Not long after Liberty High’s wrestling team had finished as state runner-up, athletic director Sherry Haithcock talked about the group’s impact on the school and the community.
“They had so many firsts,” she said. “In 24 years of wrestling, they had the first region championship, the first Upper State championship, so the first chance to be at the state.
“But just the pride they’ve taken in what they’ve done, the never-quit attitude they displayed. They’ve been calm and low-key all year, and they’ve just worked really, really hard. They set the goal to get here, and we couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s been a good thing for our community, and we’ve gotten tremendous support from our community and tremendous parental support.”
Liberty won the Skyline AA Region, posted a dual record of 35-4, rolled through four opponents in one day at Powdersville High School to reach the Class AA/A state final and trailed Bamberg-Ehrhardt 15-12 through six weight classes at Dreher High School on Feb. 9.
But the two-time defending state champion came up with four consecutive pins to take control of the match and went on to win 48-22.
For the Red Devils, Nikki Weidman won by decision at 106 pounds, Tristan Oglesby by pin at 113, Dakota Stewart by pin at 138, Garrett Whitmire by major decision at 145 and Tanner Chambers by decision at 182.
As Liberty coach Dale Burrell pointed out, the Red Devils were mathematically in contention until the last three matches.
“We hung in there,” he said. “We had some good matches. Some of the ones we lost could have gone either way.”
“We were the underdogs coming in here, and they were the big dogs,” Chambers said. “They’ve been here the past couple years. We gave them everything we had. They’re a good team, and we give them credit for it.”
“Like I told them, this is the start of a regular thing,” Burrell said. “We only graduate three kids. We intend on making noise next year.”