A total of 12 Midlands wrestlers have qualified for the Class 2A state tournament this weekend at the Civic Center of Anderson.
The event is officially recognized as an individual-only championship event by the High School League, but the coaches association compiles team points in the tradition tournament format recognizes the winner.
Two state champions are among the local contingent – Gilbert’s Madison Leitner and Columbia’s Mikael Nelson. Leitner (36-6) was the winner as a freshman at 103 last season, but has a tough task in the 113-pound weight class that features five returning state place winners, including Aynor’s Ethan Nobles and Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s Malcom Jones, who finished first and third, respectively at 112 a year ago. Nelson hasn’t been very active this season as his 10-1 season record attests, but he has a chance to become the school’s first two-time winner, this time at 126 after his triumph as a sophomore at 119.
Here is the team-by-team breakdown:
Columbia – Nelson’s title bid isn’t the only noteworthy aspect for the Capitals. Seniors Randy Medina (26-5) and Nate Harper (35-) hope to go out on high notes. Medina is a three-time state qualifier with a 127-33 career record, but is still looking for a first-ever place finish. He gets his last shot at 120 pounds. Harper finished second at 140 a year ago and is the Capitals career leader with 141 wins in 179 bouts. He’s at 145 this time, but so is Bambergh-Ehrhardt’s Player Long, who beat Haper in the 140 final last season. The Caps have a number of precedent-establishing possibilities this weekend – producing a winner for the third time in a row, and having a two-time winner for the first and having multiple state champions for the first time.
Gilbert – Leitner is the Indians heradliner. He will be joined by state veteran Chris Dyer (35-5) at 170 and first-timer Nathan Brazel (34-7) at 106.
Swansea – The Region 5 champion Tigers are sending three to state – senior co-captains Ben Dawson (145) and Anthony Lewis (195) and sophomore Dylan Crossland. Dawson and Lewis and three-year varsity vets and first-time qualifiers. Dawson has a 26-12 record with a team-high 14 pins. Lewis stands at 17-5. Second-year man Crossland has compiled 27-8 record with eight pins.
b>Pelion – The Panthers qualified an interesting pair – Barry Padgett at the lightest weight (106) and heavyweight Nathan Middleswarth. Padgett is 27-11 with 11 pins, while Middleswarth stands at 23-14 with 13 pins.
Eau Claire – Senior Carlos Dubois has had an interesting first year in the sport, going 23-1 at 182 pounds and enters his first state tournament ranked No. 3 by scmat.com. Dubois hopes to continue wrestling in college, perhaps close to home at either Newberry or The Citadel.