Wrestling turns to individual matters on Friday and Saturday with qualifying meets for the state tournament in three classifications at various sites around the state.
The largest concentration of Midlands entries will be at the Class 4A Lower State affair at Fort Dorchester. Wrestlers from Lexington, White Knoll, Dutch Fork, Irmo, Richland Northeast and Sumter will be competing for four available state invitations in 14 weight classes.
Ridge View, Blythewood and Spring Valley will send representatives to the 4A Upper State meet at Hillcrest. In Class 3A, Airport, Dreher, Swansea, Brookland-Cayce and Camden send state hopefuls to the 3A Lower State gathering in Bluffton. Lugoff-Elgin, Chapin. Lower Richland and Fairfield Central are entered in the 3A Upper State qualifier at Wade Hampton in Greenville. Gilbert, Columbia, Mid-Carolina, Eau Clair and Keenan will be at Broome for the 2A Upper State qualifier, while Pelion is the only area entry at the 2A Lower State meet at Aynor.
Lexington - Steven Steinbacher (103), Hampton Motley (125), Zach Howerton (152), Alex Morales (160) Kraig Crawford (171) and Steven Dorrell (215) and the Wildcats the best bets to make the state cut ... Steinbacher is 43-5, won a Region 5-4A championship and is ranked No. 2 by scmat.com. Motley (41-4) is a region champion, a two-time state qualifier (a silver medallist at 119 in 2007), sports a career 135-40 record and is ranked No. 3 at 125. Howerton is 20-1, won a region title, was a consolation champ at 152 last season and is ranked No. 2. Morales is 43-6, won a region title, is ranked No. 3 is looking for his first state berth. Crawford, a two-time state qualifier and a state runner-up at 171 last year, is ranked No. 2, won a region championship and sports a 48-2 record this season and a career mark of 126-20. Dorrell is 47-4and won a region championship, but has a major challenge to make the top four in a loaded weight class. A.J. Licina (29-17 at 112) and Scott Tyndale (28-17 at 119) are the other potential qualifiers.
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White Knoll -Brandon Proveaux (215), Skylar Walker (130), Shane Lee (135), Kevin Epting (119) and Chad Lee (140) are the top Timberwolves contenders … Proveaux is ranked No. 2 by scmat.com behind Dutch Fork’s T.J. Cayruth and is looking make some noise after failing to place in two previous state visits. Walker has come on strong and has more than 30 wins on the books. Shane Lee is a two-time state qualifier and a consolation champion at 125 last season.
Dutch Fork - Defending state champion George Holstead (130), Marshall Williams (285), T.J. Cayruth (215), A.J. Finley (112), Matt Dherckers (119), John Brannigan (125) and Corey Koon (189) have great shots at advancing to state … Holstead (22-1) is ranked No. 1 by scmat.com and is the favorite to claim top honors at 130 again. Williams (33-2) is ranked No. 2 and is in position to make state for the first time. Cayruth, now ranked No. 4, is 33-2 are motivated to get his first state place finish in his final prep campaign. Finley (21-13), Dherckers (20-5), Brannigan (29-7) and Koon (32-4) are all top four seeds in their respective weight classes in the Lower State. The Silver Foxes had six champions at the Region 5-4A meet – Holstead, Finley, Dherckers, Coon, Cayruth and Williams.
Richland NE -Seniors Shawn White (140) and James Bethel (140) are the most likely candidates to advance for the Cavaliers. White is 25-3 and ranked No. 3 by scmat.com. He is a two-time state qualifier, but has yet to crack the top four. Bethel is 26-3 is ranked No. 7 overall, but third best in the Lower State. Both won Region 5-4A championships a few weeks ago.
Irmo - Kyle Manross (130), Blane Bryant (135), Devin Gosnell (152), T.J. Dudley (171) and Jimmy Carson (285) are the Yellow Jackets’ top state candidates … Manross (16-1), ranked No. 3 by scamt.com, was a state runner-up at 119 last season. Carson, ranked. No. 4, was a champion as an eight-grader in SCISA while at Ben Lippen, and is looking for his third straight state berth at Irmo this time around. He finished second at heavyweight a year ago. Bryant (25-10), Gosnell (35-8), Dudley (27-10) are all looking to earn their first state berths. Manross was the only Irmo champion at the Region 5-4A meet.
Sumter - Josh Sullivan (145), Shawn Armstrong (189) and Mike Miller (285) are the prime Gamecocks state contenders ... Sullivan, who is ranked No. 3 by scmat.com and earned a spot in the North-South All-Star match, has a 42-5 record in his senior season, upping his career record to 148-39. He is the winningest wrestler in school history. Sullivan qualified but did not place last season. Armstrong, who also qualified last season but did not place, is 39-2 this year, and has 83 wins in his career. Miller (38-5) is looking for his first state invitation … Andrew Lovice (39-10 at 140) and Matt Devine (35-11 at 125) are other Sumter entries to watch.
Blythewood, Ridge View, Spring Valley - The three Region 4-4A teams don’t figure to have many state qualifiers. Blythewood has the best shots at earning some state exposure. The top individual in the bunch is Blythewood’s Keith Harding, who won the 4-4A championship at 145. Harding beat Rock Hill’s Chase Ballard in the finals – the guy who clinched the Bearcats state championship triumph vs. Fort Dorchester last weekend with an upset win in the final bout of the match. Bengal Tom Arnett was the region runner-up at 125. Ridge View’s top Upper State entry is Tommy Watson, who is 19-14 at 160. Richard Anderson (15-10) had Spring Valley’s best showing at the region meet, finishing third at 285.
Lugoff-Elgin - For Demons seniors Justin McClester (37-4 at 125) Blake Tillman (27-5 at 130) and Will Graham (26-9, at 152), this weekend marks the beginning of their final quests for state glory. McClester has a sparkling158-23 career record, but it still looking for his first state title. He has two bronze medals and one silver on his resume. Tillman, 102-41 for his career, was a consolation champ at 125 a year ago. Graham, 109-64 for his career, is a two-time state qualifier, but he has yet to place … Other contenders for state berths include T.J. Branham (28-7 at 105), Tony Murphy (30-10) at 112), Alonzo Grant (23-10 at 135), Will Myers (20-9 at 140), Zack Connell (24-10 at 145), Will Connell (35-7 at 171) and Max Fuller (34-11 at 189).
Camden - The Bulldogs have three prime contenders for state invitations – Horus Madrid, Will Long and Davis Partin. Madrid, the No. 1 seed in the Lower State at 130, is 34-1 overall and 19-0 against 3A competition this season. He is a two-time state qualifier (a fourth-place finisher at 125 in 2007). Long (34-2) is a No. 2 seed at 140, while Partin (29-4) is a No. 3 seed at 171. Long was a consolation champion at 135 a year ago and was a state qualifier as a freshman in 2006. Partin was a state qualifier in 2007. Roland Matthews (25-7 at 285) and Nick Benson (24-10 at 112) are two other Bulldogs with good shots at making the state cut.
Chapin - Stuart Hope (103), Barrett Owens (119), Nate Polly (125), Zach Quansey (140), Ben Monroe (152), Emerson Shaw (160) and Cory Cromer (171) all have realistic hopes at landing state invitations this weekend … Hope, who was 31-5 at the end of the regular season, is ranked No. 1 by scmat.com. Owens (22-3), Polly (30-6) and Shaw (28-2) are all ranked No. 3 at their weights. Monroe (27-2) is No. 5 overall, but has the third highest billing in the Upper State. Quansey (25-9) and Cromer (21-11) are both fifth seeds at their weights.
Airport - Josh Stevenson (152), Chris Phillips (215) and Jamie Sires (125) are the top state contenders for the Region 5-3A champion Eagles. Stevenson, a two-time state qualifier, is 22-3 overall, 22-1 against 3A foes and is ranked No. 2 by scmat.com. He was a fourth-place state finisher at 145 last season. Phillips is 35-1 and ranked and No. 3, and has a potential showdown with No. 1 David Beck of Hilton Head in the finals on Saturday. Brandon Turner (17-4 at 103), Adam Welch (19-7 at 119), Matt Ulmer (17-7 at 135), Antoine Kelly (12-5 at 140) and Sam McClellan (21-6 at 189) are other Airport hopefuls.
Swansea - The Tigers have had a tough season, but at least they have a defending state champion in the hunt for another title. Benjamin Willard, a junior who claimed the top prize at 103 after a fourth-place finish in 2007, goes for the gold at 119 this time around. Kyle Livingston (112) and Reggie Riley (145) are expected to join Willard at state. Livingston is ranked No. 2 by scmat.com, Riley is No. 4. Willard is ranked No. 2 behind West-Oak’s awesome Eric Rholetter, who is shooting to become the sixth man in state history to retire as a four-time state champion.
Gilbert - The Indians are clearly at the top of the heap in Midlands 2A wrestling. Gilbert is shooting for a record number of state qualifiers this season after having Austin Amick, Matthew Chapman, Jeff Hoover and Zak Watkins make the grade a year ago. Amick and Hoover are two-time state qualifiers. Chapman became the first Gilbert rep to place at state last season, finishing fourth at 152. All four return with higher expectations. Amick is 32-9 at 119, Chapman is 34-6 and ranked No. 2 at 160 by scmat.com, Hoover is 40-5 and ranked No. 2 at 171, Watkins is 37-7 and ranked No. 3 at 189. David Amick (30-8 at 125), Matt Risinger (26-6 at 130), Justin Miller (36-9 at 145), Drew Neff (35-8 at 152), Blake Leitner (28-10 at 215) and Leon Watts (15-5 at 285) are other contenders.
Pelion - The Panthers, the only area team in the 2A Lower State, have qualifying hopes for Jacob Huggins (17-5 at 119), John Mangum (17-4 at 145), Troy Israel (18-3 at 152) and Chris Settle (17-7 at 160).
Columbia, Keenan, Eau Claire, Mid-Carolina - These four fledgling programs won’t have many qualifiers, but there might be a few surprises. The best bet in the group is Keenan’s Matthew Johnson, who is the No. 3 heavyweight in 2A-1A according to scmat.com. The next best bets are Columbia’s Trey Leonard and Jerry Johnson. Leonard is ranked No. 6 at 171 (fourth in the Lower State), while Johnson is ranked No. 5 overall, second in the Lower State. Leonard, Johnson Devonne Montgomery (130), Trey Harper (135) Roland Bridgette (140) and Antonio Geiger (145) were Columbia’s champions at the Region 4-2A tournament. Jonathan Jacobs (103), Pierre Moore (152) and Dominick Taylor (160) were Eau Claire’s region champs. The Shamrocks' top seeded wrestler at the Upper State meet is Jhonta Jacobs, whose 9-1 record netted him a No. 6 seed at 103. First-year Mid-Carolina has a top contender for a state berth in B.J. Gibbs, who is ranked No. 3 at 215 by scmat.com.