Battery Creek wrestlers expecting exciting fight for state championship

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com

February 18, 2014 

Brian LaBean won't soon forget the feeling of his most recent pin.

The Battery Creek High School senior prayed to himself for the chance to close out the Dolphins' Lower State wrestling final with Aynor at home on Feb. 8. And when teammate Caleb Weaver held on for a victory to extend the match, LaBean had his shot.

His first-period pin sent Battery Creek fans streaming from their seats to the mat and sent the Dolphins to the Class 2-A/1-A state championship.

"If I could relive that moment again, I'd probably do that forever," LaBean said.

More drama could be on the way.

Battery Creek will wrestle Liberty on Tuesday at Airport High School in West Columbia. The Dolphins are trying for their first duals championship since 1996 and fifth under coach Nathan Day.

Day has heard throughout the state's wrestling circles that the 2-A/1-A match is expected to be the most exciting.

Liberty won the first meeting at Hilton Head Island High School's duals, with Battery Creek needing a pin in the final bout to have won. The Dolphins were without heavyweight Jonathan Wright, and Alex Nelson could not go at 220 pounds.

"We've been the only ones practicing," Wright said, referencing the Upstate's icy weather. "I think we've got a little advantage."

For Day, the excitement has returned after an extended absence from the main stage.

He stepped away in 1998 to be able to spend time with his growing children. He had targeted a possible return after his son, Ryan, graduated from Thomas Heyward Academy. But Roger Beach, the Battery Creek assistant who wrestled for Day, convinced him to step in a year early.

"I wouldn't trade (Beach) for anybody," Day said. "He's a big asset."

Now Day has a squad with a solid mix of young and old.

Seniors Isaiah Sloan, Joseph Cuevas, LaBean and Wright will wrestle their final team match Tuesday. Sloan and LaBean are the top-ranked wrestlers at their weights; Cuevas is No. 4 at 113 and Wright No. 6 at heavyweight.

But among the promising underclassmen contributing this year are freshmen Omar Daniels and Cooper Kaminsky, both ranked in the top-five in their class, and sophomore Porter Mahan, who is ranked No. 2 at 145.

Day worked with some of the current underclassmen when he helped coach at Robert Smalls Middle School while others had reins at the high school. He knew the capabilities of the group this season.

That's why he regrets having to trot out a makeshift lineup at times this season when not all of his wrestlers were able to travel to tournaments. The capability he saw during the Dolphins' victory over Aynor in the Lower State final he had seen in practice throughout the season, but it didn't always show with guys wrestling out of position and some absent.

"As long as they fight hard tomorrow night, there won't be any regrets," Day said. "Hopefully all 14 fight as hard as they can."

CLASS 2-A/1-A WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP

What: Duals match between Lower State champion Battery Creek and Upper State champion Liberty

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Airport High School; 1315 Boston Ave., West Columbia, SC 29170

Details: Match postponed from original time Feb. 15 at Dreher because of weather.

Wrestlers ranked in 2-A/1-A by scmat.com (position, weight): Battery Creek -- Omar Daniels (No. 3, 106), Joseph Cuevas (No. 4, 113), Caleb Weaver (No. 5, 132), Brian LaBean (No. 1, 138), Porter Mahan (No. 2, 145), Malik Morgan (No. 8, 160), Isaiah Sloan (No. 1, 182), Craig Truett (No. 7, 182), Cooper Kaminsky (No. 5, 195), Jonathan Wright (No. 6, 285). Liberty -- Matt Frey (No. 2, 113), Brandon Pilgrim (No. 6, 132), Darien Painter (No. 3, 152), James Knott (No. 2, 160), Tanner Chambers (No. 2, 182)

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