The instant Fort Mill senior Jake Hart took bottom, he knew it was over.
It was his choice and he knew exactly where he wanted to be after one overtime had already passed. The situation was in his favor in the 152-pound 5A state championship against Fort Dorchester’s Drew Parker with the match tied at 1-1 in double overtime. Hart, who was ranked No. 1 in the state in his weight class, chose bottom and then was able to escape from Parker with about 15 seconds left, giving him a 2-1 win and the state title.
“I knew it was going to be a good match,” Hart said. “I knew I could get out. I knew he couldn’t keep me down.”
A Virginia Tech commit, Hart finished the season at 54-1 and captured his 98th win for Fort Mill High and 201st career win overall after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Keller Central High in Texas. Hart’s opponent was a defending state champion at 160 pounds who dropped down a weight class and Jackets head coach Chris Brock said he knew it would be one of Hart’s tougher matches.
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“It was much tighter than I thought,” Brock said. “You got to expect it was going to be a dog fight. Jake is hard to ride.”
Hart was the 24th state champion for Fort Mill and it was the 14th consecutive year that the Jackets have brought home a state champion. Hart also took home the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the 5A level.
Indian Land, in 3A, brought home two state champions for the second straight year. Winning for the Warriors were junior Austin Ross and freshman Solomon Cortez. Ross won his second state title, this time at 113 pounds.
Ross won with a second period pin fall over Woodruff’s Noah Johns. Ross said it helped that he won last year and the experience that went along with that going into the finals.
“There was less nerves,” he said. “I trusted myself more.”
Nerves, on the other hand, were very much a part of Cortez before he won the 106-pound state championship as a freshman. Cortez and Woodruff’s Tony DeLaGarza battled back and forth with Cortez coming out with a 17-11 victory. The two-day tournament kept Cortez up after the first day once he reached the finals.
“I couldn’t get any sleep,” he said. “I wrestled him last week and he beat me.”
Warriors head coach Leon Boulware said he is happy with where things are going with his program.
“Kids are buying in,” he said. “I feel good our program is going in the right direction.”
The Warriors brought seven wrestlers to the tournament with three of them getting into the finals. Indian Land’s Kyle Daley finished second at 152 pounds and Weston Nguyen was fourth at 120 for the Warriors.
Fort Mill also had two other finishers on the podium after they battled back through the consolation matches after early losses. Ethan Johnson (106 pounds) and Jacob Sturgeon (120) both finished third. The Jackets brought six wrestlers to the tournament.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM