On Friday, Feb. 22 three Newberry High School wrestlers Davon Powell, Jacob Hopper, and Eric Gallman traveled to the Anderson Civic Center with the same goal as seven other wrestlers from across the state in each of their weight class, which is to be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to wrestle for an individual state championship.
As fate would have it, the following day, after wrestling two fantastic and brilliantly executed rounds all three wrestlers found themselves wrestling in the championship round.
“To qualify three wrestlers for this tournament and have all three of them advance to the Championship Round to have the opportunity to win a state championship is a testament to how extremely hard all three of the guys have worked this year,” said Coach Brian Gordon.
Powell, who wrestles at the 106-pound weight class, got things started for the Bulldogs by obtaining a first period pin in round one of the tournament. The following day he then proceeded to wrestle a near flawless semi-final round by winning a 1-0 decision and defeating the 1A/2A Lower State Champion from St. Johns High School. In the finals Powell found himself faced with a redemption match as he was paired against Carolina High School’s Anthony Spovich, who defeated Powell at the Upper State Tournament and was also the defending State Champion. However, the second time around seemed to be all he needed as the sophomore claimed his first State Championship with a 12-11 decision.
Gordon stated, “the best thing about Davon is that he is only a sophomore and has won a state title. Davon still has two more years to compete and work towards becoming a three time state champion, which would be an unbelievable accomplishment.”
The second big moment for the Bulldogs came by way of Hopper at the 138-pounds weight class. Hopper cruised his way through the first round by a quick pin in the first period.
However, very similar to Powell, Hopper also faced the 1A/2A Lower State Champion and defending State Champion from Edisto High School, Xavier Johnson. This semi-final match ended up being one of the best matches of the day and one that Jacob will not soon forget. Hopper found himself down four points with 13 seconds to go in the match. However, he was able to hit a brilliantly executed reversal leading to two near-fall points as the final period expired, which tied the match and sent the two wrestlers to a one minute sudden death match where the wrestler who gets the first take down wins. After the sudden period the match was still tied and the two wrestlers continued to battle into the second sudden death, which consist of two 30 second periods with each wrestler having to wrestle from the top and bottom positions. Sixteen seconds into the second sudden death Hopper was able to get a two point reversal followed by three near-fall points before his opponent was injured and unable to continue. Hopper then moved onto the championship round where he too had to face Liberty’s Dakota Stewart, who is the only wrestler to defeat Jacob this year, which happen to be last week at the Upper State Tournament. Again, the second time around was all Jacob needed as he claimed his first state championship.
“For Jacob to win in the manner in which he did in the semi-finals, it seemed like the stars were lining up for him. Then for him to come out in the finals and win to the kid that beat him last week was the ultimate redemption for him. He and his family were so emotional after his victory and that’s what this sport is all about, the passion and desire that kids and their families give to the sport is simply amazing. I am not sure there are many more kids out there that have dedicated themselves and trained as hard as Jacob has since last year. He truly earned and deserves the State Championship he won today”, says Coach Kyle Cannon.
The third and final Bulldog wrestler was Gallman at the 285-pound weight class. Gallman claimed most of his attention as a football player and competing in the 2012 Shrine Bowl, however it was his dominance on the mat that earned him a chance to wrestle for a State Championship.
Gallman dominated his way through the first two rounds winning both matches by pinning Bamberg’s D’Angelo Tyler and Cheraw’s Quintin Lewis, which were the only two pins in his weight division.
Gordon states, “we really felt like Eric should have won the Upper State Championship, but due to a questionable call he wasn’t able to win the tournament last weekend. However, I think he proved today by pinning the kid from Cheraw that he was hands down the best wrestler in the Upper State.”
However, in the end Gallman lost a close decision 5-3 after six minutes of wrestling. Gallman can proudly add a silver medal to the many accolades and honors he has already received this year and with track and field season quickly approaching look for him to continue to pile up the medals in his very successful senior year as a student-athlete.
“Eric is such a great athlete and even better young man. He one of the most physically gifted athletes I have coached, but is so quiet and reserved. While I know he is upset about coming in second, he has had a tremendous season and should be very proud of his accomplishments”, said Gordon.
So after four months of sweating, bleeding, and pushing their bodies to the very limits, all it took was six minutes for three Newberry High School wrestlers to achieve great accomplishments this past weekend as they piled up two state championships and a state runner up.
Both Gordon and Cannon said “this past weekend was something so very special for these young men, their families and Newberry High School. It was very special to qualify three wrestlers and then have all three wrestle in the championship round. We only hope these three accomplishments show others at Newberry High School and in our community what the sport of wrestling is all about and how much potential we have to becoming a very successful and known presence in 1A/2A wrestling.”