With three matches to go, the North Carroll wrestling team led by 12 points over Oakdale in the 2A-1A West dual-meet tournament semifinals and needed just one win to advance to the finals.
Panthers coach Jeremy Myers said he believed Andrew Merrill could get the last win, but Merrill has wrestled at three different weight classes this season (138, 145 and 152 lbs).
Myers decided to save Merrill to face the Bears' Ryan Shubert at 152. North Carroll was pinned at both 145 and 152 and Oakdale tied the match 31-31.
Merrill and Shubert both wrestled a conservative match and tried not to make a mistake. Merrill got a takedown in the second period to take a 2-0 lead, which would be enough to beat Shubert and lead the Panthers to a 34-31 win in the semifinals at Winters Mill on Wednesday.
North Carroll advanced to the regional dual finals for the first time since 2008.
"We had enough team points that we could let them tie it up and let Andrew secure the win," Myers said. "He didn't go out to pin the kid, because we didn't need him to."
After Merrill took the 2-0 lead, he was in control for the rest of the period. Merrill and Shubert started the third period in neutral position, with Merrill eventually taking control and not allowing Shubert to get any points.
"I felt pretty confident, but I knew there was a lot of pressure in that match," Merrill said. "I just went out there and gave everything I had."
Oakdale took a 13-12 lead in the 285-pound bout, but it never led after that. NC's Owen Rill (106) pinned Tyler Fuller in 2 minutes, 47 seconds to take an 18-13 lead.
Then Dean Rill earned a major decision with an 11-0 win over Michael Adams. Owen Rill said the tension was high on the Panthers' bench while the last match took place.
"It was nerve-wracking," Owen Rill said, "but Andrew's a captain, we all look up to him. ... We're just glad he pulled it out. We had faith in him."
In the championship match, North Carroll could not topple the defending champion Falcons, falling 58-18. Eddie Merrill and Billy Fritz earned the lone pins against Winters Mill.
Owen Rill said he thought the team put in a good effort against the Falcons.
"I think everybody worked as hard as they could out there," Rill said. "We wanted to wrestle well."
Myers said the team set a goal to make it to the regional dual finals and was proud of his team for making it there, although they could not win the title.
"We're a really young team," Myers said. "We had a great season and accomplished our goal to get here."
Owen Rill also said he thought it was big for the team just to make it to the championship.
"We came in with the mentality that we wanted to get to regional dual finals," Owen Rill said. "Just to get there was a huge accomplishment."
106: Owen Rill (NC) pin Tyler Fuller 1:29.
113: Dean Rill (NC) maj. dec. 11-0.
120: Anthony Savage (O) pin Drew Fritz 0:39.
126: Connor Waskiewicz (NC) dec. Dakota Harich 8-6.
132: Brice Hardesty (NC) pin Jaden Hawes 1:59.
138: Nicholas Przybocki (O) pin Brandon Yelton 1:12.
145: Jon Loveless (O) pin Ryland Chapman 0:51.
152: Andrew Merrill (NC) dec. Ryan Shubert 2-0.
160: Billy Fritz (NC) dec. Jonah Loveless 7-3.
170: Eddie Merrill (NC) pin Barrett White 1:45.
182: Burns (O) maj. dec. Jake Justice 8-0.
195: Jake Seipp (NC) dec. Robert Miller 11-4.
220: Tyler McGraw (O) dec. Dana Raver 8-2.
285: Ryan Simonica (O) pin Tyler Carney 1:18.