COLUMBIA – Minutes after yet another loss in the state final, Liberty wrestling coach Dale Burrell said, “I guess we’re the Buffalo Bills.”
No, not quite.
Liberty’s 36-31 defeat at the hands of Battery Creek in today’s Class AA/A state final at Dreher High School means the Red Devils have been runners-up for three years in a row — one shy of the Bills’ run of futility.
“I thought we battled hard,” Burrell said. “It’s just heart-breaking.”
Especially considering Liberty rallied from a 27-0 deficit and that the Red Devils had a chance right down to the final weight class, when Battery Creek junior Porter Mahan managed a 9-4 decision over Liberty freshman Lucas Bates.
That was the last match, although, as Burrell said, not necessarily the decisive one.
“He gave it all he had,” Burrell said. “I don’t want him blaming himself. Out of the eight matches we lost, we probably had a chance to win two or three of those.”
Liberty (29-4) was minus one of its best wrestlers, junior 152-pounder Kris Murphy, who suffered a bout of appendicitis earlier in the week.
Battery Creek, which won for the second year in a row, also came in shorthanded. Dolphins coach Nathan Day said he lost three starters to injury in the last two weeks and another moved to Kentucky on Tuesday because his mother is in the service.
“If you’d have said a month ago, ‘We’re going to take this guy, this guy and this guy out of your lineup, what kind of chance would you have?’, I wouldn’t have thought the kids would have a chance,” Day said. “But they just fought with a lot of heart.”
The match began at 182, the Dolphins won the first four weight classes and the Red Devils forfeited at 106, giving Battery Creek a 27-0 lead.
“We just kept telling our guys, ‘We’re about to start scoring,’ and we did,” Burrell said. “Then they started believing, and we got the momentum.”
Devin Johnston got the ball rolling for Liberty with a pin at 113. Jacob Rogers and Matt Frey followed with pins at 120 and 126, respectively, and it was 27-18.
The Red Devils won three of the next five weight classes, a major decision by Cole Murphy at 138, a 9-8 win by Kyle Chrzanowski at 145 and a pin by Sammy Vidal at 160.
Vidal and Khalil Chisolm were tied with less than a minute remaining when Chisolm reversed Vidal. Just as quickly, Vidal put Chisolm on his back and pinned him, firing up the Red Devils and their faithful and setting the stage for a tense final match.
Battery Creek (46-10) and Mahan got the best of it, but Liberty should remain a contender in the coming years.
“I was proud of us,” said Frey. “We went out there with heart. A few one-point matches didn’t go our way. But you can’t put the blame on one person. Maybe if someone would have pinned their kid instead of getting a decision. …
“We’re only losing one senior, and I’m pretty sure everyone coming back is going to remember this feeling.”
“We plan on being back,” Burrell said. “We’re going to get over this pain. We still have a goal of getting the traditional state title (in the individual tournament). We’ll see how many guys we can have winning state championships. It’s not over. We’ve got two more weeks.”
CLASS AA/A STATE FINAL
At Dreher H.S., Columbia
Battery Creek 36, Liberty 31
106: Joe Sanchez (BC) by forfeit; 113: Devin Johnston (L) p. Romeo Supelveda; 120: Jacob Rogers (L) p. Jimmy Kearse; 126: Matt Frey (L) p. Tyrus Singleton; 132: Omar Daniels (BC) d. Tristan Oglesby 14-9; 138: Cole Murphy (L) md. Desmond Mullen 14-5; 145: Kyle Chrzanowski (L) d. Caleb Weaver 9-8; 152: Liam Payne (BC) d. Dylan Riddle 2-1; 160: Sammy Vidal (L) p. Khalil Chisolm; 170: Porter Mahan (BC) d. Lucas Bates 9-4; 182: Craig Truett (BC) p. John McGaha; 195: Cooper Kaminski (BC) p. Breck Dismukes; 220: Zach McPeek (BC) d. Seth Scruggs 7-6; 285: Seth Priester (BC) p. Dee Mansell.
Records: Battery Creek 46-10, Liberty 29-4.