The Hammond Golden Bears won their fourth straight Howard County dual-meet championship yesterday, but the previously unbeaten River Hill Hawks battled the Bears claw to claw.
The No. 11-ranked Bears (11-3 overall, 9-0 league) needed a victory over the No. 12-ranked Hawks (10-1-1, 8-1) to earn entry into the dual-meet regionals next Wednesday at River Hill and the chance to defend their state dual-meet title.
Hammond won the match's only four close bouts, two in overtime, and still needed a win by heavyweight Matt Nelson to ensure the 37-28 victory before a large crowd in Clarksville.
Nelson (17-4) pinned Scott Cannon in 1: 34.
"He [Cannon] was telling people he'd destroy me," Nelson said. "I waited for him to try a roll, caught him, and put a half-nelson on him. But the overtime wins were what did it for us."
Seven of the 13 bouts were decided by pins, one by a tech fall and three by major decisions. The other two required overtime.
Hammond's Nick LaSalle (18-8) earned a third-period takedown over Mike Romano (18-7) with one second left in regulation time to send the 130-pound bout to overtime. LaSalle won it with a takedown 38 seconds into sudden-death overtime.
Hammond also won in overtime at 140 pounds, Scott Osborn taking down Justin Clark 54 seconds into the extra sudden-death period. Osborn willingly had given Clark a third-period escape point to shoot for a takedown, and the choice almost cost the Bears the match.
Just as important for Hammond as those two victories was Mark Read's comeback at 145 pounds. Trailing Scott Buescher 10-5 after two periods, Read pinned Buescher 41 seconds into the final period.
The other crucial bout for Hammond was at 160 pounds. Kevin Chrapaty, called the Galloping Ghost by Hammond co-coach Paul DiRienzo, who had publicly predicted a Bears triumph, pinned John Mele with 18 seconds left.
"I was just happy I was winning. I wasn't concerned about pinning," Chrapaty said, whose win put Hammond ahead 31-16.
That gave the Bears enough cushion to offset River Hill pins at 171 pounds by Jason Fawcett and at 189 by Justin Curtis.
Hammond, after losing three of the first four bouts and falling behind 16-4, won every bout from 130 pounds through 160 pounds.
River Hill's wins were pins by Mike Dauberman at 112 pounds and Brandon Lauer (23-0) at 119 pounds, and a major decision by Ryan Green at 125 pounds.
Hammond's Jason Freiert won by major decision over Danny Allen at 103 pounds. The Bears' Vaymond Dennis (22-2), who led 6-5 after two periods, scored a major decision over Derek Dauberman, 14-6, at 135 pounds.
Hammond's Pat Jameson defeated David Borys with a technical fall at 152 pounds.
River Hill coach Earl Lauer was disappointed by the loss.
"But it took Hammond 10 years to knock Oakland Mills out of the No. 1 spot in the county, and it won't take us that long," he said. "We've come far in just three years. I didn't want it to come down to Cannon. That's an awful lot to ask of a sophomore."
River Hill lost to Hammond last season, 61-6.
Pub Date: 2/05/99