High School Sports

2011 Wrestler of the Year

Hilton Head High  wrestler Label Lewis, top, shows off a headlock on former Seahawk Jesse Aragon during a workout Friday on Hilton Head Island. Lewis was named The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet Wrestler of the Year after finishing the season with a 52-8  record.
Hilton Head High wrestler Label Lewis, top, shows off a headlock on former Seahawk Jesse Aragon during a workout Friday on Hilton Head Island. Lewis was named The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet Wrestler of the Year after finishing the season with a 52-8 record. Sarah Welliver/The Island Packet

Label Lewis could have taken it as a sign of disrespect. Instead, he dismissed it as an innocent mistake.

He had just captured the Class 3-A Lower State 112-pound wrestling title. When the Hilton Head High wrestler was given his championship bracket -- documenting his undefeated tournament route -- he laughed as he looked at it.

"Look," he said with a smile. "They can't spell my name."

Indeed, the bracket read "Labelle" rather than Label.

"People either spell it wrong or say it wrong," said Lewis, whose first name is pronounced La-BELL.

Maybe now they will learn to say -- and spell -- it correctly.

The Seahawks sophomore capped his 52-win season with a Class 3-A state championship in February. He was one of three Beaufort County wrestlers to win an individual state title, joining Beaufort High School 215-pounder Maliek Maldonado and Battery Creek heavyweight David Ratliff.

Lewis, though, was the only wrestler in the county to win his region tournament, win Lower State and follow both with a state title, making him The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet Wrestler of the Year for 2010-11. Lewis finished the season 52-8.

"It means a lot to me to follow in Jack (Duane) and David (Beck)'s footsteps and all the other kids that have come through here and won state," said Lewis, referring to his teammates from last year that won state titles.

Lewis nearly joined the two atop the podium last season. He finished second in his freshman campaign, losing a close match to J.L. Mann senior Oliver Burman in the finals. Seahawks coach Mike Newton believed Lewis was the better wrestler but said his freshman let his nerves get the best of him.

Lewis used it as motivation for his sophomore season, and he spoke of it often. When he returned to the individual state tournament this February, Lewis was ready. He dominated his bracket, finishing off his state-winning run with a 14-0 victory against Berkeley's DiAndre Robinson in the finals.

"I was very confident I was going to win," Lewis said. "I was very motivated, knowing that I came in second last year."

He wrestled like it. More importantly, Newton said, he practiced like it.

Lewis' athleticism, especially his quickness, has always given him an advantage on the mat. But high school wrestling incorporated more technique than what he initially expected, meaning he had to work harder than he anticipated.

He was ready for that challenge this year.

"He's one of the best athletes we've had come through our program," Newton said. "You combine that with his work ethic, which he started to pick up this year, and he's tough (to beat)."

And perhaps the scariest thing: He has two years left in his high school career.

Through his first two seasons, Lewis has totaled 92 wins -- exactly half the amount of school record-holder Rocky Williams-McClure, who graduated in 2009 with 184. His state title, however has him looking for another accomplishment -- he wants to join Scott Moody as the only wrestlers in Hilton Head High history to win three state championships.

"I can't get too cocky," Lewis said. "I have to stay motivated. ... I'm hoping to win state for the last two years and (become) the second kid at Hilton Head High to win three times. That's my goal."

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