The Class 4A state wrestling playoffs debut a new format on Saturday. The championship is still determined by dual matches, but the first two rounds will be four-team affairs hosted by the eight region champions around the state.
Lugoff-Elgin, White Knoll and Sumter will serve as host teams.
Lugoff-Elgin, ranked No. 3 by scmat.com, makes its Class 4A postseason debut. The Region 4 champion Demons, who won the Class 3A state championship last season in Evan Moxie’s first season as head coach, wrestle Spartanburg at noon. Dorman and Woodmont square off in the other first round bout. The winners meet in the second round bout later in the afternoon.
L-E’s individual standouts to date include region champions Chris Renfroe (119), Tony Murphy (125), Alonzo Grant (135), Will Connell (171) and Theo Shepard (215). Parker Singleton (145) and Zach Connell (189) were region runner-ups. Shepard is ranked No. 1 individually at 215.
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The Demons have a glorious postseason resume, boasting a 46-11 report card in the Class 3A state playoffs since the start of the dual match format in 1994 with eight appearances in the finals and five state titles. L-E has never lost in the first round.
Region 5 champion White Knoll, enters the playoffs with a 30-3 dual match record at the No. 2 spot in the polls behind Hillcrest. The Timberwolves take on Midlands rival Ridge View in the first round at 1 p.m. Wando meets Conway in the other first round outing. The winners tangle at approximately 3 p.m.
David Smith (112), Austin Lee (125), Kevin Epting (135), Jamal Lackey (145), Zach Dicus (152), Phillip Austin (189) and heavyweight Asa Gossett are the Timberwolves individual region champions.
“Thus far, we’ve had a very successful season with few setbacks,” said WK coach Kevin Emily. “My hope is that we continue to stay focused and make the necessary adjustments to help us achieve our goal of winning a state championship.”
The T-Wolves are 6-9 in playoff matters through the years with the best showings behind runs to the third round in 2007 and 2009 (in Emily’s first season in charge). WK suffered a first-round loss to traditional power Summerville last season.
Region 6 champion Sumter (20-11) faces Richland Northeast at noon. Summerville and Orangeburg-Wilkinson meet in the other first round match. The host Gamecocks, who are ranked No. 11 by scmat.com, have won six straight first-round outings, but have never made it past the second round.
Lexington, Dutch Fork and Irmo hit the road.
Fifth-ranked Lexington (27-6) and Irmo will be at Stratford. Irmo meets the host Knights, who ranked one spot higher in the scmat.com 4A poll at No. 14, in a first round match. The Wildcats square off against Beaufort.
Region 5 champions Jackson Myers (103), Russell Taylor (119), Walker Barfield (130), Caleb Brack (140), Daniel Bannister (160) and Alex Morales (171) headline the Lexington lineup. Morales is the reigning 171-pound state champion.
Lexington sports a 24-17 dual match playoff record, and has been a major player in recent years. The Wildcats have advanced at least to the third round six times in eight tries since 2003. Lexington’s last first round loss was in 1999.
Irmo’s top men are Region 4 champs Louis Biles (103), Blane Bryant (140), Bobby Modzell (145), Aaron Bell (152), Brandon Corley (160), T.J. Dudley (189) and heavyweight Myles Gardner.
Dudley, who is looking to defend his 189 state title, stands at 37-0 with 27 pins and three technical falls. He was named the Region 4 wrestler of the year.
Irmo’s all-time dual match playoff mark is 20-18. The Yellow Jackets have been in a slump of late – suffering first round exits three times in the last four years.
Dutch Fork (15-12) opens against Gaffney at Hillcrest at 11:30 a.m. The Silver Foxes are 33-15 with one state championship on the books, and have lost in the first round only once in 16 playoff appearances. The lone opening stumble happened in the program’s first postseason match in 1995.
Region champions Bryson Meier (112) and A.J, Finley are the top DF individuals.
The playoffs continue next week in the old manner. Third and fourth round matches are set for Monday and Wednesday.
The state championship matches in all four classifications will take place on Feb. 12 at Dreher.