Moncks Corner—Some of the toughest athletes walking the halls of the high schools around the state are wrestlers. The practices are usually the most intense of any sport and the hard work the guys put in to make weight is second to none.
The High School Sports Report is proud to honor the top grapplers at today’s annual winter sports awards banquet. Many of the trophy recipients are individual state champions that have had not only standout seasons, but outstanding careers as well.
The top award for the sport is the Mr. Wrestling award. This year’s honoree is Fort Mill’s A.J. Leitten, who capped his senior season with the first Class 5A title at 138 pounds.
He was so dominant that he won all three of his matches at the state meet by technical falls, including a 16-0 victory in the finals. He finished with a perfect 33-0 record.
Leitten was second in the 106-pound division as a freshman before capturing a gold medal at 126 pounds and 138 pounds during his sophomore and junior years, respectively. He will continue his collegiate career after signing with North Carolina State.
River Bluff swept the major awards in the 5A classification. The Gators had the Coach and Wrestler of the Year, as head coach Evan Moxie guided the team to its first championship in program history after edging Rock Hill, 31-30. It was the fourth title for Moxie, who also won rings with Lugoff-Elgin and Cardinal Newman.
“That was a complete team effort. This whole playoff run, we’ve gone through some really, really tough teams,” Moxie said of the title run. “Sometimes it comes down to kids not giving up pins and not going to their backs. That’s what saved us that last match. It was an awesome job by everybody on the team.”
River Bluff senior Ben Emery, who transferred in from Illinois this year, earned 5A Wrestler of the Year honors after wrapping up his final campaign with a 40-1 record and a championship in the 145-pound weight class.
Eastside continued its remarkable run by capturing head coach Jack Kosmicki’s 12th overall state title. Once again, the Eagles were dominant in the Class 4A finals, taking down Chapin, 59-11, to help the veteran earn the 4A Coach of the Year trophy.
“It never gets old. It will never get old because it’s always a different team every year,” Kosmicki said. “It’s a different group, different dynamic, different set of personalities. You have a different starting point and different ending point and a whole bunch of different issues. It’s always the first and only state championship for that particular team.”
Eastside sophomore Jordan White will take home the 4A Wrestler of the Year award after capturing the individual title at 113 pounds. It was a great follow-up to a freshman season where he took gold at 106 pounds.
West-Oak reached the mountaintop once again in the Class AAA ranks, and to the victor goes the spoils. It was the third championship for the Warriors and second under head coach Greg Brewer. West-Oak held off Battery Creek, 34-24.
Brewer was named the 3A Coach of the Year while his 138-pounder, Jared Smith, was the 3A Wrestler of the Year.
With the new realignment, there were four team titles won at the end of the season. With 2A and 1A having a combined division, there couldn’t have been a better ending for longtime Cheraw head coach Brad Porter.
After more than four decades in the profession, Porter led the Braves to their second title – this year a 40-24 decision over Lower State representative Bamberg-Ehrhardt. For his efforts, Porter will walk away with the division’s Coach of the Year trophy.
“Even if I hadn’t gone out on top and came in second, I would have still been fine with it. It’s time to spend time with my grandchildren. It’s been 42 years of coaching and teaching, so it’s time,” Porter said.
The Class 2A/1A Wrestler of the Year is Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s KeSean Brown, who amassed an unbelievable record of 57-1 this winter. He was runner-up at 170 pounds as a sophomore, but broke through with the 182-pound championship after pinning his opponent in the first period of his final match.