Three weeks ago, when River Hill junior heavyweight Tyler Smith took the mat in a dual meet against Glenelg, he needed a pin for his team to win, and delivered with one second left on the clock.

At the Howard County championships Feb. 22, Smith once again was one of the last two wrestlers on the mat, but this time his 4-1 double overtime decision over Hammond’s Jeremy Nelson amounted to more of a victory lap than a photo finish.

“Coach (Brandon) Lauer, right after Logan (Kirby)’s win told me, 'Don't worry, it's all covered. Just win for you’,” Smith said. “I was happy that I could come through with the win.”

Host River Hill won the 45th Howard County wrestling championships, crowning five champions, including Logan Kirby (195) and Cory Daniel (220), who each won their third county titles.

“We wrestled well in the finals and I was proud of our effort,” coach Brandon Lauer said. “You want to show up” when you host the tournament.

Surprising Reservoir led River Hill, the regular season champion, entering the final round. But when Howard’s Jared Rodriguez (182) scored a takedown with five seconds left to defeat Reservoir’s Wesley Beattie, the drama was essentially over.

Rodriguez did not qualify for regionals as a sophomore, but broke out last year with a 33-9 season.

"I really worked hard in the offseason ... whenever I want to do something and focus on it, I'll work as hard as I possibly can toward it, and if I fall short I always know that I put in 100 percent," Rodriguez said. "Obviously no one likes losing, but when I do lose, I always try to learn from it. Like losing to Wes Beattie earlier in the season, I practiced what I needed to work on because I knew there was going to be a rematch in the finals."

“Rodriguez stepped up with a huge win and that changed the complexity and didn't put all the pressure on Tyler,” Lauer said. “I thought we wrestled well all the way through. We had a good weekend. Ten guys out of 14 placed top six which is great.”

Daniel improved to 40-0 with his 12-8 decision over Reservoir's Michael Sullivan, becoming River Hill's all-time wins leader.

“It’s definitely something I'm very happy about,” said Daniel, who has committed to wrestle heavyweight for the University of North Carolina next year. “Ever since my sophomore year and I won, after that I wanted to keep winning and become a part of that elite group” of three-time county champions.

Kirby, Daniel’s practice partner, scored the Hawks’ only pin of the finals, throwing Marriotts Ridge senior Chris Park to his back with less than 10 seconds remaining in the second period.

“I knew a pin would help us a lot ... but I wasn't actively looking for a pin. A throw was there and I feel confident in my throws so I just went for it and it worked out,” he said. “It feels great (to win a third county title) at my home school.”

River Hill's Michael Beck (120) won his second consecutive county title, defeating Mt. Hebron state finalist Jeff Hayden, 3-2, in the finals.

“It was a tough match, it always is,” Beck said. “I've wrestled him in high school three times in the finals of countys and regions so it's always a competitive match. We know each other's styles.”

Sophomore Matt Shealy (106) rounded out the Hawks' champions, edging Howard freshman Darian Kassiri, 3-2.

"He's a great wrestler, I knew I'd run into him at the end of the tournament," Shealy said. "At the beginning of the season I had a rough patch, I lost to Chris Spano (of Marriotts Ridge) and Johnny Rynn (of Oakland Mills). They're both great wrestlers, and after I lost I had to focus and watch my matches back, watch what I did wrong and watch what they did right so I knew what was coming. And then all I had to do was be ready and stay focused."

Reservoir crowned a pair of champions: Mason Kilcarr (132), who won his third county title by pin, and Hans Wicklein (138), who edged Oakland Mills' Matthew Claxton, 4-1.

"It feels amazing. It's my senior year, I've worked so hard all these years, really put in work. I'm so happy, I've never felt this feeling in my life," said Wicklein, who earned the top seed coming into the tournament. "It definitely felt like people were gunning for me. I've been hearing it all week, 'You're the No. 1 seed. Everyone is going to try to knock you off.' So I just put that in the back of my head and just had one goal: just to win."

Kilcarr has climbed the county tournament podium multiple times now, but also has a singular focus moving forward after finishing second in the region and state last year.