There are a number of intriguing Midlands storylines at this weekend’s Class 4A state wrestling tournament at Civic Center of Anderson.
The most interesting ones center around four seniors – Irmo’s T.J. Dudley, Lugoff-Elgin’s Zach Connell and the White Knoll duo of Jamal Lackey and Asa Gossett.
Dudley is heavily favored to win at 195 pounds. If so, he will become the school’s first three-time state champion and ring up his second straight undefeated season. Dudley is the Irmo and Midlands career leader in wins (192) and pins (114). Only two other Midlands wrestlers have two undefeated seasons on their resumes – Lugoff-Elgin’s Ryan McClester and Spring Valley’s Troy Thompson. The all-time Yellow Jackets great enters state this season with a 63-0 record including 58 pins.
Connell is the last in the line of the fabled Lugoff-Elgin wrestling family. Brothers Ben, Campbell and Will have a combined total of seven state championships on the books with Ben’s run of four (1997-2000) clearly in the forefront. Zach has one last chance to follow the family’s golden tradition. He brings a 39-3 season record to the quest at 182 pounds.
Seniors Lackey and Gossett look to bow out in style. Lackey and Gossett earned gold medals a year ago. Lackey was a consolation champion at at 135, as well, as a sophomore, Lackey is 53-4 with 44 pins at 160 this season and sports a 156-20 career record. Gossett’s second season at heavyweight features a 51-5 record and 40 pins. His career record is 153-21.
The team- by-team outlook:
Lexington – The Wildcats finished second to Hillcrest against in the official state playoffs a few weeks ago, and hope to have a better showing at the traditional state tournament than a year ago when they finished 11th in the unofficially team point standings. Lexington brings seven to state, including top contenders Jackson Myers (45-1 at 106) and Nate Meagher (45-2 at 220). Andy Szalwinski (39-4 at 113), Blake Risinger (30-12 at 120), Cody Bonham (38-5 at 126), Walker Barfield (39-8 at 138) and Caleb Brack (41-10 at 152) round out the Wildcat contingent. Myers placed fourth at 103 a year ago. Szalwinski, Bonham, Barfield and Brack also qualified last season, but did not place.
White Knoll – The Timberwolves matched Lexington’s bounty seven qualifiers In addition to Lackey and Gossett, freshman Austin Palmer (25-21 with 16 pins at 106), senior Austin Lee (42-15 at 138), sophomore Liam Smith (21-18 at 152), senior Jake Beckett (39-10 at 182 with 19 pins) and junior D.J. Taylor (28-20 at 195 with 15 pins) made the cut.
Lugoff-Elgin – Junior Allen Jenerette (45-4 with 38 pins) and junior heavyweight Joey Counts (32-14 with 25 pins) join Connell as the only other Demon qualifiers.
Irmo – Dudley isn’t the only Yellow Jackets entry of note. Fellow seniors Louis Biles (53-9 at 113) and Brandon Corley (44-2 at 170) are in line for solid career-ending performances. Corley was a fourth-place man at 160. Biles is a two-time state qualifier looking to place for the first time.
Dutch Fork – Freshman Parker Grizzle (20-6 at 138), senior John Arthur Miller (28-10 at 138), junior Antoine Hammond (31-9 at 152) and junior Auntrelle Mack (7-2 at 285) are the Silver Foxes entries. All are first-time qualifiers.
Richland NE – Senior Brandon Benitez is the lone Cavaliers qualifier at 138 pounds. He brings a 53-5 season record and a 121-38 career mark to his first state tournament appearance.