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Player Long, Lan Hiers

Teammates since seventh grade, Player Long, left, and Lan Hiers are part of a core of Bamberg-Ehrhardt seniors who have dominated in high school wrestling with three straight state titles. Long finished as the school’s all-time winningest grappler with 229 victories, with Hiers estimating his total at around 215.

  • With the 2012-13 year coming to a close, many of The T&D Region’s top student-athletes will be ending their high school careers. Over the next month, The T&D will profile standout seniors in various sports who helped their teams reach championship heights or earned recognition for their individual talents during their four years in school.

BAMBERG - Ask about sports dynasties in the town of Raiderville and baseball quickly comes to mind.

A different sport is currently bringing in the hardware for the Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School trophy case on a regular basis. For the last three years, the wrestling team has established itself as one of the S.C. High School League’s most elite programs in dominating both classes A and 2-A.

Not only have the Red Raiders racked up the team championships, the B-E wrestlers have a plethora of individual gold medals at the state tournaments.

At the centerpiece of the dynasty are Player Long and Lan Hiers, two in a core of seniors who refused to let an early setback deter them from becoming champions.

“Our seniors have had a big part in getting that team to where it is today,” Long said. “Our freshman year, we finished second (in Class A to Chesterfield for the fifth straight year) and we’ve won the state the past three years. Our seniors being together that first year and losing it, we didn’t want that taste anymore. I’m extremely proud of everybody. All the coaches, all the wrestlers and I really take pride in being a Bamberg-Ehrhardt wrestler.”

“Team’s probably the most important thing, and helping the younger wrestlers get better so they can compete in the future. I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Hiers said.

For first-year wrestling head coach Jake Stewart, having leaders the likes of Long and Hiers was a dream-come-true. Teammates since the seventh grade, the Red Raider duo each collected more than 200 career victories. Long finished as the school’s all-time winningest grappler with 229, followed by Hiers with 215.

Along the way, Long and Hiers each claimed individual state titles. After placing second at 119 pounds in 2010, which earned him T&D Region Wrestler of the Year honors, Hiers took first place at 126 pounds two years later and was runner-up this past year.

Long won his first individual title in 2011 at 140 pounds and won this past year at 152.The two also joined fellow senior Malcolm Jones recently in competing at the North-South All-Star Classic at North Myrtle Beach High School.

“Finishing off winning the state really made (my career) complete,” said Long, who was named the 2012-13 High School Sports Report Class A/2-A and T&D Region Wrestler of the Year. “To me, team is more important because you go through more stuff and you sacrifice your body for your brothers and your team.

“As much stuff as wrestling requires you to do physically, it torments your body. Winning team is big and winning individually is big after losing last year.”

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Stewart called Long “the best high school wrestler he’s ever coached” and believes he could compete on the college level as well.

Hiers credits former wrestling coach Cody Slaughter with fostering his development from an early age by scheduling matches against tougher competition in higher classifications both within and outside the Palmetto State.

Long gives all the accolades for his wrestling success to family and God.

“My brother (Larry), he was wrestling. His senior year was my seventh-grade year,” Long said. “He used to teach me all kinds of things.

“My dad has been coaching me since I started. My mom and my sister, they’ve both supported me in being at all the matches. My family supported me through my whole career. They deserve the most praise.

“He’s very intense,” Stewart said. “He gives 100 percent every time. It may not always be pretty, but he’s going to always go after (it). He’s his own worst critic. He wears those losses around his neck because he’s always trying to get better.”

Wrestling was not the only sport to keep Long and Hiers occupied in high school. Long played football for three years and was a member of the golf team, while Hiers also competed all four years on the gridiron and in baseball. He was part of the state Class A runner-up team in 2010 under head coach David Horton.

“One of the best coaches to coach the game and he always stayed on you and never gave you a break and he was always trying to make you better in any way possible,” Hiers said of Horton, the winningest-ever S.C. high school baseball coach. “I was glad to play for him for a couple of years. He taught me more than just baseball, but life lessons.”

While Hiers plans to give up athletics after graduation, Long has somewhat left the door open to continue his career in college. He plans to focus on academics his first year, then make a decision based on interest from other schools.

“Man, it’s just tough, but I’m leaving the program in good hands,” Long said.”We’ve got some good kids coming up in the next five years. Lan Hiers’ little brother is one of them and that’s who’s going to break my record.”

Contact the writer: tgrant@timesanddemocrat.com or by calling 803-533-5547. Follow Grant on Twitter@TandDSports.

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