ANDERSON — Union County High School’s Ethan Pendelton brought home a third place finish from the State wrestling tournament that was held in the Anderson Civic Center on Friday and Saturday.
Pendelton, a junior, won his first match on Friday night by pinning his opponent, Austin Watters of Airport High School. On Saturday he faced Socastee’s Justin Knipper and suffered his sole loss of the tournament in a 4-3 decision.
“I came off that loss pretty upset and it carried over to the next two matches,” said Pendelton.
In round three’s semi-finals consolation match, he took a 10-2 major decision win over Hilton Head’s Matt Levy to earn a spot in the finals and in the consolation finals he pinned Belton-Honea Path’s Logan Patterson to earn the third place finish.
“I feel like there’s a lot I could’ve done differently in the tournament,” said Pendelton. “There were a few calls here and there that I didn’t agree with but those are things I can’t control. Something I could control is hitting a move in a couple spots that I didn’t because I was ‘wrestling not to lose’ instead of ‘wrestling to win.’”
Union County Head Coach G.B. McDaniel said his pupil will use the third place finish as motivation for a state championship next year as a junior.
“There are some things he knows he can get better at,” said McDaniel. “You can’t ever leave it in the ref’s hands and this will eat at him and drive him to do even better. He’ll just work harder, so that’s a good thing.
“Christian’s come leaps and bounds from last year and he’s the hardest working kid we’ve got,” he said. “He’ll run twice a day to make weight and then come in the wrestling room and really put work in there too. We’re really looking for him to be a leader next year especially being a state placer. His teammates will be looking at him to see what they need to do to get to that level.”
Pendelton says he’s ready to accept the challenge and his training will resume right away.
“I’m gonna start on Monday, lifting and try to go up a weight class or two,” said Pendelton. “I feel like at State I didn’t do everything I could do. It’s third place in the State so I can’t be too upset but I would’ve rather been on top of the podium. I want to achieve more next year so I’m going to work hard to get there. I’ll use it for motivation to get there next year.”
Pendelton noted that McDaniel and Coach Mark Moss played large roles in his success this season. The third place finish at State earned him a spot in the Virginia Nationals on April 2 and April 3 and also in the Super 32 that will be held in Greensboro in October.
Pendleton’s teammate, Christian Petty, also competed in the state tournament and Moss said the coaching staff is proud of both of the athletes.
“This tournament had the best eight wrestlers in the state,” he declared. “We can only get better from this.”
Petty dropped a 10-3 loss to Socastee’s Zach Mor on Friday night. On Saturday, he defeated Marboro County’s Tyler Roller 16-5 from the loser’s bracket before being eliminated by Berkley’s Alanzo McGill with a 8-5 loss.
“My nerves got to me a little bit in that first match,” explained Petty. “But I’m just glad I actually got to go as a sophomore. It was my goal this year to make it so next year my goal will be to make it and win. I’m going to work on my technique and get a little bit stronger and faster too. My legs are strong — that’s really the main thing you need in wrestling — but I need to focus on getting my arms stronger now.”
McDaniel said that Petty has made remarkable strides and he expects the sophomore to be a dominant force on the mat again next year.
“He ended up having an unbelievable season,” said McDaniel. “He didn’t start wrestling till his eighth grade year so to become a starter this year and go all the way to state is a pretty big accomplishment. If he’ll just believe in his athleticism and trust his shot he’ll score a lot more points and actually get some take-downs next year.”
Moss reiterated that both Petty and Pendleton will be tremendous assets to Union County’s wrestling program in 2013.
“These young men know what it takes to become state champs now and we’re going to start working for next year.”
Sports Editor Tiffany Grady-Hudgins can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at (864) 251-4330.