Hammond wrestling has a simple mentality in every match: score the next point.
Whether ahead by a sizable margin or in a neck-and-neck match, all that matters is that next point. That mentality was on display in Tuesday night’s tri-meet as Hammond first defeated Mt. Hebron before fighting from behind to defeat Reservoir in the final dual of the night.
“We preach to the kids no matter what the score is of the match or the dual meet, we wrestle the same way each time,” Hammond assistant coach TJ Guidice said. “That’s all it was, just keeping our mentality on scoring the next point.”
Both Hammond and Reservoir dominated Mt. Hebron in their opening matches, winning 60-20 and 55-20, respectively. However, the final dual of the evening featured fluctuations of emotion throughout. It ultimately came down to the 113-pound bout between Reservoir’s Jack Nataro and Hammond’s Jeffrey Acheampong.
Acheampong entered the match with some nerves but left no doubt. He quickly established good positioning, pinning Nataro in less than 45 seconds. That marked his second pin of the evening, as the Golden Bears threw their hands high in the air in celebration, closing out a nail-biting 39-31 victory.
“Hammond wrestling, we have a culture that’s centered around team and community,” Acheampong said. “When we go into duals, I hear my teammates cheering me on and that makes me feel better knowing they have my back.”
Reservoir jumped out of the gates quickly against the Golden Bears. The Gators won four of the opening six bouts highlighted by pins from Andrew Dolezel (120) and Sebastian Meza (132). Olav Jensen (138) and TJ Thompson (152) also earned victories by decision and major decision, respectively. All four wrestlers won both of their matches Tuesday.
Then it was Hammond’s turn to respond. Jonathan Neypes (160) pinned Noah Byrum for his second victory of the night, bringing the Golden Bears within 19-12. Then it was Charlie Berry’s turn to maintain the momentum. Berry lost his first bout of the evening but didn’t allow that to damage his confidence.
Scoreless entering the second period, Berry executed a quick takedown on Demetrius Battle to take a 2-0 lead. He pinned Battle less than a minute later and the Golden Bears bench smacked their chairs in excitement.
“After my first match I was really ready to go,” Berry said. “I needed to get in the mindset, I need this win for myself and for my team. I knew that it was going to be a tough match for me going into it. I wanted to stay heavy the first period and the second period just get him off balance. I could tell that it flipped the momentum. We were going neck-and-neck for a lot of the matches. So, when I got that pin, I think the team realized that we were going to continue pushing and finish the match strong.”
Jinan Khan (182) gave Hammond its first lead in the ensuing match after pinning Justin Tallon. However, the pendulum of momentum continued to swing.
Reservoir’s Jose Vasquez (195) fell behind Desmond Baker early but rallied to earn a pin, giving the Gators the lead back, erupting both the bench and home crowd. The excitement was just beginning.
The Gators trailed by five after forfeiting the 220-pound match and sent Max Addico to face the Golden Bears’ Raynard Kanu in the heavyweight bout. The match started out slowly but quickly picked up. Kanu established an early advantage, but Addico responded. In a back-and-forth third period, Kanu fought off a late escape attempt from Addico to preserve a nail-biting 5-4 victory.
His victory pushed Hammond’s lead to eight with two matches remaining. The Gators still had hope after Aaron Aquino (106) pinned Leandro Saavedro, but Acheampong’s pin dashed Reservoir’s hopes of completing the comeback.
“To pick your spots on some level, giving up an escape instead of a reversal at one point in the match could be the difference between you winning and losing,” Reservoir coach Andrew McIntyre said of what his team can learn from the tight matches. “Sometimes it’s OK to sacrifice here to get it back a little later. That’s what we talked about in the locker room. Six minutes is a long time, there’s a lot of time to score that you don’t have to win every match in one move, win every match right now.”