St. James wrestlers have big shoes to fill this season

The bad news: The two-time Lower State runner-up St. James wrestling team lost all but three starters from last year’s squad.

The good news: Coach Matt Anderson has built the Sharks into such a powerhouse program that there are several wrestlers ready to step into those roles.

“We graduated 11 out of 14 weight classes last year, so look to rebuild and reload for the next couple years,” said Anderson, who is entering his sixth season at the helm of the St. James wretling program.

“We, of course, will be a very young team, we have as many as 65 in the room on the mat at times and over 30 of them freshman and sophmores. So mat time and experience will be very limited from this year’s line up.”

It’s a good problem to have – too many wrestlers vying for mat time – but it’s the product of Anderson and assistant coach Ryan Lohman building the program into a popular one among St. James athletes and fans.

Last year’s squad spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, going 23-1 and advancing to the Lower State Finals before falling to Chapin 33-32. The Sharks had five state finalists and three state champions, the most by any school.

Now the Sharks are undergoing a season of change except for a select few slots. Senior De’eante Salaam (170 pounds) and junior Alex Nielsen (120 pounds) are back, and JV state champion Logan Richards should work his way into a spot into the varsity lineup at 220 pounds or heavyweight.

But the rest of the weight classes will be up for grabs as the Sharks try to capture the region title for the fourth straight year and maintain the school’s status as one of the state’s top wrestling programs.

In another good news/bad news scenario, the Sharks may not yet know the names of those who will rise to the occasion. But, given its strong recent history, it’s a safe bet that St. James will once again be in the mix come tournament time.

The Sharks open the season Thursday at Conway and face an early but important region match against North Myrtle Beach on Dec. 5.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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