David Ratliff came to Battery Creek High School as a freshman intent on not going out for the wrestling team.
Good thing that never happened, because four years later, he's a back-to-back state champion.
Ratliff's 3-0 decision over Socastee's Craig Burton on Saturday at the Civic Center of Anderson gave the Dolphin heavyweight his second state title in as many years. The team captain capped off his senior season with an unblemished 54-0 record and the top ranking in Class 3-A's heavyweight division.
"This is exactly what I've been working for," Ratliff said by phone. "My primary goal was to win the match I was about to wrestle, but this was the main goal. I've worked all year for this moment."
It's a moment that might not have happened if not for a couple of Ratliff's best friends, Bear Childers and Spencer Butler, who both urged Ratliff to go out for the team after that year's football season concluded.
"It was basically peer pressure," Ratliff said. "They're my best friends. ... I just started trying it and I started liking it because I got to beat up my best friends every day."
After a successful season on the JV squad as a freshman, Ratliff made the move to varsity his sophomore year and finished third in the state. The next two seasons would feature championships, which started in 2011 with a decision over York's Beau Nunn.
"I was dead set on not wrestling coming into high school," he recalled. "I wanted nothing to do with it. I'm glad I did it."
A pair of Class 4-A wrestlers from Beaufort High joined Ratliff in the state finals, but neither was able to come home with a title. Senior Maliek Maldonado fell just short of becoming the first Eagle wrestler to capture back-to-back titles when he lost, 4-2, to Lexington's Nate Meagher in the 220-pound championship.
"He's one of the best wrestlers Beaufort High has had," Beaufort High coach Bill DaMude said. "He's a great athlete and a great person. I'm extremely proud of him."
Maldonado's teammate -- 160-pounder Trey Arant -- made a surprising run to the finals before losing, 19-12, to White Knoll's Jamal Lackey. Arant, a junior who finished with a 37-10 record, entered the weekend as the four-seed in his bracket.
"He caught some people off guard," DaMude said. "He wrested a great match in the semifinal. He opened some eyes."
DaMude is looking forward to how Arant carries this finish into his senior season, when the Eagles return several of their top wrestlers.
"That's just huge for him," DaMude said. "It's going to give him some great momentum and something to build on for next year knowing he can make it to the state finals and almost win it."
Six other local wrestlers also placed at state, as three finished third and three more notched fourth-place standing. Beaufort High's Clint Wright (195), Bluffton's Levi Joly (113) and Hilton Head Island High's Nick Bautista (195) all claimed victories in the consolation championship round. Meanwhile, Beaufort High's Thyrik Legree (170), Bluffton's Austin Farmer (132), and Hilton Head High's Label Lewis (120) finished fourth.
It was an interesting turn for Lewis, who was pinned in the first round by Chester's Terrence Gore. Lewis -- who was ranked No. 1 in his weight class -- won a state championship last season for the Seahawks.
"Stops a nice run for us," assistant coach Mike Newton said by text message. "We did have five straight seasons with at least one state champion and six straight seasons with at least one finalist."
Forrest Kimbrell (145) --Did not place
Trey Arant (160) -- 2nd place
JaClay Mixon (170) -- Did not place
Thyrik Legree (182) -- 4th place
Clint Wright (195) -- 3rd place
Maliek Maldonado (220) -- 2nd place
Tyler Wilson (285) -- Did not place
DeAndre Johnson (160) -- Did not place
David Ratliff (285) -- State champion
Lloyd Williams (106) -- Did not place
Levi Joly (113) -- 3rd place
Austin Farmer (132) --4th place
Michael Meyerink (138) -- Did not place
Hilton Head High
David Waddell (106) -- Did not place
Label Lewis (120) -- 4th place
Chris Ordonez (126) -- Did not place
Nick Bautista (195) -- 3rd place
Mark Rivers (152) -- Did not place
Max Ford (285) -- Did not place