Middle school wrestlers from Fort Mill took part in the South Pointe State Qualifier Tournament last week.
Fort Mill had several wrestlers qualify for the state tournament who have a chance to make a name for themselves before they begin high school and develop a good understanding of how the varsity coaches operate and what they expect out of the kids. The qualifier was held Dec. 13.
The team consists of members from Gold Hill, Fort Mill and Springfield middle schools, which are zoned to attend Fort Mill High School.
"We have operated a middle school program here at Fort Mill High School for nine years," Yellow Jackets head coach Christopher Brock said. "We started it the first year that I took the job in 2000. The middle school program has played a huge role in the success of our program over the years."
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The state qualifier enables the wrestlers to compete in the middle school and JV state tournaments to be held Jan. 31. The program as a whole develops kids earlier than they would normally get a chance to competitively wrestle and has them under the tutelage of Brock and his staff.
Nation Ford has a similar program that it developed when they became a new school last year. Like at Fort Mill, Falcon varsity head coach Paul Richardson oversees the whole program and has a chance to influence the kids involved from earlier ages.
Tyler Turner, from Springfield Middle School, placed third in the 80-pound division and Brannon Downie, also from Springfield, placed third in the 110-pound division. Scott Fletcher, a 150-pounder from Gold Hill Middle School, placed fourth in the 150-pound weight class.
Dallas Croen, a 90-pounder from Gold Hill, placed first and qualified for the state middle school championships.
The JV wrestlers had similar success and several qualified for the state JV tournament. Alan Parks won at 119 pounds and Austin King placed second in the 112-pound division. Both also contributed this week on the varsity team and won matches by fall against Indian Land.
Heavyweight Bradley Rapp placed second in the tournament and joined Parks and King as state qualifiers.
Will Lundy, 171 pounds, finished third in the tournament.
The program has been a huge success in the nine years since Brock started it. He said the number of kids coming out has been down this year, but it still helps wrestlers prepare for high school and get some good experience before they reach that level.