Max Ford probably knows it sounds a little backward.
The Whale Branch Early College High School heavyweight believes he carried more will to win last year as a junior, when he won an individual state championship in Class 2-A/1-A. Now a senior and Lower State champion a second consecutive year, Ford can add another gold medal when the S.C. High School League individual wrestling championships are held on Friday and Saturday at the Anderson Civic Center.
"I think last-year me would kick this-year me's behind," Ford said. "I say it all the time. I had a lot more determination than this year. But I still have more determination than most, so."
Five Beaufort County wrestlers won state titles last year. Ford and Battery Creek's Isaiah Sloan, at 182 pounds, are the only ones with a chance to repeat.
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For Bluffton, Levi Joly and Michael Meyerink are four-time state qualifiers trying to win their first state championship as seniors. Bobcats sophomore Talon Seitz, the Lower State champion at 138, is hoping to break through in his first trip to state.
"He's one of those kind of guys who puts time and effort in the summertime, and it's paid off," Bluffton coach John Hollman said of Seitz, who owns school records for pins in a season (45) and wins (62). "He learned a few lessons as a freshman last year."
The four Beaufort High School qualifiers include Lower State champion Kentrell Seabrook at 220. Seabrook said he would run all week to prepare for the grind.
"This time of year, it's all mental toughness and physical conditioning," Eagles coach Bill Damude said after his team hosted the Class 4-A Lower State tournament. "All these kids are good."
Six Battery Creek wrestlers will head to Anderson, fewer than the number coach Nathan Day had hoped. He compared the week of practice to the NFL's Pro Bowl after the Dolphins won the 2-A/1-A duals title on Feb. 18.
Ford is also having trouble finding the motivation, citing senioritis. But he expects to be ready by Saturday.
Ford wrestled Upper State champion Avery Thompson in the first round last year, winning a decision after catching an elbow to the head. Ford expects to see Thompson again this weekend.
"You can lose at any minute in wrestling," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and do my best."
SCHSL Individual Wrestling Championships
Where: Civic Center of Anderson
When: Friday and Saturday
Schedule: Friday -- Class 3-A at 4 p.m.; Class 4-A at 5:30 p.m.; Class 2-A/1-A at 7 p.m.; Saturday -- wrestling begins at 9 a.m., finals at 6 p.m.
Admission: $6 Friday and $8 Saturday (5 and under free)
(*denotes Lower State champion)
Battery Creek: *Joseph Cuevas (106), Omar Daniels (113), Cooper Kaminsky (195), Desmon Mullen (120), Isaiah Sloan (182), Jonathan Wright (285)
Beaufort High: Mitchell Nestler (195), *Kentrell Seabrook (220), Jake Sharp (113), Will Spann (220)
Bluffton: Levi Joly (113), Michael Meyerink (160), *Talon Seitz (138)
Hilton Head Island: *Martin Duane (182), Logan Johnston (160), Matt Levy (120), Brock Massey (138)
Whale Branch: *Max Ford (285)