Cardinal Newman and Hammond dominated the SCISA individual state wrestling tournament that closed out the season on Feb. 4 at Orangeburg Prep.
The top two independent school programs produced 10 of the 14 solo winners with six members of the four-time champion Cardinals coming home with gold medals.
But the area headline story was turned in by Hammond senior Gervais Baker who closed out a stellar career by winning his four solo title, this time at 120 pounds. His previous triumphs came at 125 as a junior, 112 as a sophomore and 103 as a freshman.
Cardinal Newman’s parade of champions began with senior Cole McCarter at 126 pounds. It was the fourth time McCarter reached the finals at various weights and his second championship. He was the 112 winner a year ago.
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Nathan Hayes, Thomas Touma, Matt Wilson, Nick Palevich and Billy Solomon also returned to the winner’s circle.
Palevich retired as a three-time champion after prevailing at 160. His two prior titles were at 152 pounds.
Hayes, Touma and Solomon all earned gold medals in 2010 but came up short last year. Hayes struck gold again at 132 after winning at 119 as a freshman. Touma closed out his career as a four-time state place winner – two gold, one silver, one bronze. He claimed 145-pound honors in his last prep match. His first state win was at 125 as a sophomore. Solomon, who finished third last season after winning at 189 as a sophomore, went out on top after finishing first at 220.
Ray Castles, Gantt Castles and Matthew Kay were Hammond’s other state champs. Ray Castles claimed his first gold medal at 106 pounds, replacing his brother Gantt who was the light-weight winner in 2011 and 2010. Gantt Castles, who is still only a freshman, secured his third state title at 113 this time around. Kay, a senior who retires with five state place finishes, claimed his second state championship – his first in four years. He was the 103 winner as an eighth-grader in 2008. Kay returned to the top at 138 after finishing second for three years in a row (140 in 2011, 119 in 2010, 112 in 2009).
Heathwood Hall’s Harrison Penndarves and Ben Lippen’s Uriah Stillinger were the other Midlands champs. Penndarves closed out an outstanding career with his three straight heavyweight triumph. He was the heavyweight runner-up as a freshman in 2009. Stillinger, who is also a senior, earned gold at 195 after a win at 189 a year ago.