Twenty-nine wrestlers from Beaufort County qualified in their respective Lower State meets for next weekend's State Individual Wrestling Championship in Anderson, led by Beaufort High's nine qualifiers.
"The wrestling in Beaufort County, both team-wise and individually, is something special," Beaufort High coach Bill Damude said.
In addition to the nine Eagles, Bluffton qualified three from the Class 4-A Lower State meet at Lugoff-Elgin High.
Hilton Head Island High tied for the Class 3-A lead with six qualifiers from the meet at St. James High.
And in Class 2-A/1-A, Battery Creek sends five to Anderson, while Whale Branch will be sending six from the meet at Edisto High.
Damude expected to advance somewhere between five and eight wrestlers, but the Eagles were near perfect, qualifying nine of their 10 wrestlers, including Lower State champions Trey Arant (160) and Clint Wright (195).
"We had a great tournament," Damude said. "Our boys wrestled with a lot of intensity. Nine is the most we've ever had. We had seven last year."
Damude was pleased with William Spann at 113 pounds, as well as Kentrell Seabrook (220) and Michael Holmes (152).
"Spann was one of the kids that was kind of on the bubble for us," Damude said. "We knew he'd have to upset a couple of people and he did. Qualifying as a freshman is a big deal for him.
"(Seabrook) had been wrestling JV up until this year, and I'm real happy Holmes qualified for state his senior year."
Damude thinks the Eagles could bring home a couple of state titles.
"We could have a couple of state champion, but four or five places would be great."
The Bobcats had three second-place finishers, but could have easily had three Lower State champions.
Levi Joly (113) didn't wrestle the championship match because of illness. Austin Farmer lost a tough 9-7 overtime decision to Lexington's Brandon Sheppard.
"He was up with about 30 seconds left, got tied up, went to overtime and lost on a tough call," Bluffton coach John Hollman said.
And Mike Meyerink (152) lost 7-3 to Summerville's Chad Wood.
"With our Lowers State as tough as it is, we only had six guys wrestle this weekend and three made the finals," Hollman said. "That's pretty impressive, especially in 4-A. The guys wrestled very well."
"I'm a little disappointed we didn't get Talon Seitz qualified," Hollmon said. "... But all of our returning state qualifiers are returning to state. It's the third time for Levi and Michael. And Austin has made four trips in four years. Hopefully the elusive state championship will go his way this year."
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
The Seahawks' six qualifiers were led by Label Lewis, the Lower State champion at 132 pounds. Lewis beat Myrtle Beach's Nick Silvestri in the final.
"I'm pleased," Hilton Head Island coach Mike Newton said. "We came in thinking that five would have been a realistic number. Any less than that would have been a disappointment. Six was nice. And of the nine that we brought, the ones that didn't make it were really close. We wrestled well."
The Seahawks' six qualifiers tied Hanahan and Socastee for the most from Lower State.
DeAndre Johnson (160) and Isaiah Sloan (195) brought home Lower State titles for Battery Creek.
Coach Jim Shuman said the Dolphins had a couple more that he though might have advanced, including Jimmy Sanchez (126), who was limited after suffering a head gash in practice earlier in the week. He finished a win short of qualifying for state.
"We had a lot of guys that went deep into the championship and consolation rounds," Shuman said. All in all, it was a good day for us. We have a young team, a couple of seniors and a lot of freshmen and sophomores. It was a great day. I'm looking forward to next week with these five guys."
"We had an amazing day," said Warriors coach Travis Wynn.
Whale Branch's six qualifiers, led by Lower State champion Max Ford (285), are the most in the school's three-year history.
Last year's two qualifiers, Ford and Mark Rivers (170), repeated this season.
"Honestly, we thought three or four might make it if they wrestled their hearts out," Wynn said. "Six was kind of a long shot. Max has a very good shot at making it to the finals."
Wynn, a former state champion in 2008 under coach Bill Damude at Beaufort High, is in his first season with the Whale Branch program.
"We only brought nine kids. We didn't have a full team all season and we went to dual meets with eight to 10 kids," said Wynn, who pointed out only one other school at 2-A/1-A qualified more -- Bamberg-Ehrhardt, and they won the state championship.
"Hopefully this will let (the students) know there's a wrestling team and they're pretty good," Wynn said. "It feels good to be a Whale Branch Warrior. The community is happy, and (the team has) exceeded expectations."
Area wrestlers who qualified Saturday for the S.C. Individual Finals (Feb. 22-23, Anderson) with their weight class and Lower State finish:
Class 4-A at Lugoff-Elgin High School
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 Seabrookm, fourth
285: Tyler Wilson, second
113: Levi Joly, second
138: Austin Farmer, second
152: Mike Meyerink, second
Class 3-A, at St. James High School
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
Class 2-A/1-A, at Edisto High School
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