Gilbert turned a potential Class 2A state tournament disaster into an overall positive experience last weekend at Lexington.
The Indians, with a record seven qualifiers on hand, dropped six of their seven first-round outings, but rebounded to make a little program history. In the end, Gilbert came away with a record three place finishers and advanced a wrestler to the championship finals for the first time.
Moreover, Gilbert cracked the Top 10 in tournament team scoring for the first time, finishing in eighth place with 41 points.
Senior Jeff Hoover was at the top of the list, advancing to the 171-pound championship match against Loris senior Maurice Morris, who was a state champion at 160 last year. Morris prevailed 13-9, needing a takedown and back points in the final 45 seconds to finally game the scrappy Hoover, who finished with a 46-5 senior record. Fellow seniors Matthew Chapman and Zac Watkins also went out on high notes. Chapman, a fourth-place man last year at 152, bagged consolation honors at 160 this with a 3-1 performance as the finishing touch on a 40-8 senior campaign. Chapman rebounded for his first-round loss to go 3-0 in the consolation bracket, pinning Loris’ Dexter Richburg to claim the bronze medal. Watkins, who finished the season at 41-9, went 2-2 at 189 to finish fourth, losing 6-4 in overtime to Palmetto’s Dillon Callaham in the 189 consolation title bout.
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Otherwise, Austin Amick and Matt Risinger both went 1-2 at state, while Justin Miller and Drew Neff were 0-2. Amith finished with a 35-11 at 119, Miller was 40-11 at 145, Risinger finished 29-9 at 130 and Neff was 37-11 at 152).