0218 GCS state

Greenwood Christian won the SCISA state championship in wrestling. From left are assistant coach Troy Mack, Peyton Moore (third place at 145 pounds), Luke Ergle (second place at 220 pounds), Cale Mack (state champion at 160 pounds), Will Moore (second place at 285 pounds), Blane Shirley (third place at 132 pounds) and coach Conner Lewis.

Two years after starting the program from scratch, Greenwood Christian has its first individual state champion.

The Hawks finished fourth as a team at the SCISA state wrestling tournament in Columbia last weekend. Five GCS wrestlers placed and Cale Mack is the program’s first individual state champion after Mack won the title match in the 160-pound weight class.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” Greenwood Christian wrestling coach Conner Lewis said. “Wrestling is a sport where if you put in the time and you put in the effort, eventually you will see it pay off. But there are times when you think, ‘Man, why am I working so hard just to go out there and get beat every time?’ To finally see those tables turn for those guys and see, ‘Wow, this hard work is paying off,’ that’s the best feeling in the world, to see them reap what they’re sowing.”

Along with Mack’s state title, Keith Carrington took fourth in the 106-pound weight class, Blane Shirley took third at 132 pounds, Peyton Moore took third at 145 pounds, Casen Goff took fourth at 195 pounds, Luke Ergle took second at 220 pounds and Will Moore took second at 285 pounds.

Mack lost the first six matches of the season, but improved quickly as the season progressed. Lewis knew it was only a matter of time before Mack would reach this level, but he couldn’t have predicted it would come this soon.

“He already had the athletic ability and the drive, so it was only a matter of time before it just started clicking. I said to all the guys that that first year is really rough. It’s hard to go out there your first year. I told them it’s going to click and it really did with Cale. I knew it would, I had no doubt. But he surprised me even, bringing home a state championship, but that’s the kind of kid he is.”

The Hawks started the program as another avenue for students to develop as athletes. Many football players joined the team with little to no wrestling experience.

The Hawks began by wrestling in tournaments and joining in duals between Lakelands teams. The Hawks bought a wrestling mat this year and hosted their first home match, picking up a win against Aiken.

Greenwood Christian is the only SCISA wrestling team in the upstate. Because of that, many of the Hawks’ opponents were unfamiliar in the state tournament. However, good competition from public schools in the area allowed Greenwood Christian to keep a high standard all season.

“Five placers, that’s just incredible for a second-year program and that just shows the dedication that the kids have had,” Lewis said.

Contact sports writer Skylar Rolstad at 864-223-1813 or follow him on Twitter @SkyRolSports.