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Demons drop hammer on Dogs with match-closing 36-0 spree

Posted: November 29, 2017 1:41 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN’S NATHAN GALLMAN BATTLES an upside down McCoy McElhaney from Lugoff-Elgin from the mat in their 195-pound contest in Tuesday’s 63-15 L-E win over the hosts Bulldogs in the season-opening match for both teams.

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There were tons of better and easier options by which Camden High head wrestling coach Chris Connell could have made his debut on the Bulldog bench. Instead, the CHS alum played the hand he was dealt.

Connell, who took over earlier this year when Joey Hendrix stepped down from the post to take the defensive line coaching position for Brian Rimpf’s football team at the school, led his young squad against cross-river rival Lugoff-Elgin, the sixth-ranked unit in 4A per scmat.com’s statewide poll.

The host Bulldogs threw a mild scare into last year’s 4A Lower State finalists, trailing 27-15 with six matches left on the docket, only to see the Demons close the mattch with four pins and a pair of forfeits to leave the Dog Pound with a 63-15 victory in the season opener for both sides.

Connell, whose Bulldogs were ranked 14th in AAA in the scmat.com poll, knew what his squad was up against on Tuesday. All things considered, he said there were some bright spots along with areas which will be polished as the season goes along.

“I like scheduling hard people, especially Lugoff-Elgin from right across the river,” Connell said. “We wanted a team to show us where we are at. They are great competitors. It went well, I thought.”

L-E head coach Ted Monroe, whose Demons head to Taylors today for the two-day, uber-competitive Southern Slam at Eastside High School, said he was pleased with what he saw from his team as far as opening nights are concerned.

“For the first match of the season, I thought we wrestled pretty well,” said the third-year Demon boss. “I don’t think anybody is where they want to be right now, however, for the first match of the season, I’m real pleased. 

“We have a couple guys who may not be in as good of shape as maybe, we should be. That’s a little disappointing because I know how hard we work in practice. We have to pick it up a little bit there.”

The visitors won eight of the 11 matches wrestled by pin while taking a pair of forfeit victories. Camden’s three wins came via a pin and two by decision with all three of those victories coming in the evening’s first five pairings.

L-E jumped to a 6-0 start when sophomore Eli McGee won by a second period pin in the evening-opening 145-pound contest. The Demons went up, 9-0, as sophomore Klay Crossway won a 5-1 decision over CHS senior Brayan Acevedo at 152. The Demon advantage climbed to 15-0 following senior Jacob Carron’s pin in the opening minute at 160 pounds.

Camden dented the board for the first time at 170 pounds with junior Jalen Holliday outlasting L-E senior Jay Murray, 11-9. The Dogs closed the gap to 15-9 following senior Zach Phillips’ scoring a pin in the closing 20 seconds of his 182-pound meeting with sophomore Brett Carder in what was the most entertaining pairing of the night.

“Brett Carder wound up getting pinned in the third period by Zach Phillips. Zach Phillips is a very, very good wrestler who went to wrestling camp with us this summer. He’s probably going to be a state placer in AAA this year,” Monroe said of the match. 

“Brett battled his tail off and just came up a little short at the end.”

Connell said he hopes the win was the first of many for Phillips, one of just four seniors on his team.

“Zach’s one of our leaders. He’s worked hard for this and it’s showing,” Connell said. “He wrestled one of their best guys and he won, which was great to see.”

The Demons turned things in their favor for keeps starting at 195 pounds as sophomore McCoy McElhaney won by a third period fall. Senior Cameron Payne followed suit with a pin in less than 25 seconds at 220 before Camden collected its final win of the night as senior heavyweight Kahvon Brown won by forfeit after L-E senior Seth Branham was a scratch after injuring his ankle in Monday’s practice.

Holding a 27-15 lead with six matches left, the Demons rolled to the finish. Sophomore Noah Stockman started the avalanche with a first period pin at 106. Freshman Brice Carron followed suit at 113 before sophomore Jay Wilson was awarded a forfeit win at 120.

Senior Hunter Mathis scored a third period fall at 126 pounds before senior Devin Wilson, who missed the majority of last season with an elbow injury, returned to the mat and won in a second period pin at 132. Camden forfeited the finale to senior Lorenzo McGee at 138 pounds.

Connell said his team may not be able to fill as many as two weight divisions this season. In spite of that, he said the Bulldog wrestlers continue to improve and will get better from this experience.

“I’m going to take the positive side,” he said with a smile following the match, “this is going to help us to show us where we need to be. We have a couple easier matches coming up to help show them where they are at. That’s what I keep telling them and, hopefully, it works out.”

Monroe said his team is still evolving and some of the wrestlers who took to the mat on Tuesday may not be in those same weight classes later in the season. The Demons were without a wrestler or two who are expected to return to the mat in the coming days.

“Coming out of the gate,” he said, “it was the same story as always. You don’t have guys in the exact weight class you want them in but that’s coming down the road.

“We had a lot of guys step up … we had a lot of young guys step up tonight who gave us some early momentum and helped carry us through the match.”

Monroe said he is looking forward to the challenge his team will have before them at Eastside this weekend. Included in the 40-team field are state champions from Georgia along with top programs from Tennessee and the Carolinas, not to mention the host Eagles who Monroe said are “ridiculously good this year.”

Things did not get any easier for Camden after Tuesday as last night, the Dogs traveled to meet defending 5A state champion River Bluff. Connell said with this one match under his team’s belt, he hopes better things are on the horizon as he looks for his team to peak when they host the Region 4-AAA championship meet in January.

“It’s been a whirlwind. It was a quick change and I’m doing the best with what I’ve got, right now, and we’re only going to get better,” he said of his recent promotion to head coach.

“My goal is to take who I’ve got and try to get them to state and as a team, do the best that we can. We’re just trying to show them where they are at right now. They saw that tonight.”

Across the way, Monroe said his team has plenty of room for improvement and has the potential to be in the hunt for the 4A state title come February.

“Our effort was really good. I’ll take this for the first match of the season,” he said. “Our veterans took care of business and our young guys stepped up tonight. I think we’re going to be a pretty doggone good team before it’s all said and done.”

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