A total of 43 Midlands wrestlers, including four state champions, have qualified for the season-ending traditional state tournament this weekend at the Anderson Civic Center.
First-round action begins on Friday with staggered staring times – Class 2A at 5 p.m. Class 3A at 6:30 p.m. and Class 3A at 8 p.m. Semifinals, championship finals and consolation sessions are on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.
The official purpose of the tournament is to crown individual state champions. The wrestling coaches association recognizes the team champions, as well.
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Recently crowned 4A state champion Lexington headlines the Midlands contingent with nine qualifiers including reigning state champions Jackson Myers and Nate Meagher. Both are entered at the same weights they were at a year ago. Myers enters the 113-pound competition with a 48-0 record, while Meagher sports a 38-4 mark in his quest to repeat as the 220 champion. Myers and Meagher hope to join an exclusive club in program history. Only two other Wildcat grapplers earned the distinction of being a multiple state champion. Clay Cavanaugh is at the apex of the program hierarchy with three state titles (1992-94). Teammate Lincoln Glover was a two-time winner (1992-93). Myers, a junior, has a chance to match Cavanaugh’s haul. Myers is ranked No. 1 by scmat.com, but Meagher is No. 2 behind Midlands rival Allen Jenerette. Myers was a fourth-placer finisher as a freshman at 103. Meagher qualified but did not place at 215 as a sophopmore.
The rest of the Lexington qualifying cast includes Andrew Szalwinski (31-2 at 120), Blake Risinger (35-10 at 126), Brandon Shepherd (44-8 at 138), Walker Barfield (34-3 at 145), Dacus Fenchel (32-15 at 170), Andrew Carnes (36-13 at 195) and Joey Perrotta (30-9 at 285).
Szalwinski and Barfield, like Myers and Meagher, are three-time state qualifiers. Szalwinski was a state runner-up at 113 last season, while Barfield was a consolation champ with a third-place finish at 138. Risinger was a fourth-place finisher at 120 a year ago.
Shepherd, Fenchel, Carnes and Perrotta are first-time qualifiers.
Lexington was the team winner last season.
Lugoff-Elgin and Dutch Fork have four qualifiers each.
L-E’s state lineup includes Chris Jackson (39-8 at 120), Kahlil Cooke (31-15 at 132), Jerelle Hannah (44-7 at 182) and Jenerette (44-3 at 220). Hannah was a state champion at 160 pounds ib Class 2A as a freshman in 2010 while wrestling at Chesterfield. Jenerette was the consolation champ at 220 a year ago.
Parker Grizzle (53-4 at 132), Josh Davis (12-2 at 138), Justin Mitchell (34-9 at 145) and Antoine Hammond (41-5 at 160) are Dutch Fork reps. Grizzle and Hammond were state qualifiers last year but did not place.
White Knoll advances three first-time qualifiers in Rian Burris (28-12 at 106), Emil Colin (25-12 at 126) and Patton Gossett (27-5 at 285).
Spring Valley’s Kyle Stiffler (30-3, 26 pins at 138) and Irmo’s C.J. Riley (160) are the other Midlands big-school qualifiers. Stiffler was named the Region 4-4A wrestler of the year.
The big Midlands story here is Gilbert, which has the area’s largest qualifying crew in its first year in 3A.
The Indians crew features undefeated Nathan Brazell (38-0 at 106), Madison Leitner (32-3 at 113), J.P. Moody (35-7 at 120), Austin Shealy (28-8 at 145) and Chris Dyer (36-1 at 195). Brazell, Leitner and Dyer are all three-time state qualifiers. Leitner was a state champion at 103 pounds as a freshman in 2011. He is still the only state champion in program history. Brazell and Dyers were consolation champs last season at 106 and 170, respectively.
Keyante Bush (113), Derrick Frazier (120), Chris Bloch (152) and Jason Carter (160) are the Dreher qualifiers. Frazier and Block are three-time state entries. Block was the consolation champ at 145 last season. The Blue Devils haven’t had a state champion since 1998 or a state finalist since 2004.
Airport and Swansea have three qualifiers apiece.
Austin Watters (40-7 at 106), Rashad McRea (37-5 at 152) and Richard Davis (32-9 at 195) are the Airport entries, while Dylan Crossland (126), Jalen Wilson (138) and Devin Johnson (285) are the Swansea representatives. Crossland is the only state tournament veteran with an appearance at 126 pounds in 2A last season.
The other local entries in the classification include
Austin Brown (37-9 at 138) and Nick Martini (39-7 at 152) of Chapin, Deonta Patterson (113) and Cory Jumpp (220) of Brookland Cayce, Donato Pelzer (30-3, 21 pins at 220) of A.C. Flora and Lower Richland’s Rickey Hagood (20-5 at 285).
There are five local entries in the small-school brackets – three from Columbia and two from Keenan.
D.J. Fling (21-10 at 138), Louis Wilson (30-3 at 152) and Darious Collins (17-15 at 182) are the Columbia reps, while Jermale Matthews (35-10 at 220) and Morris Williams (35-8 at 285) are the Keenan qualifiers. All five are making their state tournament debuts.