There are no bad wrestlers now.
Beaufort High School coach Bill Damude has drilled this into the minds of his nine Class 4-A state qualifiers. The S.C. High School League individual championships start today at the Anderson Civic Center, and Damude has tried to prepare his wrestlers to be in their best mental and physical shape.
"We've been pushing them hard this week," he said. "Making them believe they have the physical conditioning to score late in the match and into overtime."
Twenty-nine wrestlers from Beaufort County will compete.
Six wrestlers from Hilton Head Island High School qualified for the Class 3-A championship. Six wrestlers from Whale Branch Early College High School and five from Battery Creek High School will compete for a Class 2-A/1-A title. Three Bluffton High School wrestlers qualified in Class 4-A from Lower State.
Hilton Head High's Label Lewis, a 2011 state champion at 112, is trying to go out with a state championship at 132 after winning the Lower State title. The Seahawks senior is ranked No. 1 at 132 by the S.C. Wrestling Coaches Association.
"He's been on a mission all year," Hilton Head High coach Mike Newton said. "He's undefeated in the state. His only two losses on the year are to out-of-state competition. He's had the goal of being a state champion for a while. Anything less than that for him, I know he'll be disappointed."
Newton said the state meet is about tempering expectations, setting realistic goals for each qualifier to give the trip the best chance of success.
"You have some guys that are in a stacked weight class, and you're just happy they got there," he said. "If they win any matches, that's great."
Whale Branch's six qualifiers, led by Lower State champion Max Ford at heavyweight, are the most in the school's three years. Ford enters the individual final ranked fourth in Class 2-A/1-A at 285.
The Whale Branch wrestling team will be recognized today as part of a pep rally at the school.
"Hopefully this will let (the students) know there's a wrestling team and they're pretty good," coach Travis Wynn said after the Lower State meet. "It feels good to be a Whale Branch Warrior. The community is happy, and (the team has) exceeded expectations."
Battery Creek will send Lower State champions DeAndre Johnson and Isaiah Sloan to Anderson with a chance to win state titles. None of the Dolphins' qualifiers finished outside the top three at Lower State.
Bluffton's three qualifiers know the big stage well. Austin Farmer is there for a fourth time. Michael Meyerink and Levi Joly qualified for their third state final.
Joly is ranked No. 2 in Class 4-A at 113. He finished third in Class 3-A in 2012. Farmer has finished fourth twice and second, in 2011.
"We've taken a lot of good guys to state in the past," Bluffton coach John Hollman said. "But I don't know, maybe there's been only one other time where we realistically looked at it as having a chance at multiple champions. I think we legitimately have a shot at more than one state champ."
Damude is looking for Lower State champions Clint Wright and Trey Arant to have a shot at a state title Saturday.
Wright has impressed his coach with his focus.
"You can tell when he steps on the mat, he's all business," Damude said.
Area wrestlers who qualified for the S.C. individual finals (Friday and Saturday, Anderson) with their weight class and Lower State finish:
106: Jake Sharp, second
113: William Spann, fourth
145: Forrest Kimbrell, third
152: Michael Holmes, fourth
160: Trey Arant, champion
182: Codrian Smalls, second
195: Clint Wright, champion
220: Kentrell Seabrook, fourth
285: Tyler Wilson, second
113: Levi Joly, second
138: Austin Farmer, second
152: Mike Meyerink, second
Hilton Head Island
106: Matt Levy, third
113: Tyler Fick, fourth
126: Brock Massey, third
132: Label Lewis, champion
152: Trevon Rawls, fourth
195: JC Graham, second
106: Joseph Cuevas, second
138: Brian Labean, third
160: DeAndre Johnson, champion
195: Isaiah Sloan, champion
285: Jonathan Wright, third
113: Chris Conn, fourth
126: Gavon Gardner, third
170: Mark Rivers, fourth
182: Juan Allen, fourth
195: Trey Nelson, third
285: Max Ford, champion