SIMPSONVILLE – A slow start by fifth ranked Fort Mill was too much to overcome against the No. 1 ranked Hillcrest Rams as they ended the Yellow Jackets season with a 48-20 win in the third round of the 5A state playoffs.
The defending 5A state champion Rams will now take on Lugoff-Elgin in the Upper State finals Wednesday.
Fort Mill fell behind 9-0 after the Rams won the first two weight classes 16-1 and 12-3 at 145-pounds and 152-pounds respectively setting a dominating pace early on in front of a rowdy crowd at AC Duckett Gym on the campus of Hillcrest. Fort Mill finished their dual season with a 21-6 record, as Hillcrest improved to 30-5 on the season.
The dual was tight for the early part until Hillcrest won four consecutive matches and started pulling away.
The Jackets picked up the first of six wins at 160-pounds as Josh Cizmadia got a first period pin. Fort Mill tied the match at 9-9 at 170-pounds as Avery Wilcox got a 7-4 decision. From there, the Jackets dropped the next four matches, three of them by pin fall.
“Hillcrest is a tough team,” said Adam Marullo, Fort Mill assistant coach. “We came out and lost a lot of close matches. We have got to now focus on the Upper State tournament.” (Fort Mill head coach Chris Brock wasn’t at the match due to an unexpected family medical issue.)
The Rams took a 30-9 lead in winning those four matches, but Fort Mill fought back as they would win the next two matches. As the match circled around to the lower weights, McGuire Harms picked up a second period pin over Tyler Grindstaff at 106-pounds and Sebastian Colon got a 4-2 decision at 113-pounds.
With the two wins, Fort Mill still clung to life trailing 30-18, but took a fall at 120-pounds and was put in a position where they needed to win the remaining three matches all by pin fall to make up the 18-point deficit after the loss at 120-pounds. They were unable to do so with the only win in those three matches coming from the Jackets’ Joshua Sturgeon at 126-pounds, a 11-4 decision over Darren O’Keefe.
Fort Mill will now focus on qualifying as many wresters as they can for the individual State Tournament at the Upper State individual tournament Feb. 21-22 at Laurens High. The top four finishers in each weight class will qualify for the state tournament which will be held Feb. 28-29 at the Anderson Civic Center.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM