Palmetto State growing strong in national spotlight

02/27/2013 11:49 PM

03/11/2013 12:19 AM

SOUTH CAROLINA IS no longer an insignificant contributor in the high school sports world.

Meeting with national analysts as we vote on national team and player rankings, I maintain that the Palmetto State, which might not have the depth of talent of many states, can compete with any other state’s best.

S.C. had as many as four teams in the Top 100 football rankings, and we had four finish in that Top 100. The Greenwood Eagles, who finished 15-0 and were the Class 4A Division-II champions, ended the season at No. 24 nationally; Northwestern, who finished state runner-up behind Greenwood, finished at No. 42; the Gaffney Indians, who captured the Class 4A Division-I championship came in at No. 50; and the Byrnes Rebels, who lost to Gaffney in the playoffs, finished No. 51.

The fact that three of those teams — Northwestern, Gaffney and Byrnes — finished the season with three losses and still held spots within the top 51 teams in the country is a sign of respect from the other voters and a sign that they are realizing that the caliber of football in S.C. is high considering the state’s size.

Once basketball season started, it didn’t take long for the voters to notice the Irmo Yellow Jackets, who won preseason tournaments with impressive showings. The Jackets grabbed a spot in the Top 100 and did nothing but win this season. The unbeaten Jackets will play for the 4A title Friday night against Goose Creek. Irmo is No. 21 in the national polls.

Clay Walker, who wrestles for Eastside High and captured his third consecutive state title this year, was ranked No. 6 nationally at the 138-pound class by Wrestling USA Magazine.

With baseball season getting underway this weekend, the pollsters give some preseason love to South Carolina by ranking the Lexington Wildcats at No. 9 in the country. The Wildcats were an instant turnaround with the arrival of coach Brian Hucks. Seven Wildcat players have committed to play in college next year. They also return one of the nation’s top catchers in Nick Ciuffo.

So take notice, USA: Don’t be fooled by the size of our state nor the smaller population numbers. South Carolina is loaded with talent.

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