When Ben Robertson got a good grip on Gage Carr, it seemed like South River might actually be able to bring down Sparrows Point.
When Robertson pinned him, it seemed almost guaranteed. His six points had closed a margin, one that had once had the Pointers ahead by 11, to zero.
But Sparrows Point, a team with eyes for nothing but glory in the state duals, had two aces up their sleeves in Richard and Danny Davis, who together tied the Seahawks to pull ahead and emerge victorious. Even though there was still another two matches for each of the teams to battle through, the Pointers had effectively secured the crown.
“It’s always a battle with South River. They know us very well, we know them very well, and they’re always watching,” Sparrows Point coach Mike Whisner said. “Last year they got us by six. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
The Pointers went a perfect 9-0 to finish first of ten in the South River Invitational – their second trophy at South River in three years. The Seahawks finished strong, going 8-1 in the tournament to claim second while Kent Island (6-3) took the bronze, having edged out Huntingtown (6-3) for the spot by besting them in their head-to-head.
By overcoming the Seahawks and every other opponent in the Edgewater gym, Sparrows Point forges on with a 22-0 record. Considering the number of missing key starters, Whisner was thrilled to see his Pointers fare so well.
“It’s a good feeling to know that even in depth, we’ve got quality wrestlers,” he said.
After falling to their Baltimore County foes, South River had little time to shake off the loss and the mistakes that created it.
“We [had] to minimize damage and stop giving up big points,” South River coach John Klessinger said. “We were in matches to possibly win and we gave up big points. In a match like that, it hurts.”
It would take a little time in the Seahawks’ next match. To begin with, Kent Island’s middleweights paced the Seahawks, forcing multiple decisions and giving up pins to South River only in the second, third period to keep the score close. After the 195 class, the Buccaneers had even slipped into the lead.
The Seahawks middleweights, though, were in some ways simply the opening act.
“We know every match going in we have a viable first three weights – 106, 113, 120,” Klessinger said. “We rely on them every match.”
106-pounder Mason Smith succeeded thanks to his surefire routine – slide by from neutral and get on top. The senior, who’d go on to win his weight class at 9-0, wrangled Collin Edds down in just over a minute, delivering a swift pin to hand the Seahawks a 22-15 lead.
“We’re wrestling really well, but as a team we have stuff we need to work on. We have a lot of people wrestling the whole time, they stop halfway through. They wrestle the entire time,” Smith said of Sparrows Point. “They go out there with intensity to win.”
After Nolan Lunsford (113) grappled Buc Jacob Bowman to the floor, Isaac Barber quickly dispatched Jack Mulligan with a pin, setting Barber up for his own individual medal in the 120 weight class as well.
His style was simple, but effective – the junior hopes that will encourage some of the less experienced wrestlers on the roster to strip down to basics when it’s their turn in the future.
“We need to focus on basics, not trying to go for anything fancy,” Barber said.
Trenton Puccinelli was as effective in the 160 class, capturing another individual medal to bring the Seahawks’ tally to three. Only Sparrows Point would outdo them, boasting four individual winners: Wayne Brooks (113), Richard Davis (126), Luke Hoenig (138) and Jake Rallo (170).
For Kent Island, dropping back-to-back to South River and then Northern was a lesson in modesty. At the same time, though, coach Tommy Sitar saw his wrestlers keep up an even more important trend than just winning.
“Really, [it was] the resilience,” Sitar said. “This is the toughest competition we’ve faced to date. It’s not the same as over the bridge. It’s a level up.”
The Bucs walked out with two individual victors in the upper weights: Joey Bunce (182) and Haydn Blanchard (220). Northeast, who finished seventh in the tournament, very nearly put up several of their own in Bill Katzenberger (138) and Thomas Gargano (152), who each suffered just one loss over the weekend. Defending state champion Ka’Ron Lewis (285) was just as close for the Seahawks, finishing the weekend with an 8-1 record.
1st – Sparrows Point, 9-0
2nd – South River, 8-1
3rd – Kent Island, 6-3 (beat Huntingtown in head-to-head)
4th – Huntingtown, 6-3
5th – Clarksburg, 5-4
6th – Northern (of Calvert), 4-5
7th – Northeast, 3-6
8th – Roosevelt, 1-8 & Reservoir, 1-8
9th – Einstein, 0-9
106 – Mason Smith, South River
113 – Wayne Brooks, Sparrows Point
120 – Isaac Barber, South River
126 – Richard Davis, Sparrows Point
132 – Jackson Cramer, Huntingtown
138 – Luke Hoenig, Sparrows Point
145 – Geremy Lopez, Einstein
152 – Josh Stokes, Huntingtown
160 – Trenton Puccinelli, South River
170 – Jake Rallo, Sparrows Point
182 – Joey Bunce, Kent Island
195 – Joe Murray, Huntingtown
220 – Haydn Blanchard, Kent Island