As River Hill wrestling coach Brandon Lauer approached the scorer's table after all the bouts had been wrestled in 3A/4A East regional championship Monday afternoon, his team waited nervously. The scoreboard read 36-36 after Bel Air's Cyler Crawford (195) had won the final bout by forfeit.
The right to advance to Wednesday's state dual meet championships at North Point High School in Waldorf would come down to a tiebreaker. For as calm as Lauer appeared, one might have thought he already knew his team had won.
But it turned out that Lauer was just as unsure as his wrestlers.
"I had no idea," said Lauer, whose team won on the fourth tiebreaker, most technical falls. "I kept coming over to the table to try to get an update on the number of bouts and try to project that out."
Neither team had been penalized, each team had won seven bouts, and each team had scored four pins. River Hill freshman Brady Daniel (160) had the only technical fall of the match, and his takedown at the buzzer that gave him a 22-6 victory over Bel Air's Pablo Chavarria turned out to be the difference-maker.
River Hill junior Bebe Kum (182), wrestling in just his fourth varsity match of the season, also played a huge role, pinning Bel Air freshman Tommy Gomez in 1:17 to force the tiebreaker.
"Brady hustling for the tech fall and then Bebe coming through at 82, those two kids, that was the difference," said Lauer, a member of the Maryland State Wrestling Hall of Fame. "We pride ourselves on trying to have a full JV line-up and even a couple more guys, two, three teams deep. Injuries occur ... it's unfortunate but the next guy's got to be ready."
The Hawks got off to a strong start with state finalist Logan Kirby and undefeated state champion Cory Daniel scoring back-to-back pins in just 2:16 combined at 220 and 285 to go ahead 12-0. But with defending county champion Brian Kirby (195) still out with an ankle injury, and Cyrus Vaughn (182) sidelined with a concussion, Lauer knew his team needed to win with only 13 wrestlers.
"I knew what we were going to do at 95 because I had moved (Kirby and Daniel) up and I didn't have anybody else," Lauer said. "We were handcuffed and I had to make that choice the first bout and hope."
Alex Potts scored a big pin for River Hill at 113, but the Hawks were also allowing too many bonus points, as Bel Air's David Reagan (106), Gavin Rupprecht (120), Ryan Beveridge (132) and John Cross (152) all scored falls to put the Bobcats ahead, 30-22, with only four bouts remaining.
After Brady Daniel's tech fall, senior Sebastian Ames (170) earned a hardfought 10-5 win over Bel Air's Grant Fleming to set up Kum's shining moment.
"He went out there and came through under pressure, clutch Bebe," said Ames, who waited nervously for the decision from the scorer's table. "I was just hoping, somehow, whatever criteria it came down to, we'd get the win."
The Hawks will now face undefeated juggernaut Damascus in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. at North Point on Wednesday in the state semifinal. Damascus, the defending state champ, defeated River Hill earlier this season by 30 points.
"We get another shot at them ... they haven't lost in two years," said Lauer, whose team was pinned eight times in the first meeting with Damascus. "We're going to make some adjustments and see what happens, but we're in there, man...We've got a chance."
River Hill defeated Glenelg, 36-27, in the semifinals, while Bel Air defeated Old Mill, 36-28. Against Glenelg, the Hawks clinched the victory with four bouts to go and forfeited the remaining bouts.
River Hill 37, Bel Air 36*
220: Logan Kirby (RH) pin Drew Dyer (BA), 1:00. [6-0]
285: Cory Daniel (RH) pin Dakota Crawford (BA), 1:16. [12-0]
106: David Reagan (BA) pin Matt Shealy (RH), 5:38. [12-6]
113: Alex Potts (RH) pin Tyler Ham (BA), 2:50. [18-6]
120: Gavin Rupprecht (BA) pin Nathan Dustin (RH), 3:21. [18-12]
126: Michael Beck (RH) maj. Brady Stafford (BA), 12-1. [22-12]
132: Ryan Beveridge (BA) pin Andrew Mahoney (RH), 1:28. [22-18]
138: Sam Guo (BA) dec. Ryan Erskine (RH), 5-4. [22-21]
145: Cameron Watts (BA) dec. Sean Guthier (RH), 3-0. [22-24]
152: John Cross (BA) pin Jack Connolly (RH), :56. [22-30]
160: Brady Daniel (RH) tech. Pablo Chavarria (BA), 22-6/6:00. [27-30]
170: Sebastian Ames (RH) dec. Grant Fleming (BA), 10-5. [30-30]
182: Bebe Kum (RH) pin Tommy Gomez (BA), 1:17. [36-30]
195: Cyler Crawford (BA) wbf. [37-36]
*River Hill won on the fourth tiebreaker, most technical falls.