White Knoll’s Phillip Austin and Jamal Lackey came away with medals at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament last weekend in Rock Hill.
Austin capped a 37-11 junior season with a second-place finish at 171 pounds, losing 7-0 to Midlands rival T.J. Dudley of Irmo in the state title bout. In the process, he became the seventh state finalist in program history. Two-time state champion Brian Wolfe (the only state champ in school history) is the only Timber Wolf to make it to the finals two times. Austin opened with a 7-0 win over Nick Sinicrope of Fort Mill and advanced to the championship round with a 6-4 win over Beaufort’s Alex Armaya in the semifinals.
Lackey, a sophomore, had a strong showing at 135, going 3-1 to claim the consolation title (third place). Lackey, who finished with a 43-9 record, bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to Summerville’s Eli Ashby to go 3-0 in the consolation bracket. He beat Mauldin’s Matt Courter 5-2 in the third-place finale.
“I'm extremely proud of Phillip because he maintained a positive attitude the entire year and worked hard no matter what,” said WK coach kevin Emily. “On three different occasions I bumped him up to 189 in order for us to get much needed points and every time he answered the bell with a victory. You have to respect a guy that gives up almost 20 pounds and still wins. He had a fantastic state tournament.”
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Emily was especially pleased with the showing by Lackey, who he has coached for a long time.
“It meant the world to me to see him get up on that medal stand because I’ve coached him since the second grade and have had the please to watch him grow into a fine young man,” he said.
“He beat 3 seniors with a combined record of 85-12. One of the guys had beat him in the region finals and another one had beat him 21-5 earlier in the year.”
Otherwise Chad Lee (152) and Asa Gossett (215) both went 1-2 at state, while Chris Jefferies (103) and Zach Dicus (140) went 0-2. Lee closed with a 32-15 record, Gossett finished 33-14, Jefferies ended 21-12 and Dicus checked out at 28-9.
Emily’s second season at White Knoll is now on the books, and he is pleased with the state of affairs.
I think we had a very successful year,” he said.
“We started the year off great with a victory over Fort Mill and we used that win as a launching pad for a great season. We placed in the top three in six of the eight tournaments we entered, which is a huge improvement over last year. After our first round loss in the playoffs, we rebounded with a great performance at the region tournament.
“We continued with that success at Lower State where we came away with six state qualifiers. That's the most White Knoll has ever had. Every wrestler in our room played a major roll in our success this year and we have built a solid foundation for next year. The kids worked extremely hard and showed up everyday ready to give it their all. We have five out of the 6 state qualifiers coming back and both state placers will return. The nucleus of the team plans to compete in the off-season at several folkstyle and freestyle tournaments to get ready for next year. This is a very special group of young men. I'm expecting big things out of them next year.”