River Bluff, Gilbert place runner-up at state wrestling finals
Gilbert High wrestlers made their first SC High School League championship appearance in Class 3A.
River Bluff was seeking its second title in three years in Class 5A at Airport High’s Eagles Nest.
Both teams ran into formidable opponents and carried away state runner-up trophies.
Indian Land 44, Gilbert 12
The road to the state championship was a near smooth ride of dominance displayed by the Gilbert wrestling team.
Things got rough as the Indians ran into an equally dominant “tribe.” They fell to Indian Land, also appearing in its first state final. The Warriors claimed the Class 3A title 44-12.
The visiting stand was a sea of red with Gilbert supporters. They were loud and encouraged early after a pinfall win by Grayson Keisler at 182 pounds in the opening match put the Indians ahead 6-0.
The host team Warriors and their equally enthused fans quickly took over the match. The more experienced Indian Land won the next eight matches to take a 31-6 lead.
Eric Heydenreich ended the run with a 7-1 decision over Indian Land’s Foster Lambert. The momentum was short-lived as the Warriors won three of the last four matches. Gilbert’s last win came in dramatic fashion at 160 pounds.
Trailing Phillip Padget with time expiring, Gilbert’s Tony Price managed a takedown to force an extra period. Tied at 3-3, he got another takedown to win 5-3.
Despite finishing runner-up, Gilbert head coach Mitch Hudson was more than proud of how far his team has progressed in two years. With 21 athletes returning, the program will continue to improve.
“There was a lot of toss up matches,” he said. “We wrestled 11 matches for six full matches. They just got the best of us. They got better positions. You’re talking about a team that has experience (against) a team that two years ago wasn’t in this position.
“We competed our tails off. They wrestled as hard as they could and they kept fighting to the last match.
“We’ll learn from it. We’ll get better. We’ll grow. We’re happy we’re here, but not satisfied.”
Hillcrest 41, River Bluff 30
The Gators started out hot, up 12-10 through the first five matches. Issac Ortega, Ian Obeso, and Michael Kesler’s wins helped River Bluff gain the early advantage.
Consecutive pinfalls by the Rams helped fortify a run that put the Gators in serious trouble down 35-12. As they did on Wednesday against Summerville, the Gators battled back. In the final four matches River Bluff needed to win by pinfall to win a state championship.
Armondo Maestre and Patrick Palmer scored two pins and put the Gators right back in contention. Trailing 35-24, the River Bluff rally ended with a pin by Hillcrest’s Grant Hopkins of John Brown at 152 pounds.
“I told them if we pin out, we win by one. I don’t care if you win, you guys got to pin,” Moxie said. “We knew [that in] the last match we had a real good chance to get a pin.
“I think we could have won the match (152 pounds) if we were going out just to win. When you’ve got to go out and look for a pin, some times that happens. I couldn’t be more proud of this team. They battled and did an amazing job all year long.”
The Gators closed the match with a pinfall, but the Rams had clinched their third state title and first since 2012.