From 1994 through 1999, Hammond was nearly always the top school in county wrestling, winning six of seven county tournaments and striking fear into every opponent.
Since then, the Bears have taken a tumble and are now just a middle-of-the-pack team.
That drop in Hammond's quality and esteem, however, didn't diminish Centennial's joy in defeating the visiting Bears for the second straight season yesterday, 37-28.
"We really wanted to beat them because they talked some trash after we beat them last season," said Mike Sugar, whose 7-0 clinching victory over Jess Lozier at 160 pounds was the final bout of the night.
It was only Sugar's second win this season against eight losses, and came against an opponent who was wrestling his first varsity match.
Had Hammond (4-5 overall, 2-4 league) won its final two matches it could have pulled off a victory, because the Bears trailed only 31-28 after Hammond's Jeff Nuss won a 20-10 major decision at 145 pounds.
Mike Trexler (3-2) of Centennial (4-3, 2-2) has spent most of his four-year career wrestling on the junior varsity, but won a big match at 152 pounds, the next-to-last match of the night and a 20-14 decision over first-year varsity sophomore Adam Blake.
Blake closed within three points at 17-14 in the third quarter before bowing to Trexler.
"There was a lot of pressure on me and I made some careless mistakes, but everyone said it was a dramatic match," Trexler said. "I was tired but pushed myself to get that last takedown. "He [Blake] kept trying to push me off balance."
Hammond has three wrestlers ranked by The Sun, and only two of them won. No. 1 Ethan Cohen earned a 41-second pin at 103 pounds, and undefeated No. 5-ranked A. J. Smith pinned Dave Shellem in 4:24 at 135 pounds.
But Hammond freshman Vince Taweel, a junior league state champ and No. 5-ranked at 125 pounds, elected to bump up to 130 pounds to face Centennial's only ranked wrestler, Dominic Ventura, who is No. 5 at 130 pounds. Ventura pinned Taweel in 1:24.
Although Evan Bulger (140 pounds) was the only other Eagle to earn a pin, Centennial won nine of the 14 overall matches including a forfeit at 215 pounds.
Sean Vorsteg (119) and Andrew Coon (heavyweight) also recorded pins for Hammond.
"There was pride on the line," Centennial coach Todd DeCrispino said. "We knew it'd be tight, but thought we had an opportunity to win. It's nice to beat a team that we haven't had much success with over the years."