After being throttled by defending state champion Damascus a little more than a month ago at the Catoctin Duals, the River Hill wrestling team used that setback as motivation to get better by the end of the season.
On Wednesday night, in the 3A/4A state semifinals at North Point High School, the Hawks got a chance to show their improvement in a rematch against the undefeated Swarmin' Hornets.
And although River Hill has gotten stronger since losing to Damascus, 55-24, on Jan. 17, it wasn't enough to derail the Hornets' two-year reign of domination in Maryland high school wrestling.
The Hawks fell, 34-33, Wednesday night, including four wins by forfeit.
"Our kids wrestled really hard and fought for every point," coach Brandon Lauer said. "Our goal was just to try our best."
The Hornets jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead after consecutive victories by Michael Wilkerson (132, 3-0 decision), Cory Obendorfer (138, tech fall), Owen Brooks (145, first period pin), Colin McLaughlin (152, major decision) and Johnny Fischer (160, 12-6 decision).
River Hill's Sebastian Ames finally reversed the momentum by defeating Logan Brooks in overtime at 170.
"We have a couple of kids who always inspire us and get us going," Ames said after Monday's regional championship win over Bel Air. "If everyone else can contribute in some way, I think we can pull off the win...some of our less experienced or less heralded wrestlers have stepped up recently."
One of those wrestlers, junior Bebe Kum, nearly pulled off an upset at 182, losing to Ari Cacapardo, 7-6. Kum had wrestled only five varsity matches this season, and Cacapardo had scored one of the Hornets eight pins when these teams met on Jan. 17.
"Bebe Kum wrestled extraordinarily well and almost stole one at 182," said Lauer, who two days earlier watched Kum score the pin against Bel Air that sent River Hill to the state duals. "Those kind of efforts don't go unnoticed."
Two-time county champion and state finalist Logan Kirby followed Kum's inspiring performance with a first-period pin at 195, and after forfeits to Brian Kirby (220) and undefeated state champion Cory Daniel (285), the Hawks had come all the way back to cut Damascus' lead to just three points at 24-21.
"We were that close," Lauer said. "It was nip and tuck."
Brian Kirby, a defending county champion, had not wrestled since early January due to a lingering ankle injury from football season. But when Damascus announced a forfeit first at 220, Lauer was able to send the junior out to have his hand raised one final time this season.
"He just had an unfortunate injury that kind of cost him his season," Lauer said. "But he's going to be a mainstay for us next year."
Clinging onto a three-point lead with only four bouts remaining, Damascus showed why it has not lost in two years, as two of the Hornets' most accomplished wrestlers — Scotty Obendorfer (106, pin) and Mikey Macklin (113, major) — went out and got the ten points necessary to clinch the victory.
Damascus went on to defeat North Hagerstown, 30-29, in the state final.
Damascus 34, River Hill 33 (3A/4A state semifinal)
132: Michael Wilkerson (Da) dec. Ryan Erskine (RH), 3-2. [3-0]
138: Cory Obendorfer (Da) tech. Tyler Bond (RH) 0:00/18-2. [8-0]
145: Owen Brooks (Da) pin Jack Connolly (RH), 1:42. [14-0]
152: Colin McLaughlin (Da) maj. Sean Guthier (RH), 11-3. [18-0]
160: Johnny Fischer (Da) dec. Brady Daniel (RH), 12-6. [21-0]
170: Sebastian Ames (RH) dec. Logan Brooks (Da), 3-1 OT. [21-3]
182: Ari Cacapardo (Da) dec. Bebe Kum (RH), 7-6. [24-3]
195: Logan Kirby (RH) pin Andy Bousch (Da), 1:28. [24-9]
220: Brian Kirby (RH) wbf. [24-15]
285: Cory Daniel (RH) wbf. [24-21]
106: Scotty Obendorfer (Da) pin Matt Shealy (RH), 4:27. [30-21]
113: Mikey Macklin (Da) maj. dec. Alex Potts (RH), 17-6. [34-21]
120: Michael Beck (RH) wbf. [34-27]
126: Andrew Mahoney (RH) wbf. [34-33]