SOCASTEE — Socastee has had individual wrestlers win state titles.
In a matter of days, the Braves will see if they’re able to earn one as a team.
After defeating rival St. James 42-30 in the Class AAA Lower State finals on Saturday, Socastee has moved on to the first appearance in the team finals in school history.
“We only gave up a few pins in the whole playoffs. Our lineup is solid,” junior Jordan Hodge said after the win. “We have studs all the way through our lineup. Everyone is wrestling very well for us.”
The Braves earned victories in eight of the 13 contested matches. The biggest of the day may have been Hodge’s pin against Alex Nielsen.
The two wrestlers came into the postseason ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 138-pound division in Class AAA. The win gave Socastee gained an early lead, and one it would not relinquish after Brad Melnytskyy won in the next match.
Pins by teammates John Leggett, Zach Mor and Kyle Burton soon after then earned Socastee one more match as a team.
“The whole sport is changing; everything is gearing toward team duals,” Braves coach Jeff Gibbins said. “Anyone can find one kid, get lucky and turn him into a state champion. To do it with five or six, that’s special.”
Socastee will now move on to face the winner of Monday’s Upper State finals between regular wrestling powerhouses Eastside and Belton-Honea Path. Eastside has won nine state titles since the start of the 1999-2000 season, while BHP has one of its own.
Eastside is the No. 1 ranked team in Class AAA; Belton-Honea Path is sixth.
The fact that Socastee is No. 5 and now heading to the state championship is at least a partial credit to its mat experience against St. James. The two teams have continued to push each other, and now it is starting to show more in the team matches.
Sharks coach Matt Anderson, who was also working toward his team’s first ever appearance in the state finals, has spent time with plenty of Socastee wrestlers during the offseason.
“I wanted all of our guys in this area to be good,” Anderson said. “We have kids in this county as good as any other in the state. We just needed to get together and start punishing each other.”
Said Gibbins: “Matt did an awesome job of putting together a team. To beat them in the Lower State championship, it means something.”
Both teams will be well represented in next week’s individual championships, which will take place on Friday and Saturday at St. James.
As far as the team duals go, the Braves have a chance to make history again.
106 | Mackenzie Tecco (SJ) pin Eugene Utley 1:27; 113 | Chase Smith (SJ) pin Quin Gammon 5:43; 120 | Dylan Martin (SOC) pin Ross Miller 2:38; 126 | Justin Knipper (SOC) def. Tyler Wiggins 17-2 (Technical Fall) | 132: Jordan Hodge (SOC) pin Alex Nielsen 2:45; 138 | Brad Melnytskyy (SOC) def. Jacob Seifert 4-0; 145 | Michael Mewhorter (SJ) def. Sam McKinney 5-1; 152 | John Leggett (SOC) pin Alex Mauricio 1:02; 160 | Steven Deible (SJ) pin Andrew Badoo 1:04 | 170: Zach Sanders (SJ) def. Aydin Imani 4-0; 182 | Zach Mor (SOC) pin Bradley Mewharter 5:11; 195 | Joe Smolenski (SOC) def. Barrett Coker 14-0; 220 | Kyle Burton (SOC) pin Logan Richards 5:15; 285 | Aaron Foster (SJ) wins (forfeit)
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