Fort Mill and Nation Ford had 14 wrestlers qualify for the Upper State tourney Feb 20-21 at Laurens High School after last Saturday’s Region III tournament.
The Jackets also had four Region III champs crowned Saturday.
Led by senior Jake Strong, Fort Mill brought 11 wrestlers to the region tournament and qualified nine for the Upper State tournament when they finished in the top four in their weight classes.
Jackets head coach Chris Brock said he feels like all nine going to Laurens can do well.
“They can all qualify (for state),” he said. “They are all capable. For some of them, it will be harder than others. We usually have a good region tournament.”
Winning region titles for Fort Mill was John Brotemarkle (106), AJ Leitten (126), Jack Debbout (160) and Strong (132). The Jackets sent six wrestlers to the finals.
Fort Mill’s Brotemarkle beat Rock Hill’s Justin Beck 6-4 in the finals at 106 pounds.
His win was followed three bouts later by Leitten, who won by tech fall with a 16-0 decision over York’s Zeke Bean in the first period.
After Leitten’s win, a must-see matches pitted Strong against Nation Ford’s Dalen Byerley. Strong had been wrestling at 138 pounds all season, but dropped to 132 for the individual tournament. Byerley had been No. 1 in the state at 132 pounds all season, while Strong had been ranked in the top three at 138 pounds during the season.
After Strong dropped to 132, rankings released Friday put him at No. 1 in the state and dropped Byerley to No. 2.
In their match, Strong scored first and held control of Byerley for most of the match, while leading 6-2 deep into the third period before getting a pin fall. It was Byerley’s third loss of the season and just his first from anyone within South Carolina, having fallen to opponents out of Georgia and North Carolina earlier this season.
Fort Mill’s other region champion was Debbout, who beat Nation Ford’s Jakob Gravely 6-0.
Other Upper State qualifiers for Fort Mill were Stephen Hamilton (145) and Evan Stankovits (160), who were also region finalists, Brody Claassen (113), Nick Gray (138) and Gray Hinson (220).
Both Gravely and Byerley were Nation Ford’s only two finalist in the region tournament, but the Falcons qualified five for the Upper State tournament later this month.
Nation Ford head coach Leon Boulware said that he is confident in the five wrestlers he is taking to Laurens.
“The five we are taking can compete very well,” he said. “Overall, we found out how young we were this year.”
Also qualifying for Upper State for Nation Ford was Christian Trimble (120), Robert Land (145) and Major Strait (195).