River Bluff and Summerville came into Wednesday night’s Class 5A Lower State wrestling championship about as evenly matched as possible.
The teams were No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, in the latest rankings by SCmat.com, and wrestled a closely contested match earlier in the season. It lived up to the hype as the Gators won nearly every swing bout to come out with a 36-33 victory and advance to their second state championship in the last three years.
“It’s awesome and never gets old,” River Bluff coach Evan Moxie said. “We’re happy (tonight) but we’re going to get back to the drawing board and start preparing tomorrow.
“It seemed like we won all the swing matches. They all went our way. That was a complete team effort right there even though our last three guys didn’t get to wrestle. Our guys were ready, and they went out and showed it.”
River Bluff will face second-ranked Hillcrest on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Airport High School.
The Midlands will be well represented on Saturday at Airport.
Gilbert defeated May River 33-30 in Class 3A and will tangle with Indian Land for the state championship at 1 pm. In Class 2A/A, North Central defeated Ninety-Six and will face Bamberg-Ehrhardt at 11:00 am. It is Gilbert and North Central’s first appearance in state championships.
Airport lost to North Myrtle Beach 44-22 in the Class 4A lower state finals.
The two biggest swing matches came in the middle weights. It was all even at 15 after Parker Palmer scored a pin at 145 pounds to start a six-match winning streak for the Gators that clinched it.
John Brown earned one of the biggest points at 152 when he squeaked out a 7-6 decision over Kyle Nicholson. Quinton Boyle followed that momentum at 160 with a 6-5 decision.
Those were two matches River Bluff (22-6) lost the first meeting with the Green Wave (23-5).
“I thought 152 and 160 were pretty big swing matches,” Moxie said. “We lost those last time and those two guys came out here and put it all on the line tonight. When we won those two matches, it put us in a position to where we felt like we could win the match and forfeit the final few matches.”
Brown came in with the mindset he was going to reverse the previous outcome.
“My mentality was the difference,” Brown said. “I had the confidence I was going to win my match. I never let what happened last time enter my mind. He was tough in the upper body, so I tried to get to his legs and tried to score that way. This is the greatest feeling and we’re going to be ready to go on Saturday.”
The Gators closed things out with pins by William Butler at 170 and Isaac Ortega at 182 before Michael Keisler clinched the match with an 11-6 win over Ben Treadway in the 195-pound weight class.
Brandon Riley (113) and John Zahm (120) were the other winners for River Bluff.
113: Brandon Riley (RB) d. Reco Robinson 3-2; 120: John Zahm (RB) p. Caleb Tolppa; 126: Aiden Jurey (S) p. Emmanuel Rodriquez; 132: Drayton Faulling (S) p. Jacob Turbeville; 138: Zachary Jurey (S) d. Armondo Maestre 9-4; 145: Parker Palmer (RB) p. Coty Lodge; 152: John Brown (RB) d. Kyle Nicholson 7-6; 160: Quinton Boyle (RB) d. David Rundell 6-5; 170: William Butler (RB) p. Kobe Smith; 182: Isaac Ortega (RB) p. Amar Persaud; 195: Michael Keisler (RB) d. Ben Treadway 11-6; 220: William Jones (S) by forfeit; 285: Parker Warder (S) by forfeit; 106: Brayton Killiri (S) by forfeit.
SCHSL Wrestling Championship Schedule
At Airport High School
North Central vs. Bamberg-Ehrhardt, 11 a.m.
Indian Land vs. Gilbert, 1 p.m.
North Myrtle Beach vs. Eastside, 3:30 p.m.
Hillcrest vs. River Bluff, 6 p.m.