UNION COUNTY — After competing at Upper State Championships over the weekend, four Union County wrestlers have qualified to wrestle in the State Championships.
Ten Union County High School wrestlers competed in the Upper State Championships in Camden over the weekend, four of which — Ethan Pendleton, Luis Gallegos, Christian Petty and Octavius Thompson — qualified to go on to the State Championships.
“Four guys going to state is huge for us and 100 percent better than last year’s two, but we should have had six or seven,” said Union County wrestling coach G.B. McDaniel. “I am proud of these guys for sticking with it, fighting through some injuries, and cutting some hard weight. It shows their will to win and dedication to themselves, teammates, coaches and to the sport.”
Ethan Pendleton took first place in the 113-pound division, winning his second straight Upper State Championship.
“It was a remarkable job because he beat the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked kids in the state to win the tournament,” McDaniel said. “He is currently ranked No. 2 and will have a shot at No. 1 at state.”
Luis Gallegos qualified by placing fourth at Upper State. McDaniel said he was extremely happy for Gallegos, who is a senior, and he feels Gallegos should have placed second.
“He lost in a match to go for first or second by letting a guy up in the last 20 seconds,” McDaniel said. “I really feel he has a shot to wrestle for first or second at state.”
McDaniel called Christian Petty’s performance at Upper State “amazing.”
“Christian wrestled for the championship against the Eastside kid who is a two-time state placer and last year’s state champion,” McDaniel said.
Petty got the first take down to control the match, which went to the third period, where Petty led 5-4. Then, with four seconds left in the match, Petty’s opponent from Eastside scored a take down, which McDaniel said was on the edge and nearly out of bounds.
“It was an exciting match, and it could have gone our way,” McDaniel said. “The best thing about the match is the Eastside kid dominated us last year, and Christian took it to him this year. I am hoping this fuels Christian at states.”
Octavius Thompson placed fourth at Upper State to qualify for the state competition in the heavyweight division.
“This is a big deal because the heavyweight division in 3A is the toughest division in the state,” McDaniel said. “Octavius has been one of the most consistent winners on our team the past three seasons, so it was great to see him break through and show that he is one of the best in the state.”
McDaniel said the team forfeited Thompson’s last match because he feels Thompson has a better shot at breaking through ranked No. 4 than at No. 3.
McDaniel also mentioned the team had a couple of freshman who stood out this year, such as Labrayon Woods.
“Labrayon Woods won a lot of matches this season and looks to be a state contender the next three years,” McDaniel said. “He only lost to two guys at Upper State, and both of them finished third and fourth to qualify for states. The crazy thing was he was beating both of those guys and could have won those matches.”
McDaniel said another standout freshman was Jacob Gregory, who competed at 106 pounds.
“This kid has been tough all year but hasn’t really wrestled; he would just kind of brawl with kids and land on top sometimes,” McDaniel said. “He finally turned into a wrestler at Upper State. He beat two kids who were ranked in the top eight, and one was actually ranked a weight class above his.”
Gregory finished one match away from making state, and McDaniel said that was probably the best start any freshman has ever had at Upper State for Union County.
“We are expecting a lot from these young guys,” McDaniel said.