Atholton had suffered one setback in 16 matches entering yesterday's Howard County League showdown at No. 7 River Hill. But the visiting Raiders were emphatically reacquainted with losing during a rout that ended their winning streak at nine matches.
Ryan Lauer (125 pounds) put the finishing touches on a 52-10 victory with his 5-2 decision over Ryan Conroy as River Hill won 12 of 14 bouts in capturing its 28th consecutive dual meet - its 38th straight over a Maryland team - and its second consecutive league dual-meet crown.
The Hawks (18-0, 10-0 league), who had a 21-0 lead after five bouts against the Raiders (15-2, 8-1), will begin defense of their first state duals title Wednesday in the Class 4A-3A North regionals.
Some believed River Hill, which likely will meet No. 6 North Carroll (14-0) in the regionals, would struggle in a rebuilding season. Instead, the Hawks have won their matches by an average of more than 40 points despite returning just five county tournament place-winners and five seniors.
"Everyone's pretty much stopped talking about us, but we've been crushing teams," Lauer said. "We dominated today. And for myself to get a win along with the team, it's real nice."
River Hill's match-opening run began with a first-period pin by Alex Proia (130, 19-6 record). It included a third-period pin by senior Kevin Cannon (145, 24-3) and decisions by David Adams (135, 16-4), Matt Hawkland (140) and Ben Diamond (152, 20-2).
Tied at 0-0 in the third period, Adams edged Teddy Johnson, 3-1, on an escape and takedown. Diamond nipped Josh Burke, 6-5.
River Hill coach Earl Lauer, Ryan's father, successfully juggled his lineup, moving Cannon up to 145 and dropping Hawkland and Diamond from their normal weights.
"I had to cut some weight to make it to 152, but it was worth it," said Diamond, a sophomore whose late reversal broke a 4-4 tie. "Coach figured if I did that, it would be another win, and it paid off."
Cannon, one of River Hill's two returning county champions along with Vince Cina (112), led Atholton's Jake Burke 15-3 before getting the pin with eight seconds left.
Nick Colabucci's major decision at 160 gave the Raiders their first points, but Thomas Perkins (171, 22-6) and Ryan Deiter (189, 23-5) picked up a major decision and a pin, respectively, to stretch the Hawks' lead to 31-4.
Also recording pins were River Hill's Taylor Green, ranked second in the area at 103, and Kenny Nwandu (heavyweight). Cina, ranked third at 112, and Zac Fratkin (119) earned decisions.
Green (24-4) led 8-1 before finishing Robbie Eloshway in 5:15, and Cina (24-1) nipped former junior-league state champ Jeff Zillmer, 4-2.
The Hawks tuned up for the Raiders with an 81-0 shutout of Long Reach, getting pins from Lauer, Proia, Adams, Fratkin and Jesse Storey (160).
Long Reach (5-10, 1-10) lost, 63-9, to Atholton, which makes an appearance in Wednesday's 2A-1A South regional duals after being 1-13 last year.
"We talked about this all week. We drilled a little this morning, were mentally prepared and knew what had to be done," said Cannon, whose 14-4 rout of Long Reach's Dominic Doe was his 100th career win.
"It means I'm up there as one of the top wrestlers this school has had, and it feels great to be there. It's one of the steps during an important month for myself and the team."