Austin Ross had won two individual wrestling state titles the last two years, so he knew what a championship feels like.
Or so he thought.
Ross and his Indian Land teammates built a big early lead and cruised past Gilbert 44-12 to win the 3A wrestling team state championship Saturday.
“I think this means more,” Ross said. “Fighting for someone means more to me than just fighting for yourself. I wrestled for my team and for my family.”
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The state title was Indian Land’s first ever for a boys’ sport and cemented these particular Warriors in school history forever.
“There are a lot of emotions right now,” said Indian Land head coach Leon Boulware. “I am super proud of this group of guys. I want to give credit to my coaches and assistant coaches. They all bought into the program.”
Indian Land dropped the first match at 182 pounds and went down early, but then rattled off eight straight wins to take a commanding 31-6 lead. They clinched the title at 145 pounds when Grant Witherspoon pinned Dakota Price in the first period to make the score 37-9.
“We knew coming in we were going to have some tight matches,” Boulware said. “The guys worked their tails off to get it done.”
The crescendo for the Warriors program has been three years in the making starting when Boulware came on board at Indian Land, a 3A school, from a much bigger 5A school in Nation Ford.
Boulware shaped his staff and started molding wrestlers into state champions at the individual level. A couple years ago, the school’s JV and middle school teams also won state titles and now the varsity team adds a state title of its own to the school’s trophy case.
Starting with Alex Murphy’s 7-5 overtime decision at 195 pounds and ending at Teddey Yarborough’s 9-1 major decision at 132 pounds. During that run, Indian Land got five decisions, a major decision and two pins. Those pins came at heavyweight by Erick Neil, and then at 106 pounds by Max Yegge.
Ross got a 6-5 win over Brennen Crout in a highly contested match. Solomon Cortez (120), Weston Nguyen (126) and Raul Neil (220) each got decisions for Indian Land as well during the streak.
After a loss at 138 pounds, the Warriors bounced back to get a win by Witherspoon mathematically sealing the victory. Ross said knowing they had won the title, but still having three matches to go, it was hard to keep themselves contained as the excitement nearly boiled over.
“Everyone did their part and we were behind each other as a family,” he said, “We pushed through. I believed in my team so as soon as the first person went out I though we would dominate all the way through. Once we won one, I just wanted the next one to go out there and make it a bigger deficit and get the blowout and that is what we did.”
Also getting wins for Indian Land during the match was Xavier Dreese (152) and Markeith Drakeford (170).
Indian Land 44, Gilbert 12
182: Grayson Keisler (G) fall Brandon Britton (IL)
195: Alex Murphy (IL) dec Kyle Decker (G), 7-5 OT
220: Raul Neil (IL) dec Will Harmon (G), 7-0
Hwt: Erick Neil (IL) fall Carson Harmon (G)
106: Max Yegge (IL) fall Blake Wise (G)
113: Austin Ross (IL) dec Brennen Crout (G), 6-5
120: Solomon Cortez (IL) dec Barrett Crout (G), 8-4
126: Weston Nguyen (IL) dec Gaven Baker (G), 9-7
132: Teddey Yarborough (IL) major Nick Oswald (G), 9-1
138: Eric Heydenreich (G) dec Foster Lambert (IL), 7-1
145: Grant Witherspoon (IL) fall Dakota Price (G)
152: Xavier Dreese (IL) dec Dalton Price (G), 5-4
160: Tony Price (G) dec Phillip Padget (IL), 5-3 OT
170: Markeith Drakeford (IL) major Josh Coleman (G), 10-0
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM