Three Aynor seniors set quite an example Saturday.
Landon Lawson (126 pounds) and T.J. Fox (220) won individual state titles in their respective weight classes and Daquan Smith (170) posted a runner-up finish in Anderson, capping a solid day for the Blue Jacket wrestling program.
Those were pivotal feats for Aynor, which sports a roster of mostly underclassmen.
“This is what you feed off of,” said Marion Shaw, who started the Blue Jackets wrestling program in 1982, coached through 1998 and returned as the program’s leader this season. “When other kids – even younger kids, even those in middle school – see a senior come back with a medal or see an article in the paper or see something at school about it, [it spurs interest]. That’s what you’ve got to have to keep your program alive.”
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Lawson and Fox both were first-time state champions, and they were elated after their victories, Shaw said.
“They were ecstatic,” Shaw said. “Both of them came running off the mat and jumped on assistant coach Ethan Nobles. They both enjoyed it big time with their parents and everything.”
It was also a blast for Shaw, who retired recently but has served in various positions for Horry County Schools while returning to coaching this season.
“It was a lot of fun, especially a night like tonight,” Shaw said. “I’ve enjoyed this year and being around these kids. They worked their tails off and it was a good experience for them and a good experience for me.”
Shaw plans to put up a bit of a shrine in the Aynor wrestling room with a wall of fame to inspire others to join in on the program’s tradition.
“It’s a big thing. It’s something you can build off of,” he said of Saturday’s success. “It’s just like a football team in the playoffs.”
For Lawson and Fox, they knew it was go time.
“I heard a guy tell them tonight, ‘You’ve got to the point where it’s a job right now. You’ve got to go out there and do it. Punch in, get in there and work hard and punch out,’ ” Shaw said.
The results showed their hard work paid off.
“I thought all three of our seniors that came up here did an outstanding job,” Shaw said. “They wrestled hard all year. We were a young team and those three seniors were the leaders of our team this year. It was a good experience for [the younger kids] to see the older kids succeed.”