The Beaufort wrestling team reached the Class 3-A state final last season for the first time before falling to West-Oak.
The Eagles are expecting to go back.
Hilton Head Island hasn’t been to the finals since a three-year run from 2008 to 2010.
“It’s been a while,” Seahawks head coach Mike Newton said. “Our guys are looking forward to the opportunity.”
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Beaufort will host Hilton Head Island at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the 3-A Lower State Championship match.
One group is going to compete for a state title. The other is going to be disappointed.
The two teams have seen each other twice this season, with Beaufort getting the better of the Seahawks both times.
“This is the first one that’s a must-win scenario,” Newton said. “The other ones didn’t have that final match kind of feel. But we’ve gotten the chance to see some things — certain matchups — and store it up. We’ve got some information from those first two matches that we can use, but they beat us pretty good those first few times.”
Beaufort head coach Travis Wynn said the difference between this match and the first two matches is simple.
“They’ve had more time to prepare for us,” Wynn said. “And change up their strategy.”
Wynn said he was sure the fourth-ranked Seahawks would be prepared for the third-ranked Eagles.
“Mike Newton is a phenomenal coach,” Wynn said. “He can do so much with his lineup. I wrestle my kids where I think they have the best shot of winning. And Mike does a good job putting his kids where they can help them the best. It’s always a battle.”
Newton said it was clear what the strengths of the two teams were. Beaufort is dominant in the lower weights, particularly 106 through 145. Meanwhile, Hilton Head Island is stronger in the middle and upper weights. And then there are a couple of swing weights.
The winner will face the Upper State champion at 1 p.m. Saturday in the 3-A state championship at Dreher High School.
In the end, both coaches say, Wednesday’s competition is a simple one.
Newton said his wrestlers face three scenarios in practice. First, you’re stronger than your opponent and you need to get a pin. Second, your opponent is stronger than you, you need to avoid a pin.
Or third, you are evenly matched. This one may be the key.
“It comes down to who performs better in that match,” Newton said.
Wynn has a simple philosophy, as well.
“When you put a kid on their back, finish him,” he said. “That’s where it is. Their kids are very aggressive down low. If we don’t get pins, we don’t win. If we do get pins, we win.”
Class 3-A Lower State championship
What: No. 4 Hilton Head Island (21-4) at No. 3 Beaufort (42-7)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Beaufort