The longest six minutes in sports.
It's a phrase seen on T-shirts at nearly every wrestling tournament in the state. It's a good one, appropriate for what goes on inside the circle on the wrestling mat. Three two-minute rounds if needed. If that doesn't do it, there's a one-minute sudden death period.
If a bout is still undecided, two 30-second rounds follow, where each wrestler gets and equal chance to win from the down position.
Starting tonight at what has become the home of the Class AAAA Upper State individuals tournament, Simpsonville's Hillcrest High School, those six minutes might be as important as any time in the season.
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Hillcrest coach Tommy Bell and his brother and assistant, Robby, have been there. Before going back to their high school to coach, the Bell's were assistants at Fort Mill. They were star wrestlers in high school.
Robby won four individual championships and had 148 career wins. Tommy was a one-time state champ and won 138 matches.
"No doubt this round is the most important of them all," Tommy Bell said. "You qualify to get here. You have to qualify to go to the state.
"As a coach, it's especially hard. You're on one mat with a wrestler who just lost, trying to console him. Then you jump to another mat and celebrate with your wrestler who won."
The top four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes from the Upper State's four regions advances to Hillcrest, where dreams are made and dashed. The top four in each weight class advance to next weekend's state championships at Lexington High School.
As the coaches often point out, wrestling is a sport where the unexpected can and does happen. And the sport has dealt some devastating blows.
Lancaster senior Jake Tubbs went into the tournament on the same floor two year's ago undefeated and an overwhelming favorite to win the state title at 215 pounds. Less than a minute into the first round, Tubbs picked up his opponent and took him to the mat in what looked like another quick pin for the Bruins' muscleman.
Nobody saw what happened next coming.
When Tubbs took his man to the floor, his scream silenced the noisy gym. Tubbs broke his elbow in two places and his high school career was done.
Three locals go into today's tournament Fort Mill's Brandon Fiex is 34-0 at 125. His teammate, Max Simons has a 35-0 record at 189. Rock Hill Josh Tuck, 171, is 38-0. All three are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA in their weight classes, as are Rock Hill's Weston Beck (112), Fort Mill's Thomas Mockridge (160) and South Pointe's Ra'mon Truesdale (Hwt.).
WANT TO GO?
What: Class AAAA Upper State individuals championships.
When: Today 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.
Where: Hillcrest High School, Simpsonville
Tickets: $6 today, $8 Saturday
Directions: Go to Blacksburg and get on I-85 South. Take 85 to Greenville and get off on I-385 South at the Mauldin exit. Get off 385 at Exit 26 (Harrison Bridge Road) and turn left at the top of the exit ramp. Once across the bridge, take the first right. At the first stop sign, turn right onto Frontage Road. The school will be approximately a quarter of a mile on the left.