High School Wrestling

Beaufort County wrestlers begin state title quest tonight in Anderson

Three area standouts trying for back-to-back state championships

ccox@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 24, 2012 

The standard has been set for a trio of area wrestlers.

Maliek Maldonado, David Ratliff and Label Lewis all took home state championships at last year's finals. Following that up with anything less than a repeat performance at this weekend's state meet in Anderson will be a disappointment.

"I hold myself to high expecatations and I know what I'm capable of," said Ratliff, a senior heavyweight for Battery Creek. "Anything less than winning state will be unacceptable to me."

Maldonado -- Beaufort High School's 220-pounder -- agreed with that notion, although he was hesistant to look beyond his first-round match-up with Rock Hill's Cameron Bell. The senior -- who won a state title last year thanks to a triple-overtime decision in the finals -- has heard from several of the Eagles' previous state champions in the past year, including 2008 title-winner Travis Wynn.

"They said the hardest thing to do is repeat," said Maldonado, who could become the school's first repeat champion. "They just told me to work hard and focus on my goals."

Lewis, a 120-pound junior at Hilton Head Island High School, has his own history to capture. He could become the first Seahawk wrestler to earn consecutive state championships since Scott Moody and Joe Beck accomplished the feat in the mid-1980s.

"I want to be the (third) guy to go back-to-back so I can go down in history," Lewis said.

Each wrestler is fairly familiar with their brackets. Ratliff -- who is 51-0 this year with 34 pins -- has already defeated both Tre Long of Eastside and Adam Taylor of Chapin in his career. Should Ratliff win his opener, he'll face the winner of that matchup in the semifinals. He's also defeated Socastee's Craig Burton, who is the second seed on the other side of the bracket.

"I always focus on the person I have next, because I've learned from experience that when you look over somebody, it could be one of the biggest mistakes you make," Ratliff said. "It could cost you the tournament."

Lewis could be headed toward a rematch of last season's state final, as Berkeley's Di'Andre Robinson awaits on the other side of the bracket. Robinson, who was defeated 14-0 by Lewis in last year's championship, spoke with Lewis about a possible second meeting at Lower State last weekend.

Maldonado, who is 38-4 this season with 27 pins, also is excited about the possibilities his bracket brings.

"I have a real good chance," he said. "But I've got to take it one match at a time."

Nineteen area wrestlers in all will compete in the state event, which will be held today and Saturday at the Civic Center of Anderson. Admission is $6 today and $8 on Saturday. Live updates can be found on scmat.com.

Maldonado will be joined in the Class 4-A tournament by six of his teammates, including two other Lower State champions. Beaufort High's Forrest Kimbrell captured a title at 145 pounds while Clint Wright -- who finished fourth at state last year -- won Lower State at 195 last weekend. The Eagles also will send Trey Arant at 160, Thyrik Legree at 182, JaClay Mixon at 170 and Tyler Wilson at 285 pounds. This is the most qualifiers Beaufort High has sent to the 4-A tournament, coach Bill DaMude said.

Lewis, meanwhile, will be accompanied by three of his Seahawk teammates in Class 3-A's meet. David Waddell's pin of Bluffton's Lloyd Williams last Saturday gave him a Lower State title at 106 pounds while Nick Bautista at 195 and Chris Ordonez at 126 earned second- and third-place finishes, respectively.

Williams is one of four wrestlers to earned a spot in the 3-A state finals for the Bobcats along with Levi Joly (113), Austin Farmer (132) and Michael Meyerink (138). Joly was Bluffton's lone Lower State champion, as he earned a second-period pin of Socastee's Dylan Martin.

This is one of the smaller packs the Bobcats have sent to state in recent years, but it is a group that has the opportunity to claim titles, coach John Hollman said.

"In terms of their quality and ability to medal and place and have a chance to win it, it's probably as good as ever," he said. "We could very well have two state champs out of the group and two other medalists. We feel we honestly have a legit shot for all four to place."

Along with Ratliff, the Dolphins will send DeAndre Johnson to the 3-A state meet. Johnson, a junior, finished second in the 160-pound weight class at Lower State, falling to Chapin's Scott Swindell in the finals.

Whale Branch is sending two wrestlers to the Class 1-A/2-A state meet: Mark Rivers (152) and Max Ford (285). The first-year wrestlers both placed fourth for the Warriors at the Lower State meet.

STATE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT

When: 5:45 p.m. today, 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Civic Center of Anderson

Online: Live updates can be found at www.scmat.com

Local qualifiers

Beaufort High (4-A): Forrest Kimbrell (145), Trey Arant (160), JaClay Mixon (170), Thyrik Legree (182), Clint Wright (195), Maliek Maldonado (220), Tyler Wilson (285)

Battery Creek (3-A): DeAndre Johnson (160), David Ratliff (285)

Bluffton (3-A): Levi Joly (113), Lloyd Williams (120), Austin Farmer (132), Michael Meyerink (138)

Hilton Head High (3-A): David Waddell (106), Label Lewis (120), Chris Ordonez (126), Nick Bautista (195)

Whale Branch (1-A/2-A): Mark Rivers (152), Max Ford (285)

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