The mantra is one match at a time, but St. James coach Matt Anderson said it won’t be easy for his team to avoid looking ahead to a potential Lower State showdown.
The Sharks topped Hanahan 39-36, then Hartsville 42-30 and Socastee topped Berkeley 40-30, then Brookland-Cayce 45-36 in the first two rounds of the Class AAA state duals on Saturday.
One more win each would set the two up for a rematch in the Lower State finals, as the Braves edged the Sharks for a Region VII-AAA title on Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a conscious effort. You remind them every single match,” said Anderson about keeping his team focused. “We’ve battled really good, but we’ve got to go one match at a time just like we did today. … Don’t overlook it, don’t start worrying about Socastee, just think about what we’ve got ahead of us.”
What the Sharks have ahead of them is a trip Monday to Swansea, which topped North Myrtle Beach 51-30 in their second-round matchup. The Chiefs beat James Island 60-24 in the first round.
Anderson said his team has exactly zero familiarity with their next opponent – he said he was expecting a match with the Chiefs at any rate – but that won’t affect the Sharks’ preparation.
“We typically aren’t the kind of guys that bump and move guys all over the place,” he said. “We pretty much wrestle you straight up. You can try to out-coach us, but we stay pretty heads up; it’s all fundamentals.”
The Braves will host Hilton Head on Monday after winning both matches comfortably, and are focusing on keeping healthy.
Socastee coach Jeff Gibbins credited 106-pound wrestler Eugene Utley’s early pin and Justin Knipper’s sound decision victory at 126 pounds with giving them an early lead against Berkeley and allowing them to coast. Brookland-Cayce had to forfeit several wrestlers due to injury in the second round.
“[Utley’s] a real tough kid, he’s a first year wrestler,” Gibbins said. “He went out there and ended up with a pin in the first period, and that really uplifted us.”
Looking forward to Hilton Head, Gibbins said there’s a grudge to be dealt with; the Braves knocked the Seahawks out in the second round last year.
“We’ve seen a lot of information on them; I think it’s definitely a match that is winnable for us, but we’re going to have to go out and wrestle,” Gibbins said. “We’re going to try our best to put together a pretty good lineup and get after them on Monday.”
Aynor falls to Battery Creek in Lower State final
Aynor fell in its second straight AA/A Lower State final, losing 32-27 at Battery Creek.
The Blue Jackets went into the final match of the day, 138 pounds, leading by a point, but Christian Alford was pinned by Battery Creek’s Brian Labean to seal the result.
Coach John Morello said there were several close results that could have swung the result either way, but the 132-pound match between Aynor’s Jacob Stacy and Battery Creek’s Caleb Weaver stood out.
“I really thought we were going to win that one,” Morello said.
Weaver won by a 12-11 decision, setting up the final match. Morello also noted the standout performances of Wyatt McCrackin at 285 pounds and Landon Lawson (120), who won his match in overtime.
The Blue Jackets netted wins over Lake City (58-15) and Edisto (43-36) to give them a final record of 39-8 on the year, a school record for the senior-laden team.
“Overall it was a very successful season,” Morello said, noting that his core of younger wrestlers will also benefit from the experience of this season. “We’ve still got seven or eight guys coming back that have won over 30 matches, so we’ve got a good core.”
The Blue Jackets also celebrated their third consecutive region title, and handed Socastee its only loss so far on the season.
Waccamaw, MB ousted
Waccamaw fell to North Charleston in the AA/A bracket, and Myrtle Beach fell to Hilton Head in the AAA bracket.
Contact JEFF NOWAK at 444-1767 or follow him on Twitter @JNowakTSN.