Loris’ Long pushed himself for bounce-back title

For The Sun NewsMarch 13, 2014 

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

  • The team

    Wrestler of The Year

    Taquan Long

    School | Loris

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 160

    Noteworthy | Class AA-A state champion recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament tear last year to finish 36-1 in his weight class. Also a state qualifier in 2013, Long was an All-Region VIII-AA selection and spent the entire year ranked in the top three in the state.

    Christian Coppola

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Sophomore

    Weight | 106

    Noteworthy | Class AAA Lower State champion spent most of the season ranked among the top five in the state. Finished 49-17, including a top-six finish in the state individual tournament.

    Landon Lawson

    School | Aynor

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 120

    Noteworthy | Finished the season 37-15 overall. Won the Class AA Lower State title and was then second place in the state individual tournament. Helped Blue Jackets to team Lower State finals.

    Justin Knipper

    School | Socastee

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 120/126

    Noteworthy | Three-time state qualifier made the jump from 106 pounds to finish 38-3 overall and win the Class AAA Lower State individual title and the Horry County championship.

    Arman Singh

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 126

    Noteworthy | Two-time state qualifier finished as the Class AA Lower State runner up and the Class AA third-place winner after going 31-5 and helping Warriors back to the team state duals.

    Jordan Hodge

    School | Socastee

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 132

    Noteworthy | Helped Braves to first-ever Class AAA state duals and recorded 20 pins on the season. Finished 30-10 overall and in third place in the Class AAA individual tournament.

    Jacob Stacy

    School | Aynor

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 132

    Noteworthy | Spent much of season ranked in top three in the state. Was 42-11 overall, finished second in Lower State tournament and third in the Class AA state finals.

    Shea Burke

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 145

    Noteworthy | Class AA Lower State runner up advanced to a third-place finish at Class AA state tournament. Was 32-4 overall and ranked as high as No. 3 in the state during the regular season.

    Alex Lewis

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 145

    Noteworthy | Class AAA Lower State also finished in third place in the state finals after going 38-7 and earning All-Region VII-AAA honors and helping Chiefs to a team dual first-round victory.

    Parker Williams

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 152

    Noteworthy | Class AA state runner up and Lower State champion was 32-2 overall. Spent time in the state rankings at two different weight classes this season.

    Steven Welch

    School | Loris

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 170

    Noteworthy | Finished the season 33-4 overall. Won the Class AA Lower State championship and then finished second in the Class AA state finals. Spent portion of the year ranked No. 1 in the state.

    Daquan Smith

    School | Aynor

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 170

    Noteworthy | Set Aynor’s single-season wins record by going 47-7. All-Region honoree also finished second in Class AA Lower State individual tournament and third in state tournament.

    Zach Sanders

    School | St. James

    Class | Junior

    Weight | 170

    Noteworthy | After going undefeated in Region VII-AAA matches, finished 46-6 overall, third in the Class AAA Lower State individual tournament and second in the Class AA state finals.

    Joe Smolenski

    School | Socastee

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 195

    Noteworthy | Finished in third place during the individual state tournament after also earning the Lower State championship. Was 36-2 overall with 21 pins and helped Socastee to team Lower State title.

    DQ Nash

    School | Aynor

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 220

    Noteworthy | Class AA Lower State champion finished second in state meet. Was 39-4 overall, undefeated against Horry County opponents and was named Region VIII-AA Wrestler of the Year.

    Wyatt McCrackin

    School | Aynor

    Class | Senior

    Weight | 285

    Noteworthy | Finished second in the Class AA Lower State individual tournament and the state tournament after going 43-8 overall and earning a top-three state ranking during the regular season.

Chuck Hemingway didn’t need to push his top wrestlers much.

That didn’t stop the Loris first-year head coach from prodding Taquan Long. Hemingway frequently wore the state championship ring he won while wrestling for the Lions in 2000, and a few weeks before this year’s state finals, he let Long slip it on his finger.

“Is this what you want?” Hemingway asked.

Long answered in the affirmative, and sure enough, he’s about to have his own championship ring.

The Sun News Toast of the Coast Wrestler of the Year won the Class AA/A state title at 160 pounds after finishing his junior season 36-1. He was an All-Region VIII-AA selection and was generally recognized as one of the best in the weight class throughout the season.

His win completed a notable bounce-back story, as this time last year, Long was suffering through a mentally and physically painful stretch. First, after transferring from North Myrtle Beach, he was able to qualify for and then win the Class AA Lower State title. However, he failed to place at state despite being one of the favorites.

A few short weeks later, it got worse when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during spring football practice. The injury sidelined him for the entire football season.

But it also propelled him to something bigger on the mat.

“It was tough,” Long said. “I just put everything behind me. I was starting new. I wanted to make myself better. I wanted to make my junior year, make everything right.”

Said Hemingway: “We stayed encouraging with him. He was really down. He was really upset he couldn’t play football. He made the best of it. He had a positive attitude throughout the entire process.”

Weeks after the start of the season, Long was back to his old form. Hemingway said he was “dominating” his opponents, and soon after the coach new his wrestler was going to be a force come February and March.

The ACL tear was no longer preventing Long from doing what he was capable of.

“I know the work that he put in. I knew the type of athlete that he was, and that he could,” Hemingway said. “I was skeptical because of the injury. But halfway through the season, he elevated his wrestling. I knew he could win.”

Long again won the Lower State title, and then swept through the state finals to win that championship. In the process, he defeated Columbia’s Louis Taylor, the only wrestler ranked ahead of Long in the pre-tournament state rankings at 160 pounds.

Because of it, when Hemingway shows off his jewelry for motivational purposes, Long will be able to counter with some of his own.

“He walks around and has something to show for it,” Long said. “I didn’t want to go through my high school and not have anything sports-wise. That ring, that’s the perfect thing to show for it.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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