A year ago, Pinewood Prep did not have a wrestling team. Ridge Christian has only 37 students, male and female, in its high school.
But wrestlers from both schools had plenty to smile about following the recent South Carolina Independent School Association state wrestling championship in Columbia.
Pinewood Prep had three wrestlers win state titles and 10 wrestlers finish in the final four as the Panthers finished third behind Hammond and host Cardinal Newman.
Jeremy Hunt in the 152-pound weight division, T.J. Wilson in the 160-pound division and Dallas Dial in the 182-pound class all won their weight classes for Pinewood Prep and were named to the 2013 SCISA All-State team.
Matthew Latham at 113 and Cameron Poaps at 285 both had second-place finishes for Pinewood. Austin Murphy at 106, Steven Kennedy at 132, Zach Heaton at 145 and Grayson Charpia at 220 had third-place finishes for the Panthers, while Jeremy Gray finished fourth at 195.
Ridge Christian did not win any state titles, but ninth-grader Jonathon Driggers finished second in the 195-pound class, and eighth-grader Nate Shumpert placed third in the 113-pound weight class.
Steve Mandell, head of the school and the assistant wrestling coach for Pinewood, gave a lot of credit to head coach Ben Cheatham.
“We had the right head coach with the right kids at the right time,” Mandell said. “We knew we would have some success because of things that were obvious from the beginning. Summerville is a wrestling hotbed. Kids wrestle in clubs in Summerville from an early age, and we were blessed to have kids who have done that.”
Mandell said the experienced wrestlers helped bring along others with no experience. He also said other schools contributed to Pinewood’s success. He said Ridge Christian helped by scrimmaging and competing with Pinewood Prep. The team was able to practice at Summerville and Ashley Ridge, and other public schools such as James Island, Hanahan and Stall invited Pinewood to be the third team in meets.
Allen Horn at Ridge Christian said this was the fourth year the Paladins have fielded a wrestling team and that about 95 percent of those eligible participate in the sport.
“It’s been a good sport for us because wrestling is not a sport of dimension,” Horn said. “We don’t have a lot of real tall kids. We don’t have a lot of big ... kids. Wrestling has shaped a lot of kids and given them the platform to build some self-confidence in what they do.”
Jeremy Hunt (from left), Dallas Dial and T.J. Wilson made the South Carolina Independent School Association all-state wrestling team by winning their divisions at the recent state meet in Columbia.×
Ridge Christian’s Jonathon Driggers (left) finished second in his weight class, and Nate Shumpert was third.×