Holding the Fort

Fort Dorchester wrestlers Wesley Dallas (left) and Seiji Borja rank No. 1 in the state in their respective weight divisions.

It's early in the wrestling season, but no team has grappled its way to a better start than Fort Dorchester.

The Fort, ranked No. 1 in the state by SCmat.com, won three tournaments in December and was undefeated in six dual matches.

Still, this success doesn't totally impress wrestling coach B.D. LaPrad, who is in his sixth season with the Patriots.

"We are a just-above average team," he said. "We haven't faced any stiff competition, and we still need to get better."

The Patriots' run of tournament victories began when they captured the Palmetto Classic at Irmo High School on Dec. 6. They scored 161 points, five ahead of second-place Rock Hill (156). At first, it looked like Rock Hill was the champ, but a scoring error occurred and a coach notified LaPrad, who appealed.

"I didn't even know that it happened," LaPrad said. "It worked out and we were awarded the championship."

A week later, Fort Dorchester triumphed at the Outback Classic in North Myrtle Beach, defeating 24 teams by scoring 289 1/2 points. They had a 95-point margin of victory over runner-up Lugoff-Elgin (194 1/2).

Continuing their dominance, the Patriots traveled to Atlanta and clinched the 22-team Red Devil tournament, earning 260 points and defeating Union Grove (Ga.), which had 248.

During their December run, three Patriots wrestlers performed well enough for LaPrad to point out: senior Wesley Dallas, junior Seiji Borja and senior Adrian Stewart.

"They have wrestled well all year," said LaPrad, who has guided the Fort to back-to-back region crowns. "They work real hard and it shows when they get on the mat."

Dallas (135) and Borja (145) were the champions of their respective weight classes at the three tournaments.

Dallas, a two-time state runner-up at 135 pounds, also garnered the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Palmetto Classic.

Borja is the defending state champ at 140 pounds and was a state qualifier as a freshman at 130.

Both wrestlers are ranked No. 1 in the state in their weight divisions.

Stewart, a three-sport standout, placed second at the Outback Classic and third at the Red Devil tourney at 215. He played linebacker for the football team and was a member of the track team.

Under LaPrad, Fort Dorchester won its first state championship during the 2006-07 season.

With the Patriots' fast start, they are out to reclaim the title from defending AAAA state champion and region foe Summerville.

"This team is still a work in progress," LaPrad said. "We will learn a lot about this team as the season goes on. Hopefully, we will battle for the region and contend for a state championship."