White Knoll is off to a fast start in its third wrestling season under coach Kevin Emily. The Timberwolves, who are ranked No. 5 in Class 4A by scmat.com, is 2-0 in dual matches and finish in fourth place at the elite Southern Slam tournament hosted by Eastside.
“We're looking for our most successful year yet and there is no doubt that we are off to a great start,” said Emily, who is 44-22 is two seasons at the WK helm.
The T-Wolves finished in fourth-place at the massive Southern Slam event, which is the largest wrestling tournament in South Carolina. The tournament attracted 37 teams from five states this year. White Knoll finished with 171.5 team points, just one half point behind third-place Fort Mill – the No. 1 team in Class 3A. WK did not fill two of the 13 weight classes.
Junior Asa Gossett, who went 35-16 and was a state qualified at 215 last season, was the individual star, going 4-0 to win the heavyweight championship. He nipped Patrick Benson of tournament champion Bradley Central (TN) 2-1 in the title bout.
Senior Phillip Austin, junior Jamal Lackey, sophomore Jacob Poston, senior Zach Dicus and Josh Phillips also placed.
Austin, who was 39-14 and was the state runner-up at 171 last season, had a 4-1 Slam performance at 189 pounds, dropping a tough 2-0 decision in the championship final to Fort Mill’s Nick Sinicrope, a old foe. Sinicrope rebounded from a first-round loss to Austin at the state tournament last year to take consolation honors at 171.
Lackey grabbed a third-place finish at 152 with a fine performance – five wins in six matches. An 11-7 loss to Fort Mill’s Jonathan Miskelly (who won the 145 title in 4A last season) kept Lackey from a berth in the title bout. Lackey is coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign that produced a 49-11 record and a consolation state championship at 135 pounds.
Poston, an impressive youngster, turned in a 5-2 report card and earned a fourth-place finish at 171. Dicus, 35-11 at the fourth-place state finisher at 140 a year ago, went 3-3 and finished sixth at 160. Phillips was perhaps the surprise of the day for the T-Wolves. He got off to a 2-0 start, finished at 3-3 and finished in eighth place at 140.
The WK Southern Slam lineup also featured returning starters David Smith (who was 22-11last season), Chris Jeffries (26-22 and a state qualifier at 112), Austin Lee (32-21), Kevin Epting (27-15), Cody Shirley (16-10) and James Moore (20-15).
Smith, Dicus and Austin are the only senior regulars.
Poston and freshmen Ryan Woodard and Larz Williams are the newcomers to watch.
“Our team looks very solid from top to bottom this year,” said Emily. “Over the past two seasons we have made steady progress with a core group of wrestlers that are now mostly juniors. Our training and mentality this year is very different than before. There is more structure, more discipline, and more focus, and I have asked the guys to make weekly goals instead of end of the season goals.”
White Knoll hosts Sumter and Bamberg-Ehrhardt on Wednesday and travels to the Grand Stand this weekend for the Outback Invitational hosted by North Myrtle Beach.