State place winners
After the state individual wrestling tournament was finished Saturday, Waccamaw came away with its very first state champion.
The Warriors’ John Van Slooten claimed the 145-pound Class A/AA crown and was among four area wrestlers to bring titles back to the Grand Strand.
“It was pretty good,” Waccamaw coach Scott Cook said of the day. “We had four come up and two placed. It’s a pretty good day for our first state wrestling championship.”
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Van Slooten didn’t have a single problem and pinned his way to his third straight state championship and an undefeated season (41-0).
“He handled it very well,” Cook said of his wrestler. “He has matured greatly. He has turned into a pretty good young man. We are just real excited.”
Socastee had a great ride back to Myrtle Beach as it had two Class AAA state champions in Justin Knipper (106-pounds) and Mikel Nelson (120-pounds). Georgetown’s Jalil Smith was the other AAA champ from the area at 220 pounds.
Knipper and Nelson each finished the season with 45 wins.
“They both made a deal that they had to win it,” Braves coach Jeff Gibbins said of his champions, “because they both have the all-time wins record and also state championships.”
Knipper had to beat the Upper State’s Nos. 1 and 3 seeds en route to setting up a rematch with Gilbert’s Nathan Brazell, who Knipper lost to in the Lower State tournament.
“I lost to him at Lower State, so I had to get my revenge,” Knipper said. “It was good. I lost to him but I was dominating the whole match so I knew I could get him the next time.”
Nelson easily advanced to the semifinals with a major decision and then had two-point victories in the semifinals and finals.
“I’m very excited,” Nelson said. “It was my last year so I had to go out with a bang.”
Socastee had five wrestlers make it to the state tournament and four place. Zach Mor (185-pounds) and Kyle Burton (220-pounds) finished third in their respective weight classes. In the end, the Braves finished third in team scores with 65 points.
“Our kids have worked hard,” Gibbins said. “They did a wonderful job.”
Smith represented his school nicely, as well.
“I’m extremely proud,” Bulldogs coach Sean Griffin said. “He wrestled really well in all of his matches. I’m really, really impressed with how he wrestled over the past two days.”
Smith pinned his way to the semifinals in 1:11 over Chapman’s Gabriel Clark, which set up an all-Lower State semifinal with Burton, which Smith won 8-6 in overtime.
“I told him going into the match, ‘Its going to be a big match,’ ” Griffin said. “It came down to overtime and he sucked it up and did what he had to do.”
Smith then pinned the Upper State No. 1 seed in Temaris Dixon in 4:28.
“I had to win,” Smith said. “My parents weren’t here, so I wanted to come back home with the win. They are going to be excited. I can’t imagine the look on their face when I show up with this medal.”
The Grand Strand fell just short of having nine state champions with five other wrestlers finishing in second.
Aynor’s Andrew Scruggs dropped a 5-3 decision to Buford’s Dylan Altman in the Class A/AA 132-pound finals. Myrtle Beach’s Joseph Desjardins (39-1) suffered his first loss of the season in the Class AAA 152-pound finals with a 4-2 decision to Dreher’s Chris Bloch. St. James’ De’eante Salaam came up short 19-4 via tech fall against Hanahan’s Dennis Flores in the Class AAA 170-pound final.
“He was wrestling a stud in Dennis Flores,” Sharks coach Matt Anderson said of the matchup. “We were very, very proud of him he did a great job.”
North Myrtle Beach’s Eric Baker made it to the 182-pound finals, where he lost in a 8-7 ultimate tiebreaker against Eastside’s Michael Fernandez. Conway’s Chris Ford was one of three Tigers who qualified for the state tournament. Ford was the lone place winner when he finished second in the 195-pound class.