John Carroll wrestling coach Keith Watson enjoys having his team challenged. That's why he liked seeing what happened in the championship round of the Iron Horse Duals tournament at C. Milton Wright on Saturday.
The third-ranked Patriots needed to win three of their final four matches against Huntingtown to lock up their second straight title at the annual tournament. Zach Dwyer's pin in the final match of the night gave John Carroll a 37-27 victory over the Hurricanes and made a long day more worth it.
This tournament originally was scheduled to take place over two days. But when Friday's snowstorm shut down Harford County schools, event organizers squeezed the entire schedule into Saturday, leaving the Patriots to wrestle five matches in one day.
John Carroll made its way to the finals by crushing No. 4 River Hill (45-18), Liberty (69-5), No. 9 Bel Air (53-12) and No. 6 Hereford (57-12). That set up a meeting with Huntingtown, which also had won its first four matches.
"These guys are tough," Watson said. "They're just tough. It's a great early test for us."
It was one John Carroll passed, with the Patriots winning the match despite Watson's choosing to forfeit two individual matches. The matches started at 138 pounds, and a second John Carroll forfeit (at the heavyweight level) combined with an Aidan Dobbins decision at 106 pounds soon after gave the Hurricanes a 24-21 lead with four matches left.
C.J. Skokowski (113) started the turnaround for John Carroll with a tough, 2-0 victory over Gino Sita. That gave the Patriots a 25-24 lead, which they extended to seven points when Austin Smith (120) came out aggressively in the first period and pinned Jacob Wood at the 1:05 mark.
"I went into the match looking for a win," Smith said. "I just wanted nonstop pressure on the guy."
That put the Patriots in great position with two matches left. Huntingtown stayed alive with Brett Skinner's 3-0 victory over Andy Millner at 126, cutting John Carroll's lead to 31-27.
That left Dwyer to face Tony Sita at 132 in the night's final match. Dwyer wrestled as Smith had two matches before, coming out aggressively and quickly catching Sita, pinning him at 59 seconds to give John Carroll another title.
Dwyer wasn't thinking about winning to lock up the team crown. He simply wanted a win.
"I was just going to go out there and do what I normally do," Dwyer said. The win "boosts our confidence and helps us [keep] going."
John Carroll also got wins from Steven Jernigan (138, decision), Austin Ross (152, major decision), Chris Almony (160, decision), Hunter Ritter (195, pin) and Andy Reninger (220, pin). Watson also had the Patriots forfeit at 170.
Huntingtown coach Kevin Gilligan didn't mind that John Carroll had beaten three ranked teams in the tournament's earlier rounds. He wanted his Hurricanes to play the Patriots.
"We looked forward to wrestling them," Gilligan said. "They're physical and [tough] …and I'm real proud of our guys."
Hereford advanced to the third-place match, where the Bulls fell to Georgetown Prep.
Iron Horse Duals
(at C.M. Wright)
John Carroll 37, Huntingtown 27
138—Jernigan (J) d. Morgal, 11-5; 145—D. Sita (H) p. Venanzi, 1:04; 152—Ross (J) md Davis, 9-1; 160- Almony (J) d. Constantino, 4-1; 170—Officer (H) by forfeit; 182—Ramberg (H) d. Scott, 6-5; 195—Ritter (J) p. Forschen, 1:07; 220—Reninger (J) p. Lavoie, 2:44; 285—Holland (H) by forfeit; 106—Dobbins (H) md McCabe, 10-3; 113—Skokowski (J) d. G. Sita, 2-0; 120—Smith (J) p. Wood, 1:05; 126—Skinner (H) d. Millner, 3-0; 132—Dwyer (J) p. T. Sita, 0:59.