LAPLATA — With two bouts left, the path to the state semifinals was clear for Paul Johnson and the Oakland Mills wrestling team.
After LaPlata had recorded a pin and a decision to battle back from a nine-point deficit, Wednesday’s Class 2A/1A South Region final was tied at 30 and came down to the final two bouts. With the Scorpions already owning a 7-5 edge in bouts won, an Oakland Mills pin would clinch the region title.
Wrestling at 182 pounds, Johnson built an early advantage and eventually wore down Jason Moehler and recorded a pin in 1 minute, 54 seconds to effectively clinch the dual and sent the Scorpions to the state semifinals for the third straight year.
“I knew what my team needed, and I definitely went out there with the mindset of having to pull through for the team,” Johnson said. “That’s always my ultimate goal for the team. Not just to get the win and three points, but to get the pin.”
Ernie Smith recorded an 8-5 decision in the dual’s final bout to make the final score 39-30.
Oakland Mills (17-7) advances to Saturday’s state semifinals at North Point High School. The Scorpions won the title in 2015 before coming up short last year.
As Oakland Mills coach Brad Howell surveyed his team’s situation heading to the final two bouts, he liked its chances.
“We felt pretty confident with that matchup. We knew that was a little bit of a mismatch for us,” Howell said. “We knew if Paul got it to Ernie Smith, we felt Ernie would bring it home for us.”
Kahlil Abdul-Malik (220), Kyle Farace (132) and Ben Goldfein (145) all recorded first-period pins for Oakland Mills. Johnny Rynn recorded a 22-5 tech fall at 152 and Daiquan Anderson recorded a major decision at 113. Heavyweight Kyle Boothe battled back for a 4-3, four-overtime decision to round out the scoring for Oakland Mills.
“Definitely they know they’ve been there before and they have a lot of confidence in that scenario,” Howell said. “We’re familiar with the set up at the states and I think that gives our team a little exposure and you count on that when it comes time.”
Oakland Mills, which came as the No. 3 seed, jumped out to a big lead on Kent Island in the semifinals and recorded a 42-36 victory. The Scorpions held a 42-6 lead before forfeiting the final five bouts.
Host LaPlata entered as the top seed after coming in with a 12-2 record and was matched up with the No. 4 seed, Southern.
It was an uphill battle in the beginning for Southern, which lost by fall and forfeit in the first two bouts, which started at 195, before Joey Miller grinded out a 3-1 decision with three third-period points to bring the deficit to 12-3. LaPlata used a pin and a decision to push the lead back to 21-3 before the Bulldogs got three straight decisions from Michael Renzi (120), Hunter Sharpe (126) and Alex Rounceville (132) to cut the deficit to 21-12.
“We knew going in we couldn’t give up pins and that we had to win the tight ones,” Southern coach Jeff Schrumm said. “Other than a couple, we didn’t win the tight ones and we gave up some pins in some matches that were close.”
The Warriors picked up a major decision, decision and pin to push the lead to 34-12 with three bouts left. With no chance to lose, they forfeited their final three to win 34-30 and began their preparation for Oakland Mills.
Southern, which was in the dual meet region semifinals for the first time since 2003, finished 10-5 in duals and will now focus its attention on next week’s county championships.
“This team is young and I didn’t envision us getting here,” Schrumm said. “This just helps us get better for next week at counties. The goal is to be in the top three in the county and anything else would be a disappointment for us.”
CLASS 2A/1A SOUTH REGION FINAL
Oakland Mills (17-7) — 39, LaPlata — 30
220: Khalil Abdul-Malik (OM) pinned Ward, 0:56 [6-0]
285: Kyle Boothe (OM) dec. Saschia, 4-3 (4OT) [9-0]
106: Butler (LA) maj. dec. Jalen Cornelius, 11-0 [9-4]
113: Daiquan Anderson (OM) maj. dec. Roberts, 11-2 [13-4]
120: Hayes (LA) fft. [13-10]
126: Fedorico (LA) pinned Zubir Gohmon, 0:33 [13-16]
132: Kyle Farace (OM) pinned Bellerose, 1:10 [19-16]
138: Chipps (LA) tech fall James Pender, 18-2 [19-21]
145: Ben Goldfein (OM) pinned Meadows, 1:48 [25-21]
152: Johnny Rynn (OM) tech fall Embrey, 22-5 [30-21]
160: Cooksey (LA) pinned Anthony Morales, 0:29 [30-27]
170: Bales (LA) dec. Mulbah Kamara, 5-2 [30-30]
182: Paul Johnson (OM) pinned Moehler, 1:54 [36-30]
195: Ernie Smith (OM) dec. Latimer 8-5 [39-30]