Remember the moment and feeling.
That was the message heard in a Gilbert huddle as they were gathered with the runner-up trophy following a 44-14 loss to Indian Land in the 3A state championship Saturday at Airport High School.
The Indians, who were making their first championship appearance, weren’t intimidated by the moment and lost only two matches by pinfall. But Indian Land was able to win five matches by two points or less including Alex Murphy’s 195-pound win in overtime.
“We competed our tails off and wrestled as hard as they could,” Gilbert coach Mitch Hudson said. “We kept fighting until the last match. They were just better today. We will learn from it, we will grow. We were happy we were here but not satisfied.”
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Things were promising for Gilbert when Grayson Keisler won the opening match by pin. But that would be the Indians’ lone win until Eric Heydenrich won at 138 pounds. By then, Indian Land led, 31-9.
“We wrestled our tails off and it seemed they were always one point better,” Hudson said. “They are a really good team and were able to get points. They just got the best of us.”
The Warriors clinched the championship with Grant Witherspoon’s victory. Tony Price got Gilbert’s other win in overtime after the match was decided.
The Warriors won eight consecutive matches in that stretch to win their first state championship. It also was Indian Land’s first state title and first championship in a boys sport in school history.
“I got a lot of emotions right now and I am super proud of these guys right now,” Indian Land coach Leon Boulware said. “We set out from day one to find a way to be here. I credit my coaches and players for buying into the system and process.
“We knew coming in we were going to have some tight matches but our guys worked their tails off.”