Socastee built momentum in the higher weight classes, took a key win a matchup between a pair of top-ranked wrestlers and cruised into the Lower State duals final with a 42-33 win over Berkeley on Monday.
Zac Mor started off the match with a major decision at 195 pounds, then Joe Smoleski (220 pounds) and Kyle Barton, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in Class AAA at 285, both earned pins to put Socastee (23-6) up 16-0 early.
The most high-profile match of the night saw Socastee senior Mikel Nelson, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, outlast the Stags’ D’Andra Robinson, ranked No. 2, for 2-1 win at 120 pounds.
Socastee coach Jeff Gibbons said he and Berkeley coach Earnest Houston discussed not having Nelson and Robinson meet because it could have a significant impact on seeding for the upcoming Lower State individual tournament.
“It’s a touch and go, but I think [Houston] felt like his team needed some momentum there at that point, and it worked out in our favor,” Gibbons said.
Justin Knipper, ranked No. 2 in the state at 106 pounds, earned a pin over Austin King in 2:33, and Jordan Hodge picked up a technical fall at 113 pounds.
The Stags (20-16) finally picked up a win when Dominick Gadsen (126) took a 7-4 decision over the Braves’ Koy Mai before Cameron Amann’s pin at 132 gave Socastee a 36-3 lead and set up Adam Powalie at 138 pounds for a chance to lock up the victory.
“We knew at that point that if we pinned, we pretty much had it going,” Gibbons said. “…Even though it was quite possibly the last match, I don’t think it changed anything. You try to win them all.”
Powalie pinned the Stags’ Julian Robinson in 3:38, locking up a trip to the Lower State final in the program’s history.
“[Powalie has] kind of struggled throughout the year, but when we’ve needed him, he’s come up big,” Gibbons said. “He sealed it for us at St. James with a big pin … and he sealed it right there for us to advance to the Lower State championship.”
The Braves, the fifth-ranked team in Class AAA, travel to Hanahan at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the state championship.