It was a long and gritty performance, but in the end the fourth-ranked River Hill wrestling team was victorious in the Maryland 4A-3A dual state championships last night at home, taking down top-seeded La Plata of Charles County, 31-18.
It is the first championship for the Hawks, who were making their second appearance in the dual championships. River Hill lost to Old Mill by two points in 2000 after being up by 10 points with two matches left.
"That [2000 match] was something we talked about," said River Hill coach Earl Lauer. "This championship puts an exclamation point on the program."
Senior 215-pounder Jesse Fawcett remembers that 2000 title that escaped the Hawks. He was one of two River Hill wrestlers to get pinned in the final matches against Old Mill.
"It feels good to come back [three years later] and do something that hasn't been done before at River Hill," said Fawcett.
Fawcett, ranked No. 2 by The Sun, made sure there was no last-minute collapse against La Plata as he helped his team jump out to an 18-0 lead after the first five matches. Fawcett (24-2), a Howard County champ, defeated John Payne, 7-5, in an extra period.
River Hill's championship gives Howard County four dual championship titles, the most of any county in the state. The Hawks (22-3) completed the season without losing to a Maryland team.
The second-seeded Hawks received their only pin from heavyweight Daniel Stahovic 47 seconds into the first round. River Hill won nine of 14 matches.
La Plata (17-1), in its first championship, won five matches, including a pin from 152-pounder Matt Szoch (3:02).
"We are a little disappointed," said La Plata coach Todd Sharp. "Tonight it didn't go our way."
River Hill advanced to the championship after beating Northwest (15-2) of Montgomery County, 36-28. River Hill led by as many as 27 before the Jaguars rallied.
"We let it [match] get too far away from us," said Northwest coach Joe Vukovich.
In the other semifinal ninth-ranked Chesapeake-AA lost the final two matches by pin to lose, 39-26, after closing La Plata's lead to one. The Cougars (12-7) were missing two key wrestlers who were ineligible due to grades.
"We had some grades hurt us, and I would have rather had those guys in there," said Chesapeake coach Rex Miller.
Chesapeake-AA and Northwest were making their first appearances in the final four.