Socastee, NMB clash on mat for inside track in region

The Region 7-3A wrestling championship may not be decided Thursday, but the winner of one match will have the inside track to the title.

Socastee visits North Myrtle Beach in a showdown that should go a long way toward deciding which team inherits the front-runner role held by St. James for the past four seasons.

With the Sharks mired in a rebuilding season after losing 11 of 14 starters from last year, the Braves and Chiefs are the most likely candidates to claim the region title.

Both are ranked in the top 10 in Class 3A with North Myrtle Beach coming in at No. 8 and Socastee taking the No. 10 spot following strong showings in tournaments over the holidays.

The two squads met earlier this season with North Myrtle Beach taking a 42-23 decision, but that was when many of the Braves were still making the transition from a deep playoff run.

The Braves now have two wrestlers ranked atop the individual polls at their weight classes – 120-pound senior Mikel Nelson and 220-pound sophomore Kyle Burton. Sophomore Justin Knipper is ranked No. 2 at 106 pounds.

North Myrtle Beach has 170-pound Hampton Harmon ranked No. 2 and a pair of grapplers ranked No. 4 – Erik Baker at 182 pounds and Steven “Joey” Small at 120, setting up a huge showdown between Nelson and Small. Nelson won the first meeting by decision.

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