one last meaningful duel on tap this weekend at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament at Rock Hill. The Demons are moving up to the 4A ranks next season, meaning the teams will not be region or playoff rivals for at least the next two seasons.
The Demons defeated the Eagles twice in dual setting this season. L-E prevailed 33-29 in the regular season to lock down the region championship. The Demons then mastered Chapin again in the playoffs, rolling to a 34-22 win in the Upper State championship match on the way to securing their first state title in seven years.
The rivalry continues this weekend, though the team points earned at the state tournament are strictly unofficial, at least in the eyes of the High School League. The Eagles, however, would like nothing more than to outscore the reigning champs in the last event of the season.
Lugoff-Elgin came out of last week’s Upper State qualifying meet at Eastside with seven survivors, while Chapin had six.
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Though the latest Demons vs. Eagles duel is of interest, the primary focus of the state tournament will be the crowning of individual state champions in 14 weight classes. Lugoff-Elgin and Chapin both have one returning state champion in the field, along with several other contenders.
L-E junior Will Connell and Chapin junior Stuart Hope are both ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes as they embark on their quests for a second straight gold medal. Connell, who is at 171 pounds again this year, brings a 29-3 record to state, while Hope is 52-0 at 112 after claiming 103-pound honors last season.
Connell’s brother, Ben, is one of only nine wrestlers in state history to win four state championships.
Otherwise, Chapin’s Nate Polly (44-4 at 130), Lugoff-Elgin’s Alonzo Grant (39-11 at 140) and Max Fowler (44-4 at 189) and Airport’s Chris Phillips (215) are considered to be the Midlands’ other prime state title contenders.
Polly is a two-time state qualifier and state place finisher who has 130 career wins on his resume. He was a fourth-place finisher at 112 at the 4A level as a freshman while he was attending Lexington, and was the runner-up at 125 in his Chapin debut a year ago.
Grant and Fowler are ranked No. 2 in their respective weight classes by scmat.com. Both qualified for state last season, but did not place.
Phillips, also ranked No. 2 by scmat.com, is looking for his first state championship in third state tournament appearances. The Eagles senior was the consolation champ at 215 last season after making the cut at the same weight as a sophomore but failing to place.
Lugoff-Elgin’s Stephen Bonaparte (29-7 at 160) and Swansea’s Kyle Livingston (112) are the other returning state place finishers among Midlands entries. Bonaparte took consolation honors at 160 a year ago, while Livingston was fourth at 112. Livingston qualified but did not place at 112 as a sophomore.
The rest of the Midlands qualifying cast includes:
Lugoff-Elgin - Tony Murphy (38-10 at 125), Will Myers (28-15 at 140), Theo Sheppard (37-9 at 215).
Chapin - Chase Owens (49-7 at 135), Cody Brundage (30-6 at 145), Scott Swindell (52-3 at 152), Cory Cromer (42-5 at 189).
Airport - Antoine Kelly (160), Sam McClellan (189), Austin Burchfield (285).
Camden - Jeremy Huggins (24-14 at 145), Brayan Mendez (32-7 at 160).
Swansea - Brandon Manaa (152).
Dreher – Chris Bloch (26-11 at 125).