Irmo’s T.J. Dudley concluded one of the great wrestling careers in South Carolina history on Saturday in Anderson by becoming the first Yellow Jackets grappler to win three state championships.
Dudley capped a 66-0 senior season with a 12-1 win over Jonathan Schavey in the 195-pound championship match. Dudley picked up a forfeit win in the first round and pinned Brandon Young of Stratford for his 59th fall of the season. For the record, the Irmo star topped Schavey 10-0 in last year’s 189 title bout and he beat White Knoll’s Phillip Austin 7-0 for his first title at 171 in 2010.
Dudley retires as the Midlands all-time leader in career wins (195) and career pins (115). Fifteen of his 17 career losses came in his freshman season. He went 115-2 over the next three seasons, last losing in December of 2009.
Only a handful of other Midlands standouts have had comparable careers.
Lugoff-Elgin’s Ben Connell won four state championships and had 142 career wins in an era before today’s more liberal participation rules have resulted in many more individual matches during the regular season. Connell was the first SC wrestler to win a national championship outside of the high school season. Dudley followed suit last spring.
Spring Valley’s Tyler Thompson banked 176 career wins, three state championships and one runner-up finishe during his glorious Viking career (2003-06).
Contemporary rival Alex Morales of Lexington (2008-11) – the last SC wrestler to beat Dudley – had the area record (188 career wins) that Dudley surpassed this season. But Morales had just one successful state title run.
Chapin’s Stuart Hope (2008-11) went 174-23 and won three state championships. Deral Brown of Lugoff-Elgin (167 wins, 2005-08) and Corneilius Selke of Dutch Fork (166 wins, 2003-06) are also big winners and three-time champs.
There are wrestlers from the early days of the sport with impressive state tournament resumes, but those competitors were competing at a level that is not comparable to present day.
T.J. Dudley was established the new standard of excellence for Midlands wrestling.