Lexington advanced to the Class 4A state championship wrestling match for the third year in a row by dispatching visiting Summerville 33-25 on Wednesday in the Lower State final.
The second-ranked Wildcats (27-2) are 0-for-3 all-time in state title bouts, but get another shot at glory on Saturday at Dreher.
“After the Beaufort match (on Monday), we told the guys to take the pressure off themselves and just go out and wrestle,” Wildcats coach Derek Strobel said. “We are at our best and are a tough team to beat when we don’t put a lot of extra weight on our shoulders. Tonight, we were very relaxed and very confident and we’ll try to do the same on Saturday.”
Lexington defeated Summerville by a nearly identical score (38-23) in the championship match of the U.S. Military Duals in early January.
The Wildcats had nine wins in 15 bouts in the first meeting. The yield was eight this time, but Lexington forfeited at 126 and 132 pounds after Andy Szalwinski clinched the win with a 5-0 decision at 120.
That’s not to say the Wildcats romped to the win.
Summerville won three of the first five bouts to take a 9-6 lead and seemed on the verge of a big win at 182 before Michael Manning pulled off a stunning pin after nearly being pinned himself early in the second period.
Manning beat Austin Walters 9-1 in the first meeting of the two, but Walters had a 7-1 lead before Manning got out of trouble in a big way — getting off his back with a reversal, flipping Walters over in one, swift move. The fall came at 3:51.
“That was a killer,” Summerville coach Darryl Tucker said.
“It was a 12-point swing that took a lot of life out of us and gave them the momentum on their home mat.”
Strobel has seen this before from Manning.
“Michael’s a fighter — a kid who never gives us no matter the situation,” the Wildcats coach said.
“He can get himself into trouble like he did tonight, but he just keeps coming at you.”
Manning’s rally started a decisive run of six Lexington wins over the next seven bouts, including pins by stars Nate Meagher (220) and Jackson Myers (113).
Brandon Shepherd (138), Alex Mayrides (160), Andrew Carnes (195) and Joey Perrotta (285) also contributed decisions to the cause.
Now, the Wildcats are gearing up to pull off the program’s first signature accomplishment.
Lexington will square off against top-ranked Rock Hill, which ended the two-year reign of Hillcrest with a 34-30 win in the Upper State final.
138: Brandon Shepherd (L) dec. Daniel Smith 6-5. 145: Chad Wood (S) dec. Walker Barfield 7-5. 152: Anthony Collins (S) dec. Cole Simpson 8-3. 160: Alex Mayrides (L) dec. Corey Morgan 3-0. 170: Kyle Sullivan (S) dec. Dacus Fenchel 4-3. 182: Michael Manning (L) pinned Austin Walters 3:51. 195: Andrew Carnes (L) dec. Adam Blocker 7-3. 220: Nate Meagher (L) pinned Julian Gibbs 1:15. 285: Joey Perrotta (L) dec. Wesley Privette 1-0. 106: James Sass (S) dec. Jared Elliott 17-4. 113: Jackson Myers (L) pinned Justin Connelly 3:51. 120: Andy Szalwinski (L) dec. Tyler Fachko 5-0. 126: Gavin Perkins (S) won by forfeit. 132: Marc Templeton (S) won by forfeit.