White Knoll sent a shock wave through the South Carolina wrestling community on Monday night, pulling off a stunning 33-32 road win over defending state champion Summerville in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
It was only the second first-round loss for Summerville since Class 4A adopted a dual-match playoff format in 1993.
“We’ve wrestled pretty well against some good teams this season,” said first-year WK coach Kevin Emily. “We lost by one point to Fort Mill in the first match of the season and were very competitive against Dutch Fork and Lexington, but I told my kids they can’t just be content with coming close against the best. I wanted them to go in with the mindset of winning against the best. And that’s just what they did.”
Still, few could have anticipated the Timberwolves beating the mighty Green Wave, winners of 12 state championships through the years. The verdict has to rank one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport in South Carolina.
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Emily did a masterful job of juggling his lineup to give his team the best shot at a win.
“I didn’t think there was anyway we could beat (Summerville) straight up,” said the Timberwolves mentor. “I felt I had to take a few gambles, and the kids made them pay off. It was a great performance.”
The final score was somewhat deceiving, because the outcome did not come down to the final bout. A Summerville pin in the last bout (at 103) was for window dressing only. The Timberwolves victory was secured by a pin at 215 by Brandon Proveux at 215, followed by a dramatic 3-2 triple overtime win by freshman heavyweight Asa Gossett.
Proveaux came into the playoffs fresh from his second loss of the season – to Dutch Fork’s T.J. Cayruth in the championship finals of the Region 5-4A tournament. But the senior leader expanded White Knoll’s lead to 30-26 with a pin in 1:43 in a clutch performance befitting his No. 1 ranking.
Gossett pulled off a decisive escape in the 30-second, third extra session. The angular freshman asked to take the bottom position at the start of the third period, knowing full well that if he did not escape, the heavyweight victory and the match would go Summerville’s way.
“He insisted on taking the bottom position,” said Emily. “Usually, the percentage play is to take the top, but Asa backed up his words by coming through in a pressure spot.”
Summerville jumped out to a 9-0 lead after two bouts, but senior Skylar Walker, wrestling down at 125 from his normal 130 spot, got the Timberwolves on the boards with at pin in 1:06. Jake Beckett, a freshman elevated from the junior varsity, and Zach Dicus kept the momentum going at 130 and 135. Beckett scored an 8-2 win to tie the score at 9-9, and Discus, who normally wrestles at 145, got a pin at 1:32 for a 15-9 WK lead.
Shane Lee, who moved up to 140 from 135, dropped a 4-1 decision to Eli Ashby, the No. 2 ranked man at 135 who also moved up to counter Emily’s switch. Chad Lee was also bumped up (to 145 from 140), and he made the move pay dividends with a 7-0 win for an 18-12 Timberwolves lead. After a major decision loss at 152, Patrick Speers upped the WK advantage to 24-16 with a pin with three seconds left in the second period at 160.
Summerville regained the lead, 26-24, with a pin and a major decision at 171 and 189, setting the stage for Proveaux and Gossett to seal the deal for White Knoll.
As so often happens in close matches, even a loss can be beneficial to the winning team. Such was the case at 119. White Knoll’s Cody Shirley entered the match with a 6-22 record, mostly at 125 pounds. Emily asked him to moved down and face Summerville’s Aaron Hansen, allowing Walker to slot in at 125. Hansen, a state champion last season at 112 and ranked No. 1 by scmat.com, dominated Shirley, winning 16-0. But Shirley did his job – he avoided a pin, thus denying Summerville one very big team point.
The Timberwolves advance to a second-round match Wednesday against Region 6-4A champion Sumter. White Knoll sports a 17-9 record, while the Gamecocks enter at 29-6.