The Hillcrest wrestling team took its first two steps toward a third consecutive Class AAAA state championship Saturday at A.C. Duckett Gymnasium.
The Rams defeated Riverside 54-16 in the opening round. However, Warriors coach John Harper was impressed with his team’s effort.
“We knew coming in it would be an uphill battle,” said Harper. “I told the guys coming in I wanted to see some aggressiveness and the competitive drive.”
Mauldin squared off against York in the other first round dual. The Cougars defeated the Mavericks 52-30. York jumped out to a big lead and forfeited the final six weight classes.
“York has a great team,” Mauldin coach Sean Misko said. “I would’ve liked it to be a tougher match. It doesn’t take away from everything we’ve done this year. It gives us a lot of motivation heading into Upper State individuals.”
Hillcrest and York went head-to-head in the second round. Alex Roberts, Nathan Roberts. Grant Snyder, Joel Madak, and Isaiah Sayegh won their matches to help the Rams jump out to a 21-10 lead.
Hillcrest coach Tommy Bell then called on backup Asa Kelley. Although Kelly lost his match 3-1, Bell viewed the loss as a win.
“We have a lot of depth,” said Bell. “By wrestling Asa at 160 pounds, we were able to bump some of our other wrestlers up. It created better matchups for us. Asa wrestled one of the better kids in the state and for him to only lose 3-1 was impressive.”
“We knew that our strength was the lower weights,” said York coach Todd Hershberger. “Our guys won a couple of matches, but were unable to get pins. We didn’t match up well with them.”
Hillcrest’s John Michael Sweeney and Niejel Kilgore won the next two matches 17-12 and 20-2, respectively. Ellison Sanders and Landon Sayegh pinned their opponents to secure the Rams’ 41-19 victory.
Hillcrest travels to Boiling Springs for a third round match Monday night.