SCMAT Exclusive Wrestling Article 12-14-07

The first 23 SC teams ... and how it grew 
to 65+ team in 5 years and 125+ teams today.
Ike Anderson at Irmo Wrestling Clinic.jpg Generations of wrestlers will come and go in SC, and sometimes you look at a photo and say "Hey, he's the wrestler from SC that was in the Olympics." If you want to get to know Ike (front left in photo after a SC Greco clinic), meet him next week in our Greco-Roman article. Have you ever wondered, which teams/schools in South Carolina paved the way for wrestling to begin? Recall from prior research, South Carolina was the 43rd state to adopt wrestling as a high school sport holding State tournaments. We were "WAY BEHIND" times 39 years ago when we joined the national call. But, "23" schools were ready to take the plunge and invest money, coaches, athletes, travel and time to getting the sport of wrestling launched. Thank you to the pioneers of South Carolina wrestling! To set the visual of a wrestler's life back in 1969 in SC, here is a synopsys from Henry Mixon, the captain of the Brookland Cayce Wrestling team in 1969 led by Coach John Checkovich. "We used to wrestle in old throwaway basketball shirts, football pants and tennis shoes. We didn't have any mats, so we wrestled on bed cushions we got from the Army-Navy store. I go to watch some matches nowadays and they have these $7,000 mats and they're all decorated with their logos, and I think of those old mattresses and equipment we had, and it makes me shake my head. It sure has changed since then." Before I go to the next level, let me pause and do a number study ...yea, yea, yea ... some of the number's stuff is certain to bother the masses. Sorry, I {heart} Math. It's my life. I probably would not have gone into Math if it were not for a Math teacher that wrestled in high school and a Wrestling coach that knew how to win by math (and if you've never witnessed a coach work up the probability theories of a dual meet on paper, you need to appreciate the math skills coaches truely must master in order to tactically win matches.) If you don't believe me, ask a coach about whether landing on heads or tails matters, ask a coach about which weight class matters to start the dual, ask a coach about pin points versus technical fall, ask a coach about not getting pinned versus knowing where your shoulders are when you are at the edge of the mat, ask a coach about weighing in multiple wrestlers at the same weight - why?, ask a coach about peaking at season's end and how to time this just right ... great wrestling coaches are all about math, though most are so tough you would think they were just pure mean athletes in their prime, and some still are, but they are really secretly good at math. So, what is the point?? ... "23" is the point ... maybe I'm alone here, but what do you think of when the number "23" pops out at you? I know what I think of ... Michael Jordan. That's easy for me. I went to school with Michael, walked behind him going to class, saw him win the National title in college as a freshman - same year I was a freshman trying to survive on the #5 college wrestling team in the nation as a walk-on behind C.D. Mock ... I was a "23" junkie after college more than I was before I graduated ... UNC basketball was a dream come true for a student if you love winners, but I wanted to be "like a 23" ... I wanted to survive and be a wrestler and maybe get acclaim in the ACC ... but the dream faded for me after a 2nd knee surgery. I settled into a normal life and now "23" is something different for me .... "23" represents the first 23 schools in South Carolina that started wrestling. I now live the history and statistics of our state wrestling programs and "23" has much more meaning to me than Michael's #. If someone asks me about a number today, more than likely it represents a SC wrestling statistic. And this article is mostly about "23" and what it means as lifetime stories get shared from one generation to the next. Let's look at each of the first five seasons and see which teams/schools created wrestling teams in the first 5 years of existance. 65 teams were in place after 5 years and that is about half the total of where we are today, 39 years after formation. Most high schools in South Carolina now have teams, so we won't grow much from a stand point of adding schools. But, adding depth and expanding our talent level to the national stage across every team is a desire I see amongst wrestling fans in this state. Without further wait, here are the first 5 years of wrestling in South Carolina and the "23" teams that were in the first state tournament. 1969 State Tournament Results and teams participating 4A-3A-2A-1A @ St. Andrews Junior H.S. February 21-22 (23 teams) State Champion and State Runner-Up: St. Andrews 130 pts. (Coach Rusty Hamilton) 4A James Island 93 pts. (Coach Edward Hertwig) 3A And the other 21 teams: A.C. Flora (Coach William Tourek) 4A Airport (Coach Sam Corley) 4A Barnwell (Coach Gwynne Hupfer) 2A Beaufort (?) 3A Belton-Honea Path (Coach Norman King) 3A Bishop England (?) 3A Brookland Cayce (Coach John Checkovich) 4A Buford (Coach Bill Riner) 2A Camden (Coach Foy Thompson) 4A Daniel (Coach Al Curtis) 4A Dreher (?) 4A Lower Richland (?) 3A Moultrie (?) 3A Seneca (?) 3A Spartanburg (Coach Ralph Voyles) 4A Summerville (Coach Hank Boyd) 3A Union (Coach Lloyd Fisher) 3A Wade Hampton (Coach Mike Mongelli) 4A Westminster (?) 2A Winyah (Coach Lou Manning) 3A York (?) 3A Most Outstanding Wrestler Joey Canter Summerville - 127 lbs. 1970 - New wrestling teams added: Byrnes (Coach Leland Hughes) 3A Clinton (Coach Keith Richardson) 3A Easley (Coach Bill Houston) 3A Ford (Laurens) (Coach Tommy Davis) 1A Greer (Coach Jim Few) 3A Hartsville (Coach Baron Windham) 4A J.L. Mann (?) 3A Laurens (Coach Ken Alexander) 2A Murray (Coach F.W. Jaeger) 3A Winnsboro (Coach Joe Turbeville) 2A 1971 - New wrestling teams added: C.A. Johnson (Coach Alfred Dodson) 4A Chapman (Coach Curtis Powell) 3A Charleston (Coach Jim Flowers) 1A Columbia (Coach Kenneth Ross) 4A Fort Johnson (Coach Leroy Jackson) 3A Gaffney (Coach Ed Bowles) 4A Keenan (?) 4A Middleton (Coach Roger Myers) 4A Orangeburg (Coach Benji Kirkland) 4A Woodruff (Coach Danny Holland) 3A 1972 - New wrestling teams added: Dorman (Coach Bill Reese) 4A Eastside (Coach Mack Edwards) 3A Jackson (Coach Joe Underwood) 2A Lincoln (Coach Thomas Wilson) 2A Pickens (Coach Bill Isaacs) 3A Sumter (Coach Bob Cherry) 4A Westside (Coach Mike Mongelli) 4A 1973 - New wrestling teams added: Chicora (Coach John Uribe) 2A Goose Creek (Coach Jim Bonneville) 4A Irmo (Coach John Temples) 4A Lancaster (Coach Wes Murphy) 4A Liberty (Coach Steve Spivey) 2A Hillcrest (Coach Richard Martin) 4A Orangeburg-Wilkinson (Coach Roger Lowe) 4A Palmetto (Coach Bruce Creel) 2A Rock Hill (Coach Bill McGill) 4A Socastee (Coach Earl Spain) 3A Southside (Coach Barry Burton) 4A Spring Valley (Coach Craig Tyler) 4A T.L. Hanna (Coach Denver Patterson) 4A Walhalla (Coach Bob Mauro) 3A Ware Shoals (Coach Joseph Burgess) 2A Interesting Trivia Fact #1 --- Summerville has not only been one of the most powerful wrestling programs year in and year out, but they also produced the first "Most Outstanding Wrestler" in 1969 in Joey Canter. Yet, Summerville became the first school to drop their wrestling team. When 1970 rolled around, Summerville had no team for that one year! They added the wrestling team back in 1971 and became a dominant wrestling force beginning in the mid-'70's. Interesting Trivia Fact #2 --- I'm sure you will look at some of the coaches that started programs and say "I know him!" My high school football coach, Joe Turbeville, started a wrestling program at Winnsboro in 1970 and I never knew that until a few months ago! And one of the founders of our sport, Coach John Checkovich, later became the central leader for the All-Star wrestling match 20 years ago and just recently retired from high school coaching after 32 years at Brookland Cayce. When his Athletic Director came to him in 1969 they asked Coach Checkovich to start either a new soccer program or wrestling program ... he chose wrestling, though he had to learn it from scratch. I have often referred to Coach John Checkovich as the "Father of wrestling in South Carolina" due to his coaching tenure in wrestling, his leadership with our State Tournament and All-Star Meet and as well as the founder of the first Takedown Tournament in the state started in 1973 at B.C. Checkovich received the Order of the Palmetto in 2001, the state's highest honor from the Governor. The Annandale, VA native would leave a legacy in wrestling in SC, though it was almost in soccer! If you have a story about any of these coaching pioneers I'd like to hear your memories and consider them for future articles --- or, if I'm missing a name and you know who the coach was please let me know --- mark@scmat.com is the address to write me a note. Interesting Trivia Fact #3 --- Ike Anderson ... wrestled at Lower Richland, one of the first "23" teams. Ike has been the USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Developmental Coach for the last 10 years. He placed sixth in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, competing at 136.5 pounds after a successful wrestling career at Appalachian State University. Next week, you can find out about Ike's role in the greatest day in the history of U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling, just this past summer! Hopefully in this SCMAT exclusive article for 2007-2008 the history of SC wrestling is defining itself as an exciting past with a future awaiting more greatness. These historical articles at SCMAT will hopefully provide accurate facts though we may always have missed some data at some point. If you notice a correction, addition or just want to comment please send a reply to mark@scmat.com thanks, Mark Buford