AAA LOWER STATE PRE-SEASON REPORT
By Stephen C. Sutusky
With perennial power Lugoff-Elgin moving to the upper state this season the AAA Lower State title is up for grabs. North Myrtle Beach was a surprise last season and is the early favorite to win the Lower State championship. NMB is looking to improve on a 13-4 season in which they lost to Lake City in the Lower State semi-finals. Lake City is in a rebuilding stage after losing three state champions from last season. But Richard Brockington (152 state champ) is back to defend his title and lead a young team. If Lake City’s coaching staff can rebuild fast enough they could make some noise in the post-season. However, they seem to be a year or two away from returning to dominance. Carolina Forest is also a school looking to improve on a successful season a year ago. They return two light weight state championship contenders in Andrew Hinson(103 4th) and Josh Caulder(112 state champ). Depending on which weights some of the veterans wrestle at this team could be tough and certainly has the experience to contend with NMB.
Whichever team claims the Region 5 championship has an inside track at competing for the lower state title. Brookland-Cayce is the early favorite to win the region. Returning for the Bearcats is Rorey Garnett a 2x state qualifier (140,152) and Matt Johnson(140 3rd). Even though BC lost Heavyweight Blake Hudson (2x state champ) they seem to have enough veterans back to compete for a region title and should be considered a slight favorite over region foe Dreher High School. After a few rebuilding seasons, 2002-03 could be the breakout season for the Blue Devils. Dreher returns Junior Michael Hood (152 4th) and state qualifier Raymond Rembert. If the Devils can mix these veterans and three middle school state tournament placers with some younger grapplers they could give BC a run for the Region title. Region 5 also features a returning state finalist in A.C. Flora’s David D’Amelio(119 2nd), who gives the new Flora coaching staff a polished veteran to mix with a younger group of wrestlers.
Camden, Myrtle Beach, and North Charleston will each have a shot at the lower state title as well this season. These three teams all had successful seasons a year ago (top 15 finishes in the state tourney) and if they can fill up all weight classes could contend with the other lower state favorites.
This season, Region 7 seems to be the deepest and most competitive with North Myrtle Beach, Carolina Forest, Lake City, and Myrtle Beach all vying for playoff spots. The region 5 teams should also compete with these coastal schools in what promises to be a competitive season in AAA wrestling. The team picture will become a lot clearer once December rolls around and we find out which wrestlers will be wrestling in what weight classes.
Pre-Season Team Rankings Top Individuals
1. North Myrtle Beach Richard Brockington (LC)
2. Brookland-Cayce David D’Amelio (ACF)
3. Carolina Forest Josh Caulder (CF)
4. Dreher Andrew Hinson (CF)
5. Lake City Michael Hood (Dre)
6. Camden Rorey Garnett (BC)
7. Myrtle Beach Danny Cotton (NMB)
8. North Charleston Trey Capp (MB)
9. Georgetown Matt Johnson (BC)
10. A.C. Flora