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    (PHOTO BY THOMAS GRANT JR. | CHRONICLE) The Gilbert wrestling team hold up their S.C. High School League Class 3A runner-up trophy.
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Gilbert falls to Indian Land in the Class 3A wrestling final.

The road to Saturday’s first-ever state championship was a near smooth ride of dominance displayed by the Gilbert wrestling team.

Things got rough, however, at Airport High School as the Indians ran into an equally dominant “tribe” in Indian Land also appearing in the state final for the first time.

The Warriors came away with a 44-12 victory to claim the Class 3A title.

The visiting stands was a sea of red heavily in support of Gilbert. They were loud and encouraged early after a pinfall win by Grayson Keisler at 182 pounds in the opening match put the Indians ahead 6-0.

The host team Warriors and their equally enthused fanbase quickly took over the match. The more experienced Indian Land won the next 8 matches to take a 31-6 advantage.

Eric Heydenreich ended the run with a 7-1 decision win over Indian Land’s Foster Lambert. The momentum was short-lived as the Warriors won 3 of the last four matches to claim the trophy.

Gilbert’s last win in the match came in dramatic fashion at 160 pounds by Tony Price. Trailing Phillip Padget with time expiring, Price managed a takedown to force an extra period tied at 3-3. He proceeded to get another takedown to win 5-3.

Despite finishing runner-up, Gilbert head coach Mitch Hudson was more than proud of how far his young program has progressed in 2 years. With 21 athletes coming back, the program can only continue to improve.

“There was a lot of toss up matches,” he said. “We wrestled 11 matches for 6 full matches. They just got the best of us. They’re a really good team. They got better positions. You’re talking about a team that’s obviously has experience (against) a team that 2 years ago that wasn’t in this position at all.

“We competed our tails off. They wrestled as hard as they could and they kept fighting to the last match. We’ll learn from it. We’ll get better. We’ll grow. We’re happy we’re here, but not satisfied.”

 

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