Two all-Midlands matches highlight the first round of the Class 3A state wrestling playoffs on Wednesday. Based on the seeding procedure in place in 3A, Region 4 rivals Chapin and Lugoff-Elgin square off in a Upper State bout, while Region 5 foes Dreher and Airport are paired in the Lower State bracket.
Region 6 champion Camden rounds out the local 3A contingent. The Bulldogs host Myrtle Beach in Lower State action on Wednesday.
Lugoff-Elgin (18-3) beat Chapin 49-15 last week to secure the Region 4 championship, and the second-ranked Demons had a 251-175 points edge over the sixth-ranked Eagles (17-2) a few days later at the region tournament.
All 14 L-E region tournament entries reached the finals, and 10 emerged as champions – Tony Murphy (112), Justin McClester (125), Blake Tillman (130), Alonzo Grant (135), Will Myers (140), Zack Connell (145), Will Graham (152), Will Connell (171), Colby Jones (215) and Jonathan McManus (285). TJ Branham (103), Justin Farmer (119), Stephen Bonaparte (160) and Max Fowler (189) were the Demons’ runner-ups.
Stuart Hope (103), Barrett Owens (119) and Emerson Shaw (160) were Chapin’s region champions. Nate Polly (125), Matt Hite (130), North Hollingsworth (135), Zach Quasney (140), Cody Carraway (145), Ben Monroe (152) and Cory Cromer (170) were second-place finishers.
Lugoff-Elgin hopes to earn a playoff shot at Eastside for the eighth season in a row. The Demons lost to the Eagles from Taylors in the 2002 state championship match, and turned the tables in the Upper State finale on the way to the 2003 state title. But since then, Eastside has won five straight 3A championships, stopping L-E in the Upper State finale five times in a row.
Eastside has won a record seven 3A state championship, while Lugoff-Elgin has five. The Eagles all-time state playoff record is 40-8, while the Demons stand at 41-10.
Chapin’s playoff record is 14-8. The figure is misleading because the Eagles were in Class 2A until 2004, and the classification did not switch over to a dual match playoff format until 2001.Chapin is 8-4 since moving up to 3A with the best showing in the 2005 debut season when the Eagles won the Lower State title and lost to Eastside in the state championship bout. Chapin was a four-time state champion in the 1990s, winning three in a row (1996-98) at one point.
Camden wrapped up its first region championship in a number of years by beating Marlboro County 68-0 and Darlington 48-23 in a region triangular last week. The Bulldogs finished the region campaign at 3-0.
“I think our kids are really looking forward to hosting a first round playoff match and having a chance to make a playoff run,” said Camden coach Stephen Sutusky.
“Winning the region is just the first step. Now it is time to turn it up a notch.”
Will Long (29-1 at 140), Horus Madrid (26-1 at 130), Davis Partin (25-3 at 171) and Roland Matthews (24-6 at 285) have been the Bulldogs standouts to date. Senior Shane Grigsby has been another veteran team leader.
Camden’s best-ever playoff showing was a second-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament in 1987. The Bulldogs are 2-11 in the dual-match playoff era.
Airport hosts Dreher in a Lower State first-round match.
Airport won the Region 5-3A championship this season with wins over Dreher, Swansea and Brookland-Cayce. Senior Josh Stevenson and junior Chris Phillips are the Eagles standouts. Stevenson is ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds by scmat.com, while Phillips is No. 3 at 215. Corey Johnson (152) and Ivan Robinson (285) have been solid for the Blue Devils.
Airport was once a powerhouse in the sport when legendary coach Jim Barnes was running the show in the nascent days of the program. Barnes is probably best remember for his long, glorious tenure at Rock Hill, but he was just as successful during his time at the Eagles helm. Airport claimed the last two all-classification titles in 1977 and 1978 and a runner-up finish in 1976, and secured the first 4A championship in 1979. After Barnes left in the early 1980s, the program slipped into obscurity. A revival of sorts began in 2003 when the Eagles first made the 4A playoff cut since the start of the dual-match format in 1993. Airport has never failed to qualify for the 3A playoffs since 2006, but the Eagles have not managed a win since beating Marlboro County in its first head-to-head playoff outing in 2003.
Dreher enjoyed a run of big-time success – posting six Top 10 state tournament finishes in eight seasons (1987-94). The Blue Devils reached the pinnacle in 1989, winning the 3A state title by a 38-point margin over Belton-Honea Path. Dreher then suffered a heartbreaking loss to Swansea, 119.5-119, in 1990. The Blue Devils are 4-8 since the dual-match format was adopted in 3A in 1994.