For the past four seasons South River and Old Mill have duked it out to be the class of the county in wrestling, with Old Mill sandwiching consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015 around titles for the Seahawks in 2012 and 2016.
Relying on the strength of their opening day success in which they advanced 13 of a possible 14 wrestlers to the semifinals and sealing it with a third consecutive county championship win for heavyweight wrestler Brendan Woody, the Seahawks held off a late charge by the Patriots to win their second consecutive title 235-212.50 over Old Mill on Saturday.
"Winning the county tournament is about having balance," South River coach John Klessinger said. "We have a lot of solid kids so I knew we had a good chance coming in and it was a very good team effort. We have kids that are willing to work and willing to learn and you can build off of that and get better every year from it. I'm pleased. I'm happy with our kids — they are good kids."
Woody was relaxed and patient in pinning Stanley McCombs of Old Mill in three minutes in his final home match and leaves with the doubly good feeling of three straight county individual championships and two straight team titles.
"It feels really good to end my last match here a three-time county champ," Woody said. "As for the team, It means a lot. I love these guys, we have worked in the room all season and it just shows that our work actually went toward something."
Woody has his sights set on becoming South River's first individual state champion since Andrew Mulry in 2005, and after finishing third in the state last year behind two graduating seniors, is ready to make his mark.
" I know I have a chance," Woody said. "I just need to put in more work in the room before that happens."
Arundel's Nathan Gainey was the only state champion from the county last year and he was methodical in winning his third consecutive county title by recording a pin in 3:21. Meade's Christopher Bonilla Arocho won his second straight county title at 220 pounds by gutting out a 7-5 decision over Zach Osborne of South River.
The Patriots, who trailed by 30 going into the day, produced three winners as Robbie Fleming grinded out a 3-0 decision over Alex Rounceville of Southern to win his third straight county title while Chase Pennell improved to 37-2 on the season by recording a pin in just 74 seconds to win his third county title in a row.
"Chase, being a senior, he's the epitome of what an Old Mill wrestler is all about," Old Mill head coach Jim Grim said. "He's a hard working kid, a great student athlete, he just does his talking on the mat. He's just a great kid all around and I'm really super proud of him."
Kerwin McLendon was the other winner for the Patriots at the 138 pound weight class as he got an escape point with 1:12 left to take a 3-2 lead over Ryan Castro of South River and hang on for the win.
Despite finishing second to the Seahawks, the Patriots had a day to be proud of and a future to look forward to.
"You don't come here to get second and this is the second straight year we are second to South River so it's getting kind of old but John's a phenomenal coach and they have a phenomenal program over here so we just have to keep grinding," Grim said. "They have a little bit more depth than we do but we are getting better. It's pretty exciting, I think overall we wrestled pretty well here this weekend."
Broadneck also had three winners en route to a third place finish as Nick Schardt (113), Wyatt Thompson (182) and Noah Genovese (195) all took home titles with all three wins coming in exciting and dramatic fashion. Schardt was tied with Calvin Brumfield of South River at zero after two periods and used a late reversal to win 2-0 while Thompson, who was 23-0 coming into the final, edged Jacob Kobus of North County 5-4 while the third seeded Genovese used a late reversal to turn a 3-3 tie into a 5-3 win over Old Mill's Nasire Bakare.
The fastest pin of the day came from Chesapeake's Tyler Valencia who charged through the tournament as a three seed and pinned top seeded Jason Smith of Old Mill in just 14 seconds to win the 170 pound championship.
"I didn't expect that but I just tried my best and I'm just happy to be here and in this moment," Valencia said. "I have been gaining momentum as the season has gone on and focused more on the sport and doing my best at every match."
Josh Merkle improved to 28-1 for the season for Southern by winning a 5-2 decision to capture the 160 pound crown while Severna Park's Pat Hofstedt got a reversal with 1:28 left to wrestle to grab a 3-1 lead and hang on 3-2 over Gage Kinohi of South River in the 152 pound title bout. Southern finished fourth with 155 points.
North County finished fifth thanks in large part to its' two champions in Montez Coleman at 106 and Chris Kirchner at 126 as the pair both won tough decisions, Coleman winning 8-5 and Kirchner perhaps being involved in the most exciting finish of the day.
Tied 1-1 late with Hunter Sharpe of Southern, Kirchner recorded a takedown with 12 seconds left to take a 3-1 lead before an escape by Sharpe with six seconds left made for an intense finish.
Brandon Ballard, in his first year at the helm for the Knights, has an extra close relationship with Kirchner and has big aspirations for him upcoming at regions and ideally states down the road, as long as he brings it each match.
"Chris is someone I expect to be a state champ this year," Ballard said. "Chris is kind of like my minion, my mini me. I spent the last four years with Chris, every day, we live right next door to each other. I want 15 takedowns from him every match, it's a little personal, it's almost like a brother thing that's why I get a little fired up. He has the same passion but sometimes I don't think he brings the passion and that's why I get upset with him."
TEAM: 1, South River, 235; 2, Old Mill, 212.5; 3, Broadneck, 195.5; 4, Southern, 155; 5, North County, 153; 6, Chesapeake, 108; 7, Severna Park, 106.5; 8, Arundel, 100; 9, Northeast, 77; 10, Annapolis, 48; 11, Meade, 41; 12, Glen Burnie, 15.
106: Coleman (NC) dec. Barber, 8-5; 113: Schardt (BN) dec. Brumfield, 2-0; 120: Gainey (AR) pinned Payne, 3:21; 126: Kirchner (NC) dec. Sharp, 3-2; 132: Fleming (OM) dec. Rounceville, 3-0; 138: McLendon (OM) dec. Castro, 3-2; 145: Pennell (OM) pinned Groah, 1:14; 152: Hofstedt (SP) dec. Kinohi, 3-2; 160: Merkle (SO) dec. Beltran, 5-2; 170: Valencia (CH) pinned Smith, 0:14; 182: Thompson (BN) dec. Kobus, 5-4; 195: Genovese (BN) dec. Bakare, 5-3; 220: Bonilla Arocho (ME) dec. Osborne, 7-5; 285: Woody (SR) pinned McCombs, 3:00.