River Bluff wrestling coach Evan Moxie knows what it takes to win a state title.
He won one at Lugoff-Elgin and two at Cardinal Newman before taking over the Gators program two years ago. Now, the Ohio native has River Bluff in the title match in it fourth year of competition.
The Gators face Rock Hill for the 5A championship Saturday at Dreher High. Rock Hill will try to add to its 19th championship, which already is a state record.
“It’s all about building a foundation. A lot of kids need to be fine-tuned and tweaked,” Moxie said. “I think if we wrestle like we have all year, we will be in a great position to win.”
The Gators got as high as No. 2 in SCMat rankings this year, and Moxie isn’t surprised by the their success because they had a good foundation of kids back from last year, including senior Fabian Leon, the No. 1 ranked 285-pound wrestler in 5A.
But the addition of Sam and Ben Emery, who moved to South Carolina from Illinois, has been a big plus. Sam Emery got the winning pin in Wednesday’s 27-26 win over Ashley Ridge in what Moxie called the most satisfying match in his 10 years of coaching.
“I started to get nervous. Everyone on team started getting nervous, but my brother got the pin and deserved the win,” Ben Emery said. “It was really exciting.”
Chapin will go for the 4A state championship against Eastside.
Chapin is in its sixth title match, the first since 2012, and is 2-3 all-time in the championship. Eastside is going for its 13th title and fourth in five years.
“Getting here and being able to be around these kids is the best part of this,” Chapin coach Ken Wilson said. “We are going against arguably the best team in the state in all divisions but I know we are going to go out and fight them hard.”
The players Chapin wrestlers have embraced their roles as underdogs.
“If you go out there and beat them it would be an incredible feeling,” Taylor Cabe said. “We can definitely do it if everyone wrestles to their full potential.”
“They are definitely the best team we are going to wrestle,” Dylan Whitcomb said. “It is going to take a lot. We are going to have to focus, get a few lucky matches and wrestle our (butts) off basically.”
Cabe and Whitcomb, ranked No. 2 in the 120-pound class, are two of the three seniors on the team. Junior Hank Manos, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the 285-pound class, has yet to lose a match this season.
At Dreher High School
North Central vs. Bamberg-Ehrhardt, 11 a.m.
West Oak vs. Battery Creek, 1:30 p.m.
Chapin vs. Eastside, 3:30 p.m.
Chapin starting lineup
106 – Will Anderson or Justin West; 113 – Justin West; 120 – Dylan Whitcomb; 126 – Mitchell O’Connor; 132 – Jack Norris; 138 – Taylor Cabe; 145 – Cole Hodges; 152 – Kyle Nichols; 160 – Shawn Haile; 170 – Hunter Dixon; 182 – Jake Watson; 195 – Cole Haile; 220 – Nick Edenfield; 285 – Hank Manos
River Bluff vs. Rock Hill, 5:30 p.m.
River Bluff starting lineup
106 – John Zahm; 113 – Sam Emery; 120 – Dylan Granda; 126 – Hunter Lint or Wade Brazell; 132 – Parker Palmer; 138 – Ben Emery; 145 – Carlos Ortega; 152 – Connor Slattery; 160 – William Butler; 170 – Edwin Brown; 182 – Isaac Ortega; 195 –Dalton Hart; 220 – Jake Scott; 285 – Fabian Leon