Like sending out the middle of your batting order to start a game, Lugoff-Elgin used an evening-opening power burst to jump to an 18-0 lead before fending off a challenge from visiting Camden to take a 45-24 victory in the first of two regular season wrestling matches between the cross-rival rivals on Tuesday.
When the pre-match draw deemed the pairing would begin at 113 pounds, second-year L-E head coach Peter Hemingway had to be feeling good about his Demons’ ability to get off to a quick start. The lighter weight classes, he said, work to his team’s wheel house.
The Demons did not disappoint with Bryan Robinson, Elijah Dixon and Jacob Power scoring first period pins at 113, 120 and 126 pounds, respectively, giving the hosts an 18-0 lead after less than two minutes of wrestling. Robinson, a sophomore, needed just 45 seconds to put L-E on top for keeps at 6-0. Dixon’s match lasted 41 seconds as the freshman made it 12-0 before Power, a junior, needed 24 ticks of the clock to put his opponent on his back.
"We have tons of numbers, experience and athleticism from 106 to about 138 to 145," Hemingway said of his lineup. "They get after it and do almost everything right. From there up, effort-wise, it’s fine. But we are either inexperienced or, we’re very undersized.
"Momentum-wise, (113) was one weight class off of the best starting spots we could have. That’s just the way we’re going to be for a little while; everyone 145 or less is going to have to build leads as much as they can until the bigger guys either get bigger or, get older."
The Demons’ surge was temporarily halted when CHS’ Caid Cokley battled his way to a 9-7 lead over Taylor Catoe, after two periods in their 132-pound bout. The Bulldog sophomore held on through a scoreless deadlock over the final two minutes for the two-point win which made it 18-3.
But L-E came right back with sophomore Noah North’s pin with 51.5 seconds left in the first period clock at 138 pounds. Senior teammate Andrew Mills extended the margin to 30-3 getting a pin with one-tenth of a second left at 145 pounds as the Demons appeared poised to be putting this one on ice.
Hemingway said getting six points via pins was not something which his team had to have but getting bonus points certainly helps the Demons’ cause.
"I preach maximizing points all the time," he said. "If you can beat a guy by four or five points, there’s no reason why you can’t get that pin and, you need to get that pin. We were probably going to survive without (the pins) but survival’s not the point. We have to always treat it like it could be the state championship because it all could be for the state championship."
CHS head coach Joey Hendrix said opening the contest in the lighter weight divisions was hardly the optimal starting point for his team which needed to get off to a good start and give his heavier wrestlers a chance to, possibly, win the match for the Dogs.
"We knew that we had some matchup problems in some of our lighter weight classes," he said. "We had some opportunities, though. Caid Cokley pulled out a big win against one of their better wrestlers. They’re going to have some battles this year, if they stay in the same weight classes.
"(L-E’s) lighter weights are maybe stronger than ours, right now. We depend on our heavy weights to pull us through. Hopefully, we’ll keep improving in the lighter weight classes."
Camden started chipping away at the 27-point deficit beginning at 152 pounds in which Camden’s Jayden Pollard jumped to a 6-4 lead over Grant Wells before the L-E freshman scored four points on a near fall and a reversal in the final eight seconds of the second period to even things at six. Pollard used a takedown in the third period to come away with the 9-6 win to make it 30-6.
The Bulldogs nearly added three more points on their side of the ledger at 160 as Chris Todd scored six points on a takedown and near fall in the closing 10 seconds to take an 8-5 lead over Noah Kleinholz heading into the third period of their 160 pound pairing. Kleinholz, however, had something left in his tank, using a two-point takedown in the waning seconds for a 10-9 victory which pushed the L-E advantage to 33-6.
The visitors climbed back into the thick of things with Zach Phillips getting a pin in the opening minute of the second period at 170 pounds. Michael Bradley made it two pins in a row as he needed 53 seconds for his at 182 as the Dogs drew to within 33-18.
For a brief time, it looked as if Camden would get a third straight pin as Marquis Engram had Alex Register on his back late in the first period of their 195-pound pairing. Engram led, 2-0, going into the second period as Register regained his bearings in a match which was tied at 4-4 after two. Register closed with a flurry, outscoring Engram, 6-0, in the third period to come away with the 10-4 win which gave the hosts a 36-18 lead with three matches left on the docket.
"That was the tipping point for us," Hendrix said. "It’s one of those things, though. They’re not going to give us anything. We’re going to have to go out and earn anything that we get. I have to teach my guys that."
L-E freshman Seth Branham put this one out of reach with an 8-5 win at 220 pounds, scoring the final three points against CHS senior Xavier White, who was bumped up from 195 pounds. At heavyweight, CHS junior Timmy King --- wrestling in the slot usually occupied by Robert Warnock, who is out with an illness --- caught his opponent with a quick move with 26 seconds left in the opening period for a pin which closed the gap to 39-24. L-E freshman Devin Wilson brought the evening to a close with a pin with 16 seconds showing on the first period clock.
Hemingway said when Camden started chopping away at his team’s lead, he was not ready to go into panic mode.
"I was more concerned with what our kids were doing, wrestling-wise, than with the score," he said. "I don’t ever really worry about that until it gets really tight. If (CHS) would have gotten to where the lead was 10 to 12 points, then I would have been having a heart attack on the side.
"I was more concerned about the little things that our guys weren’t doing right."
Hendrix said this match will show his wrestlers the areas which they need to improve. He also said facing L-E early in the season will pay dividends for his team which came into Tuesday with a 4-0 record.
"The only match that was of any concern to me was Lugoff-Elgin," he said. "They’re the standard-bearer in this county and they are one of the standard-bearers in this state. Hat’s off to them, they wrestled very well tonight."