Airport’s Josh Stevenson, Chris Phillips, Jamie Sires and Mat Ulmer have made the cut for the Class 3A state wrestling tournament that runs this weekend at Lexington.
Stevenson (24-4 at 152), Phillips (37-2 at 215) and Sires (18-5 at 125) all finished second at the Lower State qualifying meet last weekend at Bluffton. Ulmer (20-9 at 135) was a fourth-place finisher.
The reward for Ulmer is the toughest first-round match in all of 3A. He draws three-time state champion Eddie Coles of Eastside on Friday. Stevenson, who is ranked No. 2 by scmat.com and placed fourth at 145 last year, faces Union County’s Dylan Lawson in the first round. Phillips, ranked No. 3, meets Eastside’s Garrett Jones on Friday. Sires, who was a standout in cross country in the fall, makes his state debut on Friday against Chapin’s Nate Polly, who finished fourth at 112 last year in 4A while wrestling at Lexington.
Antoine Kelly and Sam McClellan just missed making the grade. Both lost in the Lower State consolation semifinals, one win short of a state spot. Kelly finished with a season record of 13-7 at 140, while McClellan closed at 23-8 at 189.
A total of 10 Airport wrestlers have produced 15 state championships for the program. Most of the prizes came in the nascent days of the program in the 1970s under legendary coach Jim Barnes, who went on to creat the powerhouse program at Rock Hill. The big names on the Eagles books are Carl Van Sewell and James Gillings. Van Sewell has the distinction of being South Carolina’s first four-time state wrestling champion – claiming top honors at 148 in 1975, and at 155 in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Gillings, a teammate of Van Sewell, claimed three straight titles at 105, 119 and 129 between 1976 and 1978. Ethan Delpriore is Airport’s last state champion – securing 130 honors in 1994 – and the last Eagle rep to reach the championship finals.