Camden wrestling coach Stephen Sutusky has been waiting all season for his Bulldogs to hit stride, and perhaps that is what happened at the Hardee's Blue Devil Invitational at Dreher. Camden came away from the 27-team event with a sixth-place finish.
“The first half of the year was very up and down for us, but I really think this weekend was an indication of what we are capable of doing in the second half of the year,” said Sutusky.
Horus Madrid and Will Long led the Bulldogs performance by claiming championships at 130 and 140 pounds, respectively. Camden’s other top finisher was Davis Partin, who wrestled to a third place finish at 171.
"Will and Horus have been probably our most consistent guys all year," said Sutusky. "Both of them wanted to use the tournament as a personal measuring stick to see where they were at, and obviously they are at a high level and ready to finish out their careers on a high note.”
Madrid pinned his way to the finals with relative ease while, Long used a pin, technical fall, and decision to earn his finals birth.
“Horus wasn’t really tested until the finals and wrestled in dominating fashion throughout the weekend,” said Sutusky.
Madrid defeated Myrtle Beach’s Brandon Salters in the finals - the same opponent he defeated in the first round of the state tournament last February. Long earned a hard fought decision over Sumter’s Andrew Lovice in the semifinals before major decision Mike Wetmore of Bluffton in the finals 9-1. Wetmore upset RNE’s Shawn White in the semifinals, preventing a rematch of the finals at the Lugoff-Elgin tournament prior to Christmas.
Partin coasted to the semifinal round before dropping a two-point decision to eventual tournament champion Terrence Williams of Lake City.
“Davis hadn’t really been tested all season and fell just short of the finals, said Sutusky. "But he rebounded from the loss to claim third place and will use that as momentum for the rest of the season. He will face the Lake City kid again next weekend and maybe another two or three times this year and he’ll be ready. I think he really looks forward to a rematch” “Obviously those three guys were our major point getters over the weekend, but our top ten finish was in large part due to everyone else earning wins and key points along the way.”
Sutusky also lauded the efforts of freshmen Nick Benson and juniors Ryan Brazell and Thad Bullock, who all earned multiple victories during the tournament. Benson, wrestling at 112 won three matches on his way to the tournament semifinals before losing to the eventual tournament champion. In his first consolation round match, Benson lost by three points to the fourth place finisher from Lake City.
“Nick wrestled very well," said Sutusky. "He’s come a long way this season and is getting better every time out…he was extremely close to placing and earning a medal.”
Brazell and Bullock wrestled back in the consolation bracket before losing in the consolation semifinals.
“Those two guys both won two-three matches on Saturday, which contributed to our strong team finish, said Sutusky.
"Thad for one has improved tremendously as of late and he’s continuing to get better each day. He knows exactly what to do and is starting to put everything together.”
Other Camden wrestlers who contributed to the top ten finish included Roland Matthews who won two matches at heavyweight and Brooks Walker and Shane Ghrigsby who wrestled well in tough weight classes.
“Shane was in perhaps the toughest weight class in the tournament," said Sutusky. "Going in I think seventeen of the twenty-three kids at that weight class had a winning record. Brooks Walker won his first match and then lost back to back matches to the first and third place finishers in his weight class…WE just had tough draw in those weight classes and at heavyweight.”
Sutusky’s squad wrestles Chester Tuesday night and will host three time defending Class 1A state champion Chesterfield and 4A power Dutch Fork, currently ranked fourth in the state on Thursday night before traveling to the Sumter Duals tournament on Saturday.
“I think our best wrestling is definitely in front of us," said Sutusky. "A lot of our young kids have come a long, long way this season. Travis Jordan at 103 and JeDarius Hayes at 189 are improving each time out and both are starting to win some matches and gain confidence. We just got Robert Joyner back from an illness and he’s going to step in at 119 and make an immediate impact for us as well. I am just excited about finally getting our lineup intact and hopefully getting into a rhythm the next few weeks.”