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STATE CHAMP: Drakeford wins state mat title

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Nguyen places second; Cortez, Yegge, Dreese all third; Yarborough fourth

By Robert Howey

ANDERSON – Indian Land High School junior 160-pounder Markeith Drakeford followed the mat plan all the way to the state championship podium.
Drakeford, in his first trip to the Class AAA individual state championship tournament, captured the gold with a 6-4 decision over Chester High School’s Ly’ Terrence Mills on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Anderson Civic Center.
Drakeford, who had defeated Mills in the state qualifier for a first-place seed at Powdersville High School in Anderson County the week before, saw Mills take an early 2-0 lead. But a determined Drakeford didn’t waver from his strategy and goal.
“I had watched him (Mills) and I knew his moves,” Drakeford said. “I stayed with what coach Boulware said I had to do.
“When I won, I jumped into his (the coach’s)arms,” he said.
Drakeford said it was all about trusting the process.
“The key for Markeith was that he believed in himself,” Boulware said. “This year was his first season in the state tournament and he set the state title as a goal, something he really wanted to achieve.”
Drakeford, with a 6-2 charge after falling behind early, attained his goal.
“That was a great accomplishment,” Boulware said. “Markeith is a smart wrestler who is still learning, and a big part of that is staying with the plan and strategy.”
Drakeford, despite the early deficit, kept his mat composure.
“I didn’t panic,” he said. “It was a tough match, but I handled it. I kept working and stayed focused.
“This was a goal and when I won, it felt great, unbelievable,” said Drakeford, who went 43-6 for the season. “Now I can get sized for two rings.”
Drakeford, in the Warriors’ 44-12 win over Gilbert High School for the Class AAA state team title Feb. 2, capped the match with a 10-0 major decision.
His route to the Class AAA 160-pound individual state crown included a 3-0 run with a pin, 3-1 decision and 6-4 decision.
“It felt really good,” he said.
Drakeford was one of six Warriors to place in the elite state meet.
Weston Nguyen was second at 126 pounds, falling to Noah Moore of Emerald High School in Greenwood on a pin. Nguyen was 2-1 for the state tournament.
Three Warriors came in third: Solomon Cortez at 120, Max Yegge at 106 and Xavier Dreese at 152,  each posted a 3-1 effort for the weekend.
Senior Teddy Yarborough at 132 finished fourth, notching a 2-2 showing in the state field.
“All of our wrestlers placed, so we were pleased with that overall effort,” Boulware said. “It’s a testament to our wrestlers in believing in our program and what we can do when we work hard together.
“I’m happy for them and what they achieved this season,” he said. “Now, they are going to take a short break before we get back to work.
“That’s what it takes to produce success.”

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