CORDOVA — Bamberg-Ehrhardt head coach Jake Stewart walked over to the scorer’s table with two matches left against Aynor.
As each wrestler approached the mat after checking in, Stewart formed an X with his arms to signify a forfeit of each match. When the final Aynor wrestler’s hand was raised, the crowd cheered as the Red Raiders held up three fingers to celebrate their 42-40 Lower State championship win.
The three symbolized the goal that B-E has had in its sights since the beginning of the 2012-13 season — their third straight state championship.
“It feels good being here,” senior Malcolm Jones said after the final match of the day. “I hope we continue next week”
The Red Raiders earned a bye in the opening round, being the second seed in the tournament. However, the challenge they faced in competing against three teams was a demanding one.
“We went to a bunch of tournaments over the year,” senior Lan Hiers said. “So we know what it is to wrestle a lot of matches in a day. It’s dedication and work.”
After defeating Marion and Battery Creek earlier in the day, the Red Raiders got off to a fast start taking a 30-0 lead against Aynor before the Blue Jackets took three straight matches to make it 30-18. The quick run was one that Stewart did not want to see.
“I don’t think concerned is the right word,” Stewart said about the run. “Panicked would be a better word. We know which weight classes we expect to produce for us and they did. We lost a couple that we didn’t expect to lose (220 and Heavyweight). We really thought the match would be out of reach by then. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. They’re high school kids. Sometimes they have a good day. Sometimes they don’t.”
The Red Raiders remained calm, cool and collected under pressure and picked up two more key wins to ensure that they would never relinquish the lead under the leadership of seniors Malcolm Jones, Player Long, Hiers and Mark Moody, as well as junior Jeremy Davis.
“It was difficult,” Long said, “but we talked to the kids when we first got here. We talked to them about how this is our last year. It’s our last go at it. We don’t get a second chance. They came together for us. Jeremy Davis, our (182-pound wrestler) told me, ‘I’m in it for y’all.’ It just means a lot that they’re here for us in our last go at it.”
The win sets up a historic opportunity for B-E. Should the Red Raiders capture their third straight S.C. High School League wrestling state championship, they would become the first team to win back-to-back state titles in different classifications. The chance to do that is one the Red Raiders are hoping to take advantage of. Knowing that, the celebration of Saturday’s title isn’t expected to last long as the Red Raiders understand they have more work to do.
“Monday is a whole different ball game,” Hiers said.
“It’s done,” Long added. “We had our little celebration after the match. Now, it’s done. We’re focused on next Saturday.”
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LOWER STATE TOURNAMENT FINAL RESULTS
Lake City 48, Bishop England 27
Marion 63, St. John’s 18
Edisto 78, Cross 6
Loris 45, Whale Branch 30
Aynor 39, Lake City 30
Bamberg-Ehrhardt 58, Marion 23
Waccamaw 39, Edisto 35
Battery Creek 54, Loris 17
Aynor 48, Waccamaw 30
Bamberg-Ehrhardt 42, Battery Creek 28
Bamberg-Ehrhardt 42, Aynor 40