SCMAT Exclusive Wrestling Article 12-6-07

Greatest Top 4 placers in a weight class ever?
Check these two out!
States.jpg Back when States were all together, every fan could see the best from 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A on each mat. In 1998, most fans missed "the best weight class in SC's history". The SC Wrestling Coaches Association is putting forth every effort to get the SC High School League (SCHSL) to move the tournament back into one location, though this season it appears all classifications are separated for a 2nd straight year. If you'd like to see the State tournament together, all classes, as it was from 1999-2006 please consider sending your request for this event to Since everyone could not take in the Greatest Top 4 placers in a weight class ever, let me tell you how we arrived here today. During the wrestling off season I get bored. I don't watch TV. I don't kill the weeds in the yard as much as I should. I even forget to take the trash out a couple of Thursdays. I do find the time to research dumb numbers. I just happened to be walking my dog Winston and thought, which weight class had the toughest top 4 wrestlers of all time, and how would I go about finding the answer to that question? Crunching numbers cures boredom in the off-season and here was my criteria for the question I posed this past summer. Name the "Greatest Top 4 placers in a weight class" ever? I decided to start with the challenge to see if anyone fit this criteria --- all four wrestlers that placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th had to be a State Champion at some point in their career. I felt that this was one good way to see how deep a weight class was with talent. There are many other ways someone could look at how to tackle this question, but I chose a criteria I felt was perfect for the number crunching to solve, and in fact figured it would return an answer of ZERO and I'd have to reduce my criteria. I like to start with high expectations. Can you believe, I actually found two weight classes in the history of our sport in South Carolina that fit that criteria. I thought for sure it might be zero, but we had it occur twice. And, after dusting off the memory bank and re-reading the newspaper articles, both seasons and weight classes came back to me clearly. [number crunching ON] Do you know how many weight class comparisons that this search required? We have had 4,828 State Placers in 39 years. Which equates to 1,207 weight classes with Top 4 placers. I looked at all 1,207 of these and only found 2 weight classes that produced "The Greatest" criteria. That is a 0.1657% chance of it happening, up to this point. Slim odds! Or, once in every 15 years if we keep the 3 Individual Tournaments (4A, 3A, 2A-1A) So, look for the next "great weight class" to occur in 2018. [number crunching OFF] Want to know who these 8 State Champions were that can bask in the glow for 15 minutes of fame? 2003 171 lbs. 4A 1st place - Craig Albers - Fort Mill - also finished 2nd in 2004 and 3rd in 2002 2nd place - Will Kuhn - Spring Valley - also finished 1st in 2002 3rd place - Patrick Hazel - Stratford - also finished 1st in 2004 4th place - Chris Newton - Hilton Head - also finished 1st in 2004 There were 4 state titles amongst these four wrestlers and 5 additional state placements. Were these four the toughest on paper? ... darn good, but let's look at what I think the numbers will show us was the best. Here is the best-of-the-best in 39 years, and I recall this 1998 season and these battles as if it were yesterday. The drama of victory or defeat was so intense it polarized the elite powers during this season like none other ... Just look at the teams involved - Summerville, Rock Hill, Dutch Fork, Byrnes. And the coaches - Coach Kenny Walker, Coach Jim Barnes, Coach B.D. LaPrad, Coach Russ Howard. Let's not forget that 1998 was Walker's first season as Head Coach and he pulled possibly the greatest upset in the history of State Duals, snapping Rock Hill's 4 year reign as state champions when the Green Wave won it all in 1998 - Summerville 38, Rock Hill 29. Rock Hill had not lost a Dual match in-state in 5 seasons until this upset. And Summerville had already lost twice during the 1998 season to Rock Hill and Irmo. So, peaking at the right time gave us the season to remember. However, let's return to the Top 4 wrestlers in our 15-minute spotlight at the moment ... 1998 119 lbs. 4A 1st place - Lars Seppala - Byrnes - also finished 1st in 1997 2nd place - Chris Collins - Rock Hill - also finished 1st in 1996, 1997, 1999 3rd place - Ben LaPrad - Dutch Fork - also finished 1st in 1999 4th place - Nathan Corbett - Summerville - also finished 1st in 1996 and 3rd in 1997 There were 7 state titles amongst these four wrestlers and 4 additional state placements. All four of these wrestlers felt they could win the weight class and peak at the right time. No one was going to dodge the competition and go up or down a weight class. Each time they faced off during the season it was a battle. And the State Tourney allowed only one to win. Lars Seppala (33-4) halting Chris Collins' quest for 4 state titles (183-19 career) was enough intensity, but when you add Ben LaPrad's exceptional season (33-2) and Nathan Corbett's determination to regain another state crown, it was a classic season that deserved to be ... "The Greatest Top 4 placers in a weight class ever!" Only one of these wrestlers was a senior in 1998 ... Nathan Corbett. Seppala, a Junior in 1998, would graduate early from high school and bypass a quest for 3 crowns. Collins, a Junior in 1998, would win his 3rd title in 1999 and go on to wrestle at UNC-Chapel Hill. LaPrad, a Junior in 1998, would win his State ring in 1999 and go on to wrestle at 2 collegiate programs. But, I need to correct myself, because this was not just the best Top 4 ever, there was a 5th young man there too, and certainly he inspired some the most. To bring back a concluding memory from this great 1998 season, Seppala was wrestling for a special friend and teammate, Dietrich Gaston. In the 1997 State Tournament, Gaston (a Jr.) and Seppala (a So.) both won their first state titles at Byrnes and the 1998 season looked promising to repeat. The teammates were two weight classes apart and the practice room surely had an intensity in their circle like few others in the state. Dietrich Gaston tragically drowned in a lake during the off season, 10 years ago, creating one of the saddest moments in our state's wrestling history. Everyone mourned this loss. Lars Seppala stepped onto the State mats in 1998 stating that he always felt Dietrich was over his shoulder. He must have been because we all witnessed a 'moment in time' when these 5 wrestlers became legends. 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 thanks, Mark Buford